MHIMA blog

RSP Annual Lecture: The challenge of social cohesion

MHiMA Team - Friday, September 09, 2016

Latest update from Frank Quinlan, CEO Mental Health Australia: 

Last Friday I attended the ANU Research School of Psychology Annual Lecture along with the MHiMA Project Team. This year’s lecture was given by Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, on social cohesion, racism and wellbeing. 

The lecture explored the meaning and challenges of social cohesion in Australia; a timely and important discussion in the current political climate. Dr Soutphommasane pointed to the overall success of multiculturalism in Australia, whilst also highlighting the ongoing experience of discrimination that many people face, and the serious the risks of becoming complacent. 

Dr Soutphommasane spoke about the real harm caused by discrimination, including to our mental health. He discussed the importance of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA) in addressing discrimination, including the clear message that this Act sends to the community about our standards and values as a society. Also important although often overlooked, Dr Soutphommasane explained how section 18D of the Act ensures that artistic works, scientific and academic inquiry, and fair comment on matters of public interest are already exempt from section 18C, provided they are done reasonably and in good faith. The Australian Human Rights Commission released a fact sheet on Race Hate and the RDA this week, which addresses common community misunderstandings in this area. Please click here to access this fact sheet.   
Social cohesion provides the foundation of trust and belonging that allows all members of our diverse society to live together, and is an ongoing process of which we are all a part. I recently shared the Scanlon Foundation’s report on multiculturalism in Australia today, and encourage everyone to take another look at it. The report shows where we are now, and where we need to head in order to ensure the wellbeing of all members of our society. Please click here to access this report.

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