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Diversity Celebrated at Clarence Rally

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Citizen Tasmania – a not-for-profit arts and human rights organisation – held a diversity rally in front of Clarence City Council offices today in response to the golliwog controversy. Tasmanian Times spoke with Citizen Tasmania founder and Director Grace Williams, and then Hobart Councillor Helen Burnet, about the broader issues of racism in Tasmania. Grace […]

Citizen Tasmania – a not-for-profit arts and human rights organisation – held a diversity rally in front of Clarence City Council offices today in response to the golliwog controversy.

Tasmanian Times spoke with Citizen Tasmania founder and Director Grace Williams, and then Hobart Councillor Helen Burnet, about the broader issues of racism in Tasmania.

Grace Williams

So today we’re gathered to really talk about ways we can be celebrating diversity. We know that, you know, golliwogs are a thing that people still think are appropriate. But as a contemporary diverse culture in Tasmania, we don’t believe that that’s the way we could be celebrating diversity. We have four different languages here that represent contemporary Australia and Tasmania. We don’t want to keep celebrating symbols that have racially derogatory undertones. We want to celebrate who we are now and the diversity that is present. And we want to continue doing that and encourage every Tasmanian to support and promote and love diversity.

Tasmanian Times

So where do you think this issue came from? Do you think we should have moved past this a long time ago?

Grace Williams

I think this issue came from attention seeking. I think you have one alderman who wants to create attention and division. He knows it’s a controversial symbol. He brought it out to divide us, but we’re here to say that is not okay. We will not let that symbol be used for political gain. We’re here to celebrate the diversity. He could have picked any different symbol. He could have picked like the Persian language, but he chose to pick something that will deliberately be defamatory and upset people of colour And so we don’t believe that that should be rewarded. We believe that diversity should be supported.

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Tasmanian Times

So what’s the best way for Tasmanians to support your campaign?

Grace Williams

I think the best way is for them to be kind and inclusive, to question why you would be using a doll like that. Think about other ways to be celebrating and supporting people of colour, whether that’s trying different foods, learning a different language, or supporting a local business that’s from a diverse background, or reading different books, there’s so many ways of participating in cultural events that are honouring to people of colour and diverse Tasmanians.

Tasmanian Times

I see you’ve got some attractive Tasmanians Celebrating Diversity stickers here; is there any way that people can get one of those?

Grace Williams

Of course, you can get them from our website.

Tasmanian Times

We have Councillor Helen Burnet from Hobart City Council here. So what’s your perspective on this issue? Is this an appropriate way for an elected councillor to be behaving?

Helen Burnet

Look, I’m not a resident of of Clarence, but I am an elected member across Tasmania. And currently, Alderman Blomeley sits on the general management committee of the Local Government Association of Tasmania. So, he is in fact a representative of me in a sense, and this behaviour is so last century. It is really not appropriate to have just a lack of understanding, a lack of inclusion that is on display here with his comments in the paper.

Tasmanian Times

So how do you think he should be dealt with, and by LGAT?

Helen Burnet

Well, I note that he’s not re contesting that position. And I think that is a very good thing, because he shouldn’t be in a representative position like that. And I think there’ll be some interesting discussion at the Clarence City Council in relation to this. How does this reflect on the community? How does this reflect on maintaining diversity and ensuring social inclusion? It really needs to be addressed in some formal manner.

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Tasmanian Times

We’ve had this issue recently with the stickers in Battery Point and so on. So what do you think’s going on in our society? And how should we respond?

Helen Burnet

Well, I think that there are plenty of ways that we could be more inclusive, and to say that racism is … it’s a responsibility for all of us to say no to racism. We at Hobart City Council have a lot of very social socially inclusive policies, and it’s putting those into action as well. So saying no, that this is not on, calling it out when it does occur. And I think this this vigil today is doing that. And it’s a really important thing to do to respond and say that this is not appropriate in in modern Tasmania.

Tasmanian Times

Have you had people, you know, approaching you as a councillor saying that they have suffered incidents of abuse, discrimination and racism?

Helen Burnet

We know that there are situations of racism. And yes, I mean, we’ve had recent, like the Australian Votes or the recent surveys, suggesting that racism is occurring, we know that. As a former chair of the Migrant Resource Centre, and as an active participant in in the community generally, I just feel that we we really need to shift into making sure that we do as much as we can to be accepting of cultures as part of a community and need to call this out, but it does occur.

Tasmanian Times

And lastly, it appears to me that our multicultural communities are under represented in in local government. What are some things we could do to change that?

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Helen Burnet

I think there is reason to try and broaden the scope and to make it more appealing. And I know we’re fortunate to have two Indian Fijian on council at Hobart and I think that’s, that change in diversity, diversity of opinion around the table, makes all the difference. It’s like having gender diversity at the table. It’s a very slow and arduous road, it’s a long road to these changes in local government. So thank you.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2021/06/diversity-celebrated-at-clarence-rally/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=diversity-celebrated-at-clarence-rally

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