DATE: 15th November 2023
Courage to Care Victoria today called for the condemnation of all forms of hate speech in our community.
“Racism, antisemitism and hate speech are never OK”, said Courage to Care Victoria CEO, Mike Zervos. “We condemn all forms of hate speech. We urge everyone in the community to be Upstanders for each other against hate, and work towards unity. This message is needed now, more than ever before”.
Courage to Care Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1992, focussed on educating students across the State through its Upstander Programs to stand up against all forms of hate speech and to stand up against racism, discrimination and antisemitism.
The Upstander Programs seek to give students practical tools for standing up against racism, antisemitism and bullying, and empower them to take positive actions in their schoolyard and communities. Holocaust Survivor Speakers share their stories of acts of courage of ordinary people who intervened to save them in the Holocaust of World War 2, demonstrating to students that they too can be Upstanders, and that every individual has the power to make a positive difference by standing up in the face of injustice.
Courage to Care volunteer educator Sabrina Chakman said: ”My father always said it was pure luck that he escaped the Holocaust, but that he was only alive because of courageous Upstanders. People who treated him not as a Jew, but as a human being who need help and they gave it, despite the risk.
“He was enormously grateful to Australia for welcoming him as a refugee in 1949 and providing safety, freedom and opportunity. He loved this country and all its people. This is not the same Australia I have seen this week in my hometown of Caulfield.
“As a retired educator, I know firsthand the incredible and transformative power of education and storytelling to address the dangers of racism and antisemitism, break down barriers, advocate acceptance and inclusion, and transform bystander behaviour into Upstander action.
“Now, as a volunteer, I share my father’s story with school students to demonstrate an extreme real-life example of the consequences of racism and discrimination, and how even in the most horrific of circumstances, we can all stand up against discrimination and hate speech.
“I am saddened and scared that the Australia that my father sought refuge in is now not safe for my own grandchild. I am sad that history is repeating itself; the silent majority is standing by watching hatred unfold in their own back yard.
“It’s time for us ALL to stand up against hate speech. In the wake of the Holocaust, we said ‘never again’ – never again is now”.
The 2021 Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey concluded that higher levels of Holocaust knowledge and awareness are directly associated with warmer feelings towards minorities and disadvantaged groups.
Since 7 October more than 3,500 students have been directly engaged in Upstander Programs and more than 160,000 students since the programs began 30 years ago.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has found that there have been 221 anti-Semitic incidents across Australia between October 8 and November 7, this year; with 42 incidents being recorded in one week alone. From October 1 to 7 this year there was only one (1) incident. By comparison, the Islamophobia Register Australia reported 133 Islamophobic incidents between 7 October and 6 November, with an average weekly number of incidents prior to 7 October being 2.5.
“There are feelings of fear, anxiety, distress and unrest throughout the community today which have never been felt by this generation”, said Mr. Zervos.
“The global conflict is now directly affecting local communities with confronting scenes of violence, racism and antisemitism playing out in our own backyard. This is not the Australia we want it to be. Everyone has the power to make a positive difference by standing up in the face of hate”.
For further information
Courage to Care Victoria Tel: 03 9068 5842
Note: Courage to Care’s Upstander Programs are offered to all Victorian schools FREE of charge, and are available for community groups, workplaces and as a Teacher Professional Development social enterprise model, with all funds generated supporting delivery of the Programs to regional schools.
Note: On October 7 this year Hamas broke through the Gaza Strip border and invaded southern Israel, with more than 1,000 Israelis killed, and over 2,500 wounded mainly innocent civilians, men, women and children.
Images: Available here