27% say it's OK to discriminate against First Nations people

An advertising campaign that explored the casual racism of Australians towards Indigenous people in 2015 has been viewed more than 3.75 million times, but 20 per cent of respondents to a beyondblue survey still think it is OK to discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It found Western Australia had the highest levels of discriminatory attitudes towards Indigenous Australians, while 41 per cent of respondents in NSW said that "they were given an unfair advantage by the government".

'The Invisible Discriminator'
Beyond Blue's national anti-discrimination campaign highlights the impact of racism on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Eryk Bagshaw Sydney Morning Herald 19 March 2015

Twenty per cent still think it's OK to discriminate against Indigenous Australians

An advertising campaign that explores the casual racism of Australians towards Indigenous people has been viewed more than 3.75 million times, but 20 per cent of respondents to a beyondblue survey still think it is OK to discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Beyondblue's "The Invisible Discriminator - Stop. Think. Respect" video highlights research by the charity that found one in five young Australians would move if a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent sat next to them and the same percentage would keep an eye on an Indigenous person if they were shopping.

After the campaign was launched, beyondblue commissioned an independent evaluation by market researchers TNS, the results of which were released on Thursday.

Called lazy: Indigenous actor Greg Fryer (right).
Called lazy: Indigenous actor Greg Fryer (right). Photo: Paul Rovere

The evaluation found that up to 21 per cent of respondents who had seen the scenarios depicting subtle discrimination in the video still thought the behaviour they depicted was acceptable, while 70 per cent agreed that "almost everyone has been a racist at some point in their lives".

The findings were a concern to beyondblue's chief executive Georgie Harman.

"There was a segment of the target audience who saw the ads and didn't think there was anything wrong with the scenarios," she said. "This illustrates how much work still needs to be done to change entrenched racist attitudes."

The evaluation of the campaign confirms beyondblue's original research findings, released in July, which were based on the opinions of more than 1000 participants, aged between 25 and 44.

It found Western Australia had the highest levels of discriminatory attitudes towards Indigenous Australians, while 41 per cent of respondents in NSW said that "they were given an unfair advantage by the government".

The study also revealed that 37 per cent of people surveyed believed Indigenous Australians were lazy. "The results were consistent with my experience," Indigenous Australian actor, Greg Fryer told Fairfax Media.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents believed that Indigenous Australians should behave more like other Australians.

The data also suggested that other Australians are suspicious of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in shops, with 21 per cent saying that they would keep an eye on an Indigenous person while they were shopping. 

Ms Harman, said many people harboured an unconscious bias towards Indigenous Australians. "Unfortunately, many people don't realise when they are discriminating against Indigenous people and therefore don't understand the profound effect it has on how they feel about themselves," she said. This attitude was mirrored in the result for Australian's attitudes towards changing discriminatory practices, with 28 per cent saying it wasn't a priority. The beyondblue campaign aimed to point out that day-to-day discrimination was a cause of depression and anxiety for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.