Forty years of the Racial Discrimination Act
In October 1975, at a ceremony for the proclamation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (‘the RDA’), then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam described the legislation as ‘a historic measure’, which aimed to ‘entrench new attitudes of tolerance and understanding in the hearts and minds of the people’.1 The RDA was Australia’s first federal human rights and discrimination law. Enacted shortly after the formal abandonment of the White Australia policy, it was also a legislative expression of a new commitment to multiculturalism.
This year, on the occasion of the RDA’s 40th anniversary, we reflect on the extent to which the legislation has fulfilled its original purpose. What effect has it had in eliminating racial discrimination over its four decades of operation? How successful has it been in entrenching ‘new attitudes of tolerance and understanding’?