Racism is not a quick fix problem: The short life of the Anti-Racism Taskforce

Art by Jasmin Small.

Disclaimer: The thumbnail art is satire and does not reflect the University's decision making.

Content Warning: Discussions of racism and institutional betrayal.

Following the release of ANUSA’s Bla(c)k, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Department’s annual Racism Reports in 2021 and 2022, the University established an Anti-Racism Taskforce under its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Governance Committee (IGC). The Taskforce, founded at the end of 2022, intended to provide recommendations for future actions taken by the University to prevent and respond to racism and racial discrimination.

The Taskforce’s establishment came in the wake of the reports highlighting the increasing incidents of racism experienced by members of the ANU community. The University also faced criticisms for its work against racism, which was substandard when compared to the other Group of Eight Universities. It also follows ANU’s support and signing of the Australia Human Rights Commission’s campaign ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ in 2022. 

The Taskforce had the following composition:

  • One senior member of staff (Chair)- Professor Sujatha Raman (CPAS, CoS)
  • Head, Equity and Belonging (or nominee)- Margaret Murphy 
  • Director, University Experience (or nominee)- Nominee- Larissa Silieazear Mendoza 
  • One Associate Dean IDEA- Associate Professor Pierre Portal (Mathematical Sciences Institute, CoS)
  • Chief People Officer (or nominee)- Kate Witenden 
  • The ANU BIPOC Department Officer- Paria Najafzadeh 
  • The ANU International Students Department Officer- Pranavi Jamal 
  • The ANU Indigenous Department Officer- Aleisha Knack  
  • One postgrad student with a professional and/or lived experience relevant to anti-racism work- Chantelle De La Cruz 
  • One member of staff with professional and/or lived experience relevant to anti-racism work- Associate Lecturer Dr Karo Moret Miranda 

According to Associate Lecturer Dr Karo Moret Miranda, the group’s core purpose was to “make proposals that help to fight racism across [the] University.” 

The Taskforce’s responsibilities were fourfold:

First, it was commissioned to research on topics and themes in higher education related to anti-racism activities.

Next, it would source relevant information pertaining to racism in the University’s context. 

Then, it would recommend potential actions to be undertaken by the IGC in support of anti-racism efforts and to amplify current work underway. 

And finally, the Taskforce was to prepare and present a report on recommendations for future work to the IGC by May 2023.

After a short stint, the group was then surreptitiously dissolved in May 2023. An ANU Spokesperson told Woroni, “As the Taskforce completed that report, and its recommendations were endorsed by the University last year, the Taskforce is no longer required.” 

Yet it remains unclear on what the Anti-Racism Taskforce actually achieved in its time. In its final report, unavailable to the public but made accessible to Woroni, the Taskforce presented a series of recommendations to the University on actions to be taken to mitigate racism on campus in the near future.

Of those, the ANU spokesperson explained that a new mechanism “[allowing] students to disclose incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, racism, ableism, harrassment or discrimination” will be implemented, allowing the University to “provide direct support to impacted students as appropriate.”

While it remains to be seen if more of the Taskforce’s recommendations will come to fruition, its transience clearly reflects the University’s outlook on racism as a temporary problem.

Dr Karo posits that the Taskforce’s ineffectiveness was largely due to its fleeting existence. She explains, “It was created to be like a one-time team, but racism is not a one-time problem. You need more than eight months to change racist behaviours.” 

According to the Associate Lecturer, the Taskforce should not have ceased. She tells Woroni, the University “needs it now more than ever.”

Dr Karo’s stance is not unfounded. According to the BIPOC Department’s 2022 Racism Report, in terms of inadequate reporting procedures in a five-point comparison with other Group of Eight Universities, the ANU stands at last place. Additionally, the Department’s 2021 report’s collection of a staggering 73 racism incidents (and hundreds more unincluded reports) over a span of 7 months makes it clear that racism continues to be a pervasive issue. 

Dr Karo added that a new team had initially been proposed to succeed the original Taskforce, but after 5 months in the role she became uncertain if the initiative would continue. To date, no similar initiative has been made public by the University.

While the implementation of the Taskforce is without doubt a well-intentioned move and a step in the right direction, its state of temporariness is not surprising. In spite of the group’s three phases of recommendations to tackle racial discrimination and create a more inclusive campus, it lacks a long-lasting anti-racism plan. 

Even the sole introduction of the new disclosure mechanism only takes a firefighting approach towards instances of racism on campus. 

However, for now, what the University does next to respond to the recommendations will reveal the true extent of the Taskforce’s fruitfulness. 


If you or anyone you know is affected by the content of this piece, please contact one of the support services below:

ANU BIPOC Department

ANU Indigenous Department

ANU Counselling
(02) 6125 2442

1800 737 732

ANU Women’s Department

ANU Queer* Department

ANU Respectful Relationships Unit


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