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Rachel Sharples

Rachel Sharples is a Lecturer of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University (WSU). She is a member of the Challenging Racism Project and the Diversity and Human Rights Research Centre (DHRRC) at WSU and the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies (CRIS). Rachel’s research interests are interdisciplinary, spanning anthropology, sociology, ethnic and racial studies, cultural studies and politics. Key areas of research include displaced persons, refugees and migrants in local and global settings; statelessness, citizenship and belonging; racism and anti-racism; and spaces of solidarity and resistance. Recent publications include anti-asylum seeker sentiment in the Australian population (Geopolitics), claims of anti-white racism in Australia (Journal of Sociology) and discrimination in sharing economy platforms (Geoforum). Rachel’s manuscript, Spaces of Solidarity, was published by Berghahn Books in 2020.

Antiracism interventions in Australian schools

Racism and racial bullying remain prevalent in Australian schools. The Speak Out Against Racism (SOAR) Project, conducted in government schools in NSW and Victoria in 2019, found that one-third of students experienced racial discrimination by their peers (31%) and within society (27%), and just over one in ten students (12%) reported racial incidents involving their teachers. At the same time, there is a growing recognition of the importance of building awareness of systemic racism and privilege to build support for antiracism more broadly.

Bystander antiracism programs, especially during the formative years of young people, play a critical role in educating them to become engaged citizens who deeply value diversity, equity and inclusion in society. The AntiRacism in Action (ARiA) program, which we developed in collaboration with the NSW Department of Education, is specifically for students in Year 5 and 6 in NSW schools. The program included a co-designed curriculum with bystander antiracism activities, training videos and professional development training for teachers.

The Department’s evaluation of the program showed that teachers reported increased confidence in teaching about racism and antiracism after the training and using the curriculum resources. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that there is limited research on the impacts of anti-racism training interventions, and even less on what effect they may have on addressing structural racism. To enhance this program, we are co-designing a curriculum centred around structural antiracism interventions and will conduct an evaluation of its long-term impact.

Rachel Sharples
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