Maribyrnong Councillor Jorge Jorquera
Recently, a Maribyrnong resident sent me a picture she’d taken of a swastika painted on a walkway at McIvor Reserve. This follows the appearance of Nazi graffiti in Moreland city. Racism hasn’t gone away in Australia. In the past month alone there have been five Aboriginal deaths in custody, the latest a 45-year-old inmate at Perth’s Casuarina Prison.
The COVID pandemic has led to an increase of racist attacks. According to a report co-authored by Victoria’s Asian Australian Alliance, during the pandemic Victoria has had the second highest number of recorded racist attacks after New South Wales. Some 60 per cent of these involved physical and verbal intimidation and threats; most commonly experienced in local streets, shops and supermarkets. The report noted these attacks have been fuelled by negative media coverage of Asians in Australia and that around 90 per cent of incidents were not reported to police, due to isolation and fear.
As a Maribyrnong councillor, I am especially focused on ensuring our community remains a racism-free place, where our ethnic origin, place of birth, language and cultural preferences do not result in abuse, discrimination or marginalisation. This means much more than supporting local ‘foreign food’ restaurants. When different cultures, languages and histories are put on a shelf to be observed or tasted every now and then, we marginalise them. Multiculturalism must be about engagement, exchange and learning, not just ‘acknowledgement’.
I am very happy to have been part of Maribyrnong council’s debate about Invasion Day. This is an important discussion for our community and I hope that by opening up a consultation around January 26, we can enrich our understanding of the continued injustices suffered by our First Nations.
I am also proud to have engaged Maribyrnong council in supporting the need for Vietnamese bilingual education programs in our schools and early childhood centres. We are currently exploring where such programs might be initiated.
Sydney’s Inner West council has started a #RacismNOTWelcome Street Signs campaign – that it would be good to see also in Maribyrnong.
This campaign uses street signs placed around our communities to encourage us to call out racism and create a community where we place equal value on different cultures, languages and histories.
I hope you will join us in making cultural diversity and equality a cornerstone of Maribyrnong’s growth.