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Racism in the spotlight


Australians need to listen, reflect and relearn how to connect with people who are “different from us”, according to a leader in Adelaide’s Jewish community.

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Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, who was guest speaker at this month’s Chad’s Forum, made the comments when addressing the topic, ‘is Australia a racist country?’.

She told the gathering there was no doubt in her mind that racism existed in Australia, acknowledging that it did in almost every country. Calling for a show of hands, a clear majority of the about 30 people in attendance also agreed with the racist tag.

“Just about everyone who believes that Australia is not a racist country – other than Jacinta Price – happens to be white,” Rabbi Kaminsky said.

“The people who I know who are not white have regular experiences of being reminded that they don’t actually fit in.

“Among people who have come to Australia who are not English speakers, especially people who come from ‘non-white’ countries, there is almost a universal experience of discrimination, sometimes in very quiet ways.”

However, Rabbi Kaminsky believed steps could be taken to improve the situation – with developing listening skills a good starting point.

“We’ve lost the art of listening – we are terrible listeners, especially since the rise of the internet and social media,” she said.

“Most of us these days listen to interrupt – we listen and as soon as the other person is talking we are drafting a reply in our minds that’s either going to refute them or agree with them. We need that old style of listening, of taking a minute, reflecting…”

“As a society we have to relearn how to connect with people who are different from us.”

Reminding those present that everyone was created in the image of God, “regardless what colour our skin is, regardless of our sexual orientation, regardless of our gender, regardless of what language we are speaking, regardless of faith”, Rabbi Kaminsky said Australia was so much better for its diversity.

“Each time somebody comes from overseas and wants to make a go of it in Australia, I think that brings more promise to this country,” she said.

“Each time somebody packs up and goes somewhere else I think Australia loses out.

“We are so much stronger because of the extraordinarily rich mix of cultures, of languages, of nations that have come to call Australia home.”

With the forum held on October 4, just days before the Voice to Parliament referendum, Rabbi Kaminsky said the past few months of debate had strained relationships between different cultures.

“I had so hoped to see our country rise above the divisions that exist, but instead what I’ve seen is a reinforcement of those divisions,” she said.

“If you’d asked me three months ago is Australia a racist nation I might have said it has that tendency but I believe we can be better.

“But what I have seen in recent weeks is no, it is just getting worse.”

Chad’s Forum is hosted each quarter by St Chad’s Anglican Church in Highgate. For more information or to view the presentation go to

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