Call for people to stand up against discrimination

Robert Masters & Associates

– Japanese Diplomat honoured for Standing Up –

Courage to Care Vic is today honouring a World War 2 Japanese diplomat for standing up to discrimination and calling is for Australians of all ages to ‘stand up’ against the alarming increase in racism and discrimination.

Courage to Care CEO Mike Zervos said today the ‘call’ was a critical step in changing the ‘discrimination tag’ that is hanging over the nation where 88 percent of Australians recognised the need to address racism and intolerance in the community.

He called for everyone to be “Upstanders” and not “Bystanders” against discrimination.

As part of the charity’s celebrations of its 30th anniversary over the next two weeks, it is educating and empowering communities, including students, across Victoria, on discrimination and racism.

It is also honouring a former Japanese diplomat today who saved the lives of thousands of Jews fleeing Nazism in Europe against his government’s direction and the Nazis.

The event is part of a visit to Preshil school in Kew by former Federal MP Katie Allen.

Descendants of two of the survivors – Susan Hearst and Lisa Lewis – will take part in Courage to Care’s recognition of former Japan’s diplomat Chiune Sugihara, as an ‘Upstander’ for his brave acts which saved the lives of many people fleeing from Nazi occupied Poland.

Sugihara was Acting Counsel to Lithuanian in the early days of WW2 and defied his government’s refusal to provide transit visas to the fleeing Jews from Poland to Lithuania to escape and lead new lives. He ended up personally writing thousands of visas for about a month until the last minute of his departure from Lithuania in 1940.

Susan Hearst’s mother Maria Kamm was one of Sugihara’s visa recipients, as was Lisa’s grandmother Guta Raskin.

Courage to Care is a two-week series of community, education and schools’ activities across the State to promote the ” Stand-up” initiative.

Courage to Care CEO Mike Zervos said today the ‘Stand-up call’ was a critical step forward in changing the ‘discrimination tag’ that is hanging over the nation where 88 percent of Australians recognised the need to address racism and intolerance in the community.

He highlighted that the charity was seeking to create a generation of ‘Upstanders’ rather than ‘Bystanders’ by working with school students across Victoria in understanding discrimination and racism, the history behind the issues and the actions that can be done that can change lives and communities.

“This action should not be confined to young people but expanded throughout the whole of the community and taken up by people of all ages,” he added.

Mr Zervos said that research by the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute – which monitors changes in social attitudes in Australia – reported that by the end of last year more than 60 percent of Australians believed that racism in Australia was either a ‘very big or fairly big problem’; rising from 40 percent in 2020.

The Asian Australian Alliance had also reported that they had received more than 500 reports of racist incidents against Asian Australians in the past year and the Community Security Groups across Australia has highlighted that 490 antisemitic incidents in Australia took place in 2021, a 38 per cent increase over 2020 and the highest on record.

Gandel Foundation’s first national survey of Holocaust knowledge also reported almost a quarter (24%) of adult Australians had little to no knowledge of the Holocaust, and that the number had risen to 30% among Millennials.

Mr. Zervos said that a series of free public events to celebrate its 30th anniversary will be held at the ARK Centre in Hawthorn between Tuesday 24 May and Thursday 2 June 2022.

This includes educational and empowering guided tours of the Courage to Care Exhibition showcasing Upstanders throughout history, and a series of Community Upstander Programs for community leaders as structured, interactive workshops. These will be open to anyone who wants to learn to be Upstanders against racism and discrimination in their communities.

An educational breakfast panel event will also be hosted by Dr Susan Carland, of Monash University, an expert panel to generate ideas and collaborate for proactive community and structural responses to discrimination. Bookings essential.

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