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Practical ways to deal with racism

When a child or young person suffers because of racism, discrimination or bullying they can feel angry, isolated and powerless.

As a carer, you can develop strategies for dealing with racism before it happens, so that both you and the child or young person in your care can manage it better and prevent it getting out of control. If racism occurs, be assertive and challenge the behaviour, or report it if necessary.

These are some strategies for dealing with racism at home, at school and in the community. If the child or young person is ever threatened, stalked or physically assaulted anywhere, including school, immediately make a report to the police and inform your caseworker. If you are unsure about what to do, or the child or young person is traumatised, contact your caseworker for support.

Tackling racism at home

  • Encourage and value diversity and foster a sense of cultural pride.
  • Make it known that racism is against the law, is unacceptable and no one deserves to be treated disrespectfully.
  • Discuss racism and encourage conversation about its effects and impacts.
  • Lead by example – don’t make racist slurs or jokes about other cultures or backgrounds.
  • Display zero tolerance for racist behaviour – this will encourage the child or young person to develop positive attitudes, a strong sense of self and positive self-esteem.
  • Be supportive, but don’t make promises you can’t keep like, ‘I’m going to make sure this never happens to you again’.

Tackling racism at school

  • If kids are threatened or physically assaulted at school, report it to the police and let your caseworker know as soon as possible, in addition to informing the school.
  • If there is racist bullying or intimidation going on, encourage them to report it to a teacher, counsellor or student welfare officer.
  • Help kids work out ways of dealing with the situation that makes them feel more in control and safe in the short term: for example, taking a different way home or staying with a group of friends.
  • Keep a diary of what happened, when it happened, who was involved and who witnessed it.
  • Get in touch with the teacher to discuss your concerns and ask what can be done to stop the racial bullying.
  • If you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, talk to the principal about the school’s policy for dealing with racist bullying and ask what formal steps the school will take to prevent it from happening again.
  • Take a support person with you if you find it difficult talking about this with the school.
  • Keep in contact with the school until the problem is fixed.
  • If it keeps happening, get your caseworker involved in dealing with the school.

Tackling racism outside school

  • If you witness racist behaviour towards your child or young person, be assertive and challenge the behaviour by naming what’s happening and telling the person their behaviour isn’t okay, particularly if it’s family or friends who have regular contact with the child or young person.
  • If it happens on public transport, report it to the driver or an attendant.
  • Make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission if necessary.
  • Be aware that the child or young person is watching how you respond so they can learn how to deal with racist behaviour themselves.
  • Don’t threaten, intimidate or verbally abuse the bully.
  • Listen to the child or young person and take their feelings and fears seriously.
  • Let them know it’s not their fault.
  • Don’t tell them to just ignore it, call them names like ‘sook’ or make excuses for the behaviour; and don’t let anyone else do so.
  • Seek out people who have experienced discrimination firsthand, such as a member of the child or young person’s community, to advise you about ways of dealing with racist behaviour.
  • Get support from family and friends.
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