LCMS workshop to show Bendigo residents how to say no to racism

Staying calm while explaining to someone their behaviour is offensive will be the subject of an anti-racism workshop in Bendigo next week.  

Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services will run two Say No to Racism workshops in September to share ways people can diffuse discrimination they encounter in their lives. 

The organisation’s education and community services manager, Kate McInnes, said intervening in racism did not mean putting oneself in danger.

“If you just ask someone if they’re okay, or say, ‘Do you want to sit next to me?’, that's a gentler way to do things,” she said.

“It's also about empowering every day Bendigonians with the ability to say, 'Hey, don't do that' or, 'Hey, I disagree',” she said. 

People could even use skills from the workshop inside their own families and friendship groups, Ms McInnes said. 

“Sometimes racism is overt, but sometimes it’s an unconscious bias with their granny, with their neighbour, who might have an unconscious bias or who might not have had the opportunity to engage with people from a multicultural background,” she said. 

Asked how someone could intervene to stop racism without themselves becoming a victim, the community development worker said it was important people acknowledged “where [the offender was] coming from”.  

“No one likes being lectured,” Ms McInnes said.

People making a stand against discrimination should also personalise their explanation, describing the impact offensive language had on them and sharing their positive experiences with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. 

Ms McInnes said the training would force participants to examine their own biases and decide for themselves what is and is not acceptable behaviour. 

Mexican student and LCMS community development worker Alonso Navarro Mendoza will instruct the course alongside Ms McInnes.

While had had not been the victim of racism during his time in Bendigo, he said other international students – especially those from a Middle Eastern background – had anecdotes of discrimination to share.  

 The Say No to Racism workshops will take place at 9.30am on September 3 and 10. 

The event is free to attend, although participants are encouraged to make a donation of $30 towards LCMS’ Welcome Dinner Project, providing overseas-born people newly arrived in Bendigo the opportunity to join in a meal with a local family. 

To reserve a place in the workshop, visit www.loddoncampaspemulticulturalservices.eventbrite.com.au