How do we stop Australia’s biggest cultural problem?

Australia is a unique country. We are only country that is also a continent. We have some of the most unique flora and fauna in the entire world. We have a story that isn’t like anyone else’s. We also have a very unique problem. A big problem, and it’s called racism.

Australia is known for it’s “R” word. Racism is a legacy that Australia has and as Toni Hassan wrote for The Age, it isn’t easily erased. AFL icon, Indigenous Australian and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes performed a war cry that had ties to his Aboriginal heritage during a match last weekend. It proved too confronting for some and so followed the racist slurs.

Speaking on Q&A earlier in the week an Indigenous panellist, Uncle Jack Charles, said, “Australia is uniquely racist against Aboriginal Australians”, and his statement has some merit.

In New Zealand, they have pride in their indigenous people, the Maoris. They teach all children about Maori history. The Maori culture is respected and they are given support in all ways that helps them to retain their unique culture yet be a part of modern day society. There’s so much respect for the culture and heritage.

But here in Australia we have a different approach. Indigenous history and culture is taught in only a small capacity in schools. They receive different punishments for crimes with a TV host earlier in the week claiming that Indigenous Australians make up 80 per cent of people in the Australian prison system. They haven’t been allowed to look after their lands; they haven’t been allowed to celebrate their own culture while becoming socially integrated with modern society.

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It’s a sad reality, but Australia is racist towards our own people and towards our heritage. We claim we’re lucky for living in this country yet we show such little real respect to those who were here first.

There was the invasion, then the Stolen Generation, but because of the way non-Indigenous people treated Indigenous people and the reactions to what non-Indigenous people did, the stereotypes have perpetuated and filtered down to younger generations.

It’s heartbreaking but statistics show that there are incredibly low rates of education and employment amongst Indigenous people and incredibly high rates of substance abuse and health problems. Amnesty International reported this week that young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders 24 times more likely to be in detention than other Australians. They turn away from the services they’re provided often because it’s non-indigenous people providing them. Because just like non-indigenous people are raised with negative perceptions of them, they’re raised with negative perceptions of us – the legacy of our past that is not easily forgotten.

Unless something changes dramatically, the cycle sadly doesn’t have an end. There will still be a race divide between two groups of people who really should be one. We’ll still have racism embedded in our culture and there won’t be a future without it.

But what if there can be a change made. What if both groups of Australians can find mutual ground? Perhaps it comes down to starting with respect.

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How about non-indigenous people show respect to the indigenous by learning their history and culture throughout the schools? How about non-indigenous people help to get more indigenous people in the workforce by employing them to teach their culture?

How about indigenous people respect non-indigenous people by valuing the many opportunities they have like education, welfare and employment support? How about the government support their productive contributions to society that they’re so often not motivated to give?

How about we work together and change the “R” word Australia is most known for, from racism to respect.

We’re a unique country, but this is one unique part of Australia that really needs to change.

So tell us, how do you think Australia should go about changing this? How can we move forward and change the “R” word we’re known for? Share your thoughts in the comments below…