The Victorian launch of the Asian Australian Alliance
How can Australian society respond to multiple forms of discrimination based on race, gender, identity? How do we go about bridging diverse communities in order to improve experiences for all? Such questions were reflected on at the recent Victorian launch of the Asian Australian Alliance.
Under the broad title ‘Where do Asian Australians belong?’, a structured panel-style national conference addressed problems like bamboo ceilings, barriers to the LGBTQI movement within the Asian Australian context, underrepresentation of Asian Australians in sports and media, and the lack of representation in mainstream decision making roles.
Held at the University of Melbourne, many distinguished speakers charted race and identity related issues to advance a social justice advocacy agenda.
Reflecting on personal experiences, the panelists explored the need for society to embrace racial consciousness whilst also encouraging inclusiveness and acceptance of others.
Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott spoke about how people need to ‘take’ power rather than ‘get’ it. Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane urged everyone to be vigilant about any proposed changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in light of the upcoming federal elections. Victorian Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Rowena Allen raised awareness of issues faced by the Asian Australian LGBTQI community, current advocacy and future directions in supporting their rights.
Other speakers included Senator Zhenye Wang (PUP WA Senator); Tanya Plibersek (Deputy Opposition Leader); Senator Lisa Singh (ALP, TAS Senator); Adam Bandt (Greens MP for Melbourne); Hong Lim MP (Victorian Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs); Inga Peulich MLC (Victorian Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs); Benjamin Law (Journalist, Author); and Prof. Fazal Rizvi (University of Melbourne).
The Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) was formed in 2013 as a grassroots, community based network of various bodies covering Asian Australian communities, with the purpose of challenging policies and advocating for change in seeing better diversity and representation of Asian Australians in mainstream society. It has several branches and affiliates advocating for issues common among Asian Australian communities.
According to AAA’s Melbourne Convener Molina Swarup Asthana, the inaugural national conference as well as Victorian launch attracted a good response.
“The recent AAA national conference was initiated by Erin Wen Ai Chew
and Kingsley Liu who are AAA Conveners,” Asthana explained. “Months of effort came to fruition as multiple speakers focused on issues through dialogue, consultation and outcomes.”
She continued, “At AAA we are action oriented. We will not just talk about issues we will utilise our collective strength to cause movement and direct action.”
In global Australian cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, the ‘fair go’ ethos should ideally sit at the core of our multicultural society, but is this happening? Are all Australians, regardless of ethnicity, gender or background, receiving the same opportunities? Or are there disparities that create obstacles to equality for all members of the community?
Molina Swarup Asthana says that AAA’s overarching goal is to continue advocacy to pierce the ‘bamboo ceiling’ in order to truly represent the growing diversity of Australia.