Canberra, 3 June 2020: The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) condemns racism and stands in solidarity with our United States counterparts in condemning violence and racism against People of Colour. The Association also acknowledges Australia’s own history of violence against its First Nations people, who have experienced, and continue to experience, systemic discrimination and disadvantage.
It has been almost 30 years since the 1991 royal commission into Indigenous deaths in custody was handed down. In that time, the number of deaths in custody has increased by 150%, with more than 400 Indigenous deaths in custody. Indigenous people in Australia are the most incarcerated people, by percentage, in the world. These facts, along with the low levels of literacy and health, highlight the extent of social disadvantage experienced by Indigenous people in Australia.
Furthermore, the recent pandemic has seen an increase in race-based violence in Australian society. There has been a reported spike in racial abuse and assault against Asian Australians, due to fear, ignorance and misinformation about COVID-19. ALIA’s core values highlight the library and information profession’s commitment to social justice and diversity in Australia. It endorses the principles of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. As such, it holds a commitment to respect the diversity, individuality and equality of all and to recognise of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Australian libraries are continuously working to improve the ways that they support and advocate with First Nations people and multicultural communities, and act to actively oppose systemic bias and discrimination.
This has been shown through activities such as:
• Adopting a Reconciliation Action Plan that is central to its operations
• Working with schools and health providers in delivering programs that improve literacy and health education in regional and rural Australia
• Building collections that provide First Nations perspectives on Australian history and cultures
• Developing collections, services and programs that are inclusive of people in their communities from cultural or ethnic minority backgrounds
• Providing legal resources in public libraries to inform Australians of their legal rights
• Guiding communities in developing information literacy skills that build an awareness of the spread of misinformation and disinformation around current issues
• Building collections that support conversations on race, racism, resistance and activism.
The ALIA Board of Directors condemns the social injustices endured by People of Colour in the US and in Australia, and will actively work to eradicate racism by helping to develop library services that are equitable, culturally aware, and inclusive to all who live in Australian society.