A new report from the Scanlon Foundation and Melbourne’s Monash University has shed light on the alarming level of discrimination and racial intolerance being shown in Australia today.

The 2013 Mapping Social Cohesion report was released earlier this month, and reveals that around one in five Australians have experienced discrimination due to their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion during their lifetime.

That is a significant increase over studies conducted in previous years. During 2007, just 9 per cent of Australians said they had been discriminated against. However that number has risen steadily over the past six years.

Some cultures are being discriminated against significantly more than others. 45 per cent of Australians of Malaysian origin reported incidents of discrimination, while 42 per cent of Indian and Sri Lankan Australians said they had been discriminated against.

Australian Race Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane has expressed concern at the findings, telling World News Australia that recent political debates surrounding foreign asylum seekers may have contributed to the results.

According to the Mapping Social Cohesion report, Australia’s population has increased significantly over the last decade. In 2001, there were around 19.4 million people calling Australia home. As of December 2012, however, that number had ballooned to 22.9 million.

Part of that population growth may well have been driven by a public perception that Australia is a land of economic opportunity. 82 per cent of respondents to the Social Cohesion study agreed that Australia was a place where “in the long run, hard work brings a better life”.

Dr Soutphommasane has said that the study may serve as a reminder that there is still more work to be done, “building a fairer Australia remains a work in progress,” he said.

“It would be a pity for us to squander all the gains we’ve made as a multicultural society during the past four decades if we don’t look after our openness and our generosity as a society.”

Encouragingly, the news from the report was not all bad with 84 per cent of respondents agreeing that multiculturalism has been good for Australia.

Monash University’s Professor Andrew Markus said of these findings, “we still get very strong endorsement of the notion that multiculturalism is good for Australia that it benefits economic development that it is a positive national aspiration.”

All employers have an obligation to take measures against racial discrimination in the workplace. Ensuring all employees are provided with Equal Employment Opportunity training is an important part of this, alongside comprehensive policies and procedures dealing with acceptable behaviour.

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