City's view on diversity questioned

LAUNCESTON'S core identity excludes cultural diversity, the Multicultural Council of Tasmania has said after a visit last week.

Multicultural council chief executive Anna Reynolds and senior vice- president Sajini Sumar hosted a series of meetings on Thursday and Friday.

Ms Reynolds said organisations in Launceston reacted to negative incidents, such as racial attacks, but failed to be proactive in encouraging wider community acceptance of people from different backgrounds.

She said she learned of racial abuse against international students, and while such incidents had resulted in meetings between stakeholders, this had not led to systemic change.

Ms Reynolds said people questioned the acceptance of outsiders in Launceston and if the community genuinely embraced diversity.

Racism was the main concern at a meeting with migrant groups on Thursday, which surprised Ms Reynolds.

At least two people reported racial attacks against them in public in Launceston, including verbal abuse and objects being thrown at them.

"The message we got on Thursday was reinforced by other people we met," Ms Reynolds said.

"To date, there hasn't been an integrated response that is honest about the fact that racism is real.

"Cultural diversity is not highly valued in Launceston yet by the majority.

"It does not mean that there aren't people who don't value that sort of diversity, but it's not something that's at the core of the identity of Launceston."

Ms Reynolds called on the Launceston City Council to take the lead with a positive campaign, which emphasised that racism was unacceptable and that diversity was great for the city's future.

Launceston Deputy Mayor Jeremy Ball met the Multicultural Council on Thursday.

He said that he personally wanted to see if council could become involved with the national Racism. It Stops With Me campaign.

Alderman Ball said another idea was to encourage key organisations to become involved, such as universities and government departments, to achieve "collective impact" on the issue.

The Hobart City Council officially supports the national anti-racism initiative.


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