Casual racism is unacceptable

Growing up in WA, I am reminded every day that we are far more fortunate than the vast majority of people in the world.

With this blessing comes a responsibility to continue ensuring positive change within our State, nation, region and the wider global community.

The purpose of this article was for me to cast my mind forward more than 30 years, and envisage what WA could look like in 2050. I think this depends on the identity we continue to develop from now on.

WA is already a destination that offers rich art and music, world-class coastlines and incredible contrasting natural environments and landscapes which are woven through with our indigenous heritage.

In 30 years Perth should equal or surpass Sydney in reputation as the place to go in Australia.

For the future, what I sincerely hope to see nurtured within our existing identity is a feeling of "belonging". A feeling of belonging to this great State is a critical element in the continued development of WA.

It's important to the evolution of the diverse cultural melange that is changing and expanding our identity. Being home to one of the oldest indigenous populations on the planet, we should be proud to embrace an identity and history that exceeds our Western ancestry.

As we continue to embrace our indigenous heritage as an important part of our modern identity, WA will be enriched.

This notion of belonging applies to all Australians because everyone must feel that they belong. When this happens, each individual adds more to the mix, takes pride in a wider identity and nurtures their environment and the other people within it.

If more people have an enhanced sense of place, it will strengthen the core of our State and establish stable foundations for its future.

Learning to embrace difference, and not be threatened by it, is something I feel will strengthen WA's culture. One of Australia's greatest assets is its rich cultural diversity, which is continuing to evolve and is creating our unique identity.

In my lifetime I have witnessed countless incidents of racism, which have been mostly justified with the questionable description "casual racism".

This term indicates that this type of racism is for some reason acceptable. I feel this is incorrect, because racism is racism. I think that casual racism shows we still have a fear of the outsider.

People who exercise casual racism are clinging to an outdated identity of Australia being a Western Anglo-Saxon outpost.

I believe it is time to recognise we are a country that is strengthened by our differences. Our nation and State are built on great diversity, brought here from all corners of the world, and strengthened by the culture that each unique group of people adds. Welcoming people and practices that are different will not threaten the things we perceive to be uniquely Australian, but instead will continue to develop them.

From a global perspective, the notion of "belonging" is something I would like to see us draw on more in creating WA's and Australia's international identities. This could help us develop our foreign policy so that it is not only aligned with American foreign policy, but is also focused on building and strengthening genuine and altruistic relationships within our geographic region.

Not only would this broaden our State's and the nation's global outreach, but it would emphasise what we have in common with our neighbours rather than how we are different. Furthermore, it would place Australia in a very important position strategically, where our unique identity could mean we enjoy partnerships and alliances with both our Western heritage and the Asian region.

As we get ready to celebrate WA Day, I represent just one of the many young people of WA who embody the opportunities we have here and are grateful for our bright future. Together we can all look forward to continuing to evolve our community into one that is proud of its links to an ancient culture and revels in our unique identity within Asia.

Grace Forrest is a university student studying international relations, political science and social justice and is a co-founder of the Walk Free Foundation, which aims to end modern slavery. She is a board member of Barking Gecko Theatre Company

The West Australian

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