Conferences, 4Rs 2008

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Addressing Racism Through "Positive Duties" Legislation
Yin Paradies

Last modified: 2008-08-31


Racism is the inequitable distribution of opportunity (benefit) across racial/ethnic groups. Racism occurs through avoidable and unfair actions that create further disadvantage for racial/ethnic groups or through avoidable and unfair actions that result in further advantage for racial/ethnic groups. Systemic racism occurs through requirements, conditions, practices, policies or processes that maintain and reproduce avoidable and unfair inequalities across ethnic/racial groups.

"Positive duties" have been referred to as "fourth generation" race discrimination legislation. These duties require organisations and institutions to prevent and address racism and/or to promote equity (without recourse to individual complains). Such duties can be narrow (e.g. a duty not to discriminate) or broad (e.g. a duty to take active and reasonable steps to monitor, identify, quantify, report on, understand and address systemic racism and achieve equity).

This paper examines key aspects of "positive duties", describes the extent of such legislation in Australia and internationally, and discusses the formulation, operationalisation, implementation and evaluation of these approaches.

As the best known approach to positive duties, the United Kindgom Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is considered as a case study in "fourth generation" race discrimination legislation before touching upon possible future directions for such legislation in Australia.

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