ALMOST two-thirds of Victorians from culturally diverse backgrounds have been targets of racism in the past year, with nearly half reporting they had experienced six or more incidents a year.
A survey by VicHealth, Beyondblue, University of Melbourne and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship of 1139 people found 40 per cent of victims of at least nine incidents of racist behaviour had suffered high or very high mental distress.
Thirty-five per cent of survey participants experienced racism in public spaces, 32 per cent in the workplace, 30 per cent at the shops and 29 per cent on public transport.
It was also common in education (22 per cent), sports (20 per cent) and housing (18 per cent).
Men were significantlylikelier than women to experience racism. Sikhs and Muslims were likelier to record racist experiences than Christians and Hindus.
The proportion of people who experienced high volumes of racism decreased with age.
People living in metropolitan areas were significantly likelier to report experiencing racism than people in rural areas.
People educated at higher levels reported significantly more experiences of racism than people with lower levels of education.
Lead researcher Margaret Kelaher, from the University of Melbourne, said it was a deeply entrenched and complicated health issue in Victoria.
“A major finding of this study is that racism at any level is associated with worse mental health,” she said. “People who experienced racism on a monthly or more frequent basis were more likely to be above the threshold for high psychological distress than people who had no experience of racism.”
VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter said the survey clearly showed racism was a serious health issue.
“It is appalling that half the people we surveyed were called racist names, teased or heard racist jokes or were verbally abused, and 44 per cent were ignored, told they were less intelligent or that they did not belong because of their cultural background,” she said. “It’s clear that racism hurts more than your feelings. It’s a very serious, but preventable, health issue.”
The release of the data follows publication last week of research showing a huge amount of racism directed at the 755 Aboriginal Victorians surveyed, with 97 per cent saying they had been targeted in the past year.
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