As Australia has become increasingly culturally diverse, with one in four Victorians born overseas, there has also been an increase in religious diversity. Although Australia is very accepting of cultural diversity relative to other countries, race-based discrimination remains unacceptably high. (Klocker, Trenerry & Webster)
Increased religious discrimination against Muslim Australians has included abuse, threats, spitting, road rage and bullying. Women in particular, visible in hijab, have been spat upon, stalked and abused.
Other groups in Australia are also susceptible to discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has reported increasing incidences of anti-Semitism, particularly on the internet.
Organisational and community interventions like the activities that JCMA conducts, reduce racism and the deleterious effects that experienced racism can have on mental health. Academics such as Paradies indicate that there is particular “evidence of a link between higher levels of education and more tolerant attitudes towards diversity and difference”.
JCMA’s principal activities, in particular in educating the community around values such as respect and trust, honouring diversity and listening, are motivators of behaviour that work to target racism and abusive behaviour and therefore prevent its harmful emotional effects.
The principal activities of JCMA (outlined below) contribute to stemming emotional and physical abuse of Jewish and Muslim Australians and all Australian society, by assisting to reduce racism, intolerance, bigotry and violence.
JCMA recruits, provides training to, and supports Jewish, Christian and Muslim Presenters who work in the JCMA Schools Program to deliver an education program for both primary and secondary students in both government and non-government schools. The effective training of presenters prepares them to effectively combat racism by:
- cultivating in the presenters personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for self, others and the community
- providing information to the presenters to raise self-awareness of bias and prejudice that might impede their presentations
- preparing and training them for modelling acceptance and understanding of others in presenting to the students
JCMA prepares and provides a Schools Program for primary and secondary students in both government and non-government schools. This education program aims to positively counter stereotypes and race-based or religious discrimination and eliminate hatred, vilification and misunderstanding by:
- providing concrete experiential learning for students through their meeting face to face simultaneously with a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim
- providing ongoing diversity education and cultural transformation in the schools by occasional partnering with the wider community via local multifaith networks leading to a raised awareness of the program, the breaking down of barriers and a combined community promotion of positive behaviours instead of hatred, vilification and misunderstanding
- working with similar education programs to collaborate, share resources and training, and provide a broader base from which to build community resilience and bridges of understanding and respect, fostering open communication and engagement across communities
Educational Conferences Seminars & Forums
JCMA addresses existing racial intolerance through community interventions in the form of educational conferences, seminars and forums where people of the Abrahamic faiths, other faiths and no faith learn directly from each other what values form the basis for social cohesion, community wellbeing and harmony. This intentional, proactive strategy of engagement prevents harm by:
- directly targeting sources of hatred, misinformation and racial and religious intolerance in our community by engaging those that propagate hatred in open dialogue, to educate, promote understanding and correct misconceptions that they may hold
- building and strengthening the relationships between those of the Abrahamic faiths; in particular the live-in Jewish Christian and Muslim Conferences assist by breaking down barriers of fear and ignorance between the three faiths, actively contributing to building greater trust between the communities
- acting as an antidote to misinformation and the racial and religious stereotyping that is portrayed via the media and other sources
- providing concrete experiential learning for people through their meeting face to face simultaneously with a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim
- contributing positively to trust, social cohesion and connectedness among the Abrahamic faiths
- contributing positively to trust, social cohesion and connectedness with the wider community, by providing the wider community with an understanding of the Abrahamic faiths as experienced in Australia
Collaboration & Support
JCMA collaborates with the Peak Bodies of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC) and the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) (the Sponsoring Organisations of JCMA), in order to build and strengthen tangible relationships that will counter racism and prejudice. This collaboration prevents harm by:
- building community resilience and relationships that will withstand times of unrest and conflict, as expressed either overseas or in Australia
- acting as an antidote to mistrust and ignorance, providing positive leadership to all associated societies, groups and clubs
- working together on an Annual Event to provide an opportunity for the development of friendships that will withstand potential racial vilification and discrimination, continue to support the vibrancy and cohesion of a multicultural Victoria and promote peace, harmony and understanding between communities that might not normally mix together.
Production of Resources
JCMA has produced an educational harm prevention tool which it distributes widely in the community: “A Comparative Guide to Judaism, Christianity and Islam”. This prevents racism, and the resulting associated harm, by:
- counteracting misinformation and vilification that occurs in the wider community due to misunderstandings of the commonalities and differences within the Abrahamic faiths
Inclusion Through Diversity & Social Cohesiveness
JCMA constantly works to include underrepresented communities. This prevents harm and abuse arising from racism by:
- assisting to breakdown social isolation and a lack of connectedness which can lead to the development of extremist and racist views
JCMA partners with others where appropriate and relevant. Currently JCMA is working with the Uniting Church’s Disability Inclusion “Speaker Series” program, and contributing to harm prevention by:
- raising awareness of the importance of inclusion of those with disability in faith communities
- providing people with disabilities an opportunity to socially connect, breaking down the harmful effect of social isolation and lack of connectedness that contributes to mental ill-health
JCMA provides strategic media & press releases. These public statements from an authoritative and respected organisation in multicultural Victoria are significant in raising awareness of and combating intolerance by:
- promoting the democratic values that underpin Australian society – those of individual human rights, freedom of religion & freedom of worship among members of faith and spiritual communities
- publicly supporting diversity and multiculturalism by denouncing bigotry, hatred, misinformation and scapegoating expressed against individuals and groups (See attached media statements)