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Sarra urges corruption watchdog to target systemic racism


One of Queensland’s top bureaucrats wants the Crime and Corruption Commission to play a greater role in combatting institutional racism.

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Dr Chris Sarra, the Director-General of the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, made the call in a submission to a parliamentary committee review of the CCC.

Sarra is a former Queenslander of the Year, Queensland’s Australian of the Year, and NAIDOC Person of the Year. He founded the Stronger Smarter Institute in 2005 and was appointed director-general in August 2018.

In his submission, Sarra urged the review to consider “ensuring cultural capability/appropriateness is embedded in all activities involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

“This may include the management of police discipline matters relating to deaths in custody or allegations of police misconduct,” Sarra wrote on behalf of the department.

He then went a step further and called for “a greater role for the CCC in terms of investigating systemic racism”. Sarra was unavailable to discuss the issue today.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most recently, the government has sought to raise awareness of the problem of racism in the community, and directed people to the Queensland Human Rights Commission if they wished to make any complaints. The CCC does the same, however the issue of systemic or institutional racism has not been on the agenda in Queensland for some time.

Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall told InQueensland the commission “supports any measures that address systemic racism which has a real and pervasive impact on the lives of First Nations Queenslanders and our diverse migrant communities”.

In its latest annual report, the QHRC stated that it had received 70 race discrimination complaints in 2018-19, comprising 7.9 per cent of all discrimination complaints. That was consistent with the previous year.

Sarra suggested the committee consider the level of Indigenous representation at the CCC and ensure principles of the Human Rights Act are embedded in all its activities.

During National Reconciliation Week this year, the CCC stated that it had taken steps to ensure the contributions of First Nations People were recognised and celebrated. In 2017, it “reaffirmed that its engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was a priority in terms of its policies and services”.

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