“No one should be made to feel like crap, just for being who they are” Beyondblue’s national campaign highlighting the impact of racism on Indigenous Australians

Beyondblue recently released a new campaign namedInvisible Discriminator’ This campaign is aimed at drawing attention to subtle racism experienced by Indigenous Australians  and the ongoing negative effect racism can have on Indigenous mental health. The television advertisement was released in response to national data and a BeyondBlue survey of 1000 Non-Indigenous Australians. The survey found that almost ten per cent of non-Indigenous respondents would not hire an Aboriginal jobseeker, based on their cultural identity. One in ten said they would avoid sitting next to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person on public transport, and one in three people said they believe Indigenous Australians are sometimes a “bit lazy.” Of the males surveyed, more than a quarter said it was hard to treat Indigenous Australians equally to everybody else. “We have launched this campaign to tell people that it doesn’t matter if it’s subtle or overt – racism is still racism and it ruins lives. [Australian Bureau of Statistics] data tells us that Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to die by suicide as non-Indigenous Australians, and are almost three times more likely to experience psychological distress. Racial discrimination contributes to these tragic statistics and it’s about time things changed,” Beyondblue chairman, the Hon. Jeff Kennett AC said.

The campaign is due to run for six weeks through television and digital media, through an advertisement highlighting subtle forms of racism that experienced by Indigenous Australians on a regular basis. Beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said the Invisible Discriminator character in the campaign represents the voice inside the heads of some non-Indigenous Australians.

“You’re not staying there, right?”

“What do you think she’s up to?”

“Could you really rely on her?”

“Don’t make eye contact.”

“Come on. It’s only a joke.”

Kennett is acutely aware of the impact of racism on Indigenous Australians. “Research shows that racism in Australia is still common and that many people engage in racist behaviour. Racism, like any form of discrimination, leads to distress, which in turn can lead to depression and anxiety.” Several studies have shown a clear link between experiences of racism, and the development of mental health issues among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including depression, anxiety, substance use and attempted suicide. One in three Indigenous people currently experience high or very high levels of psychological distress on a regular basis, nearly three times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. A recent Victorian study by the Lowitja Institute showed that a shocking 97 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed had experienced racism multiple times.

Engagement with Indigenous people was central to the campaign. Beyondblue canvassed the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people across six locations, through focus groups and interviews. Aboriginal Senator Nova Peris, supporter of the campaign, has spoken out on racism in Australia. “The fact of the matter is racism is very in real in Australia, hopefully this makes Australia stand up and realise how hurtful it is. We are all Australians and Aboriginal people have suffered systemic policies throughout the years which makes us feel invaluable, invisible and worthless in this county. When you look at the high rates of suicide in Aboriginal people and [compared to] non-Indigenous Australians, the difference is just overwhelming.”

“Beyondblue recognises that much needs to be done to address depression, anxiety and related drug and alcohol problems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Over time and across Australia, generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced trauma, grief and loss. Psychological distress is high amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and this is exacerbated by ongoing social and health factors.” The key message of this campaign is that casual racism is just as hurtful as more obvious forms. The message ‘Stop. Think. Respect’ encourages Australians to think about their behavior in relation to Australia’s first peoples.

To see the advertisement and find out more visit:http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/stop-think-respect-home/the-invisible-discriminator

Beyondblue Support Service is available on 1300 22 4636 orwww.beyondblue.org.au/get-support