ST CLARE'S Human Rights Group will meet with NSW Senator Deborah O'Neill in Taree on Monday, July 21 to discuss their petition opposing the proposed amendments to Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The students asked Senator O'Neill to represent their concerns about the proposed amendments and according to a spokesperson for Senator O'Neill, "the quality and substance of the petition is remarkable" and the senator is "very supportive of the students actions and is keen to meet with them to congratulate and support the important work they are undertaking."
The St Clare's Human Rights Group launched a website and online campaign in April to promote and seek support for their petition and submission. The website www.humanrightsgroup. org.au/joinourfight included their submission, a petition and a You Tube video.
The petition is now closed but according to the group, people can "still continue to sign and support us to reaffirm our stance and views".
The submission highlights the group's "concerns of the amendment, from the neglect of the psychological and mental impacts of racism, to the exemptions which allow journalists and politicians to deliberately launch factually incorrect and untruthful attacks on race."
Co-ordinator of the St Clare's Human Rights Group, Phillip Chalmers supports the submission stating "the issue of racism in our community has always been a forefront issue. As a school we have worked very closely with the Biripi and Worimi elders to build communities that welcome Aboriginal children into our school," Mr Chalmers said.
"In 2006 we hosted a gathering of elders, most of whom have passed. Their collective message was clear. 'Heal or story with education'. I interpreted this statement as, it is not just an Aboriginal story but all our story as Australians, and who we want to be as a nation.
"By supporting this student led petition I am honouring the wishes of the Biripi/Worrimi elders statement in 2005 made in the St Clare's Reconciliation Garden."
The submission also received support from Greater Taree City Council mayor Paul Hogan, the Director of Schools, Catholic Schools Office (Maitland-Newcastle), Ray Collins and principal of St Clare's High School, Peter Nicholls.
Cr Hogan applauds the initiative of the St Clare's Human Rights Group and says "racism is a significant issue faced not only in our community of the Manning Valley.
"I would like to thank those students involved for their strength in standing up and voicing their opinion about this important issue," Cr Hogan said.
Mr Collins commented that "the pro-active stance taken by this student group shows their willingness to monitor the treatment of all people in our society and to take action to address what inequalities they discover."
According to principal Peter Nicholls, "we have high expectations of our students and seek to challenge and stretch them each day. There is much joy in learning something new - yet we often 'play safe' and do what we have always done. Such safe behaviour limits what we achieve and leaves the world as it is.
"It is with these thoughts in mind that I endorse the actions of the St Clare's Human Rights Group as they campaign to ensure the dignity and wellbeing of all Australian citizens."