Recent world events, including those within Australia, have put a spotlight on racism1 and white privilege2. We have taken this time to reflect more deeply on the role that we play, as individuals and a department, in maintaining these systems of inequality. This anti-racism statement represents the first step in our long-term commitment to equity and inclusion, and includes our acknowledgement of the problem of racial inequality in our field, our apology for the role we have played in maintaining this inequality, and our commitment to long-overdue, meaningful and sustainable changes that turn our anti-racist values into action.
We acknowledge that there is clear evidence of racial inequality in psychological research, which we have not done enough to change. For example, over 80% of research participants in psychology are from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies, but these individuals represent just 12% of the world’s population and research in these samples often does not generalise to the population broadly3,4,5. Most research is also conducted and peer-reviewed predominantly by white scientists and has largely ignored the role of race in how we think, feel, and interact with one another.
We also acknowledge that racial inequality is perpetuated in our admissions, hiring, and training processes. In Australia, rather than embracing a multicultural perspective, we have often taken a ‘colourblind’ approach to attracting students and staff. However, because colourblindness can inadvertently have negative consequences of maintaining systemic racial inequalities6,7, this approach has resulted in Indigenous Australians and people of colour being underrepresented in our classes and our workforce. Indigenous Australians in particular are also underrepresented among practising psychologists in Australia, which is a crucial area for improvement because many Indigenous people report finding it hard to connect with non-Indigenous psychologists. More broadly, lack of diversity in students and staff is associated with poorer student outcomes, as well as narrower perspectives being represented in our classrooms and research. This underrepresentation reflects a failure of Australian psychology departments, including our own, to encourage, support and facilitate the training of Indigenous psychology professionals.
As a department, and as individuals, we apologise for our insufficient action in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion that has allowed these racial inequalities to persist. As a department and as individuals we care about and respect diversity, and are committed to doing better in both our actions and our support of social justice in our academic and social community. We understand that affecting concrete and lasting change will take time, and that we will make mistakes along the way as we continue to listen and learn about the best approaches to dismantling systematic inequities.
As a first step towards these goals, our department commits to the following actions:
- We have created a standing committee to oversee the development of a formal strategy for equity and inclusion, and will be responsible for implementation and evaluation of the actions laid out below. Recognising that Black, Indigenous, people of colour and other underrepresented individuals did not create the problems we seek to resolve, we will ensure that members from underrepresented backgrounds will have a guiding voice in our actions, but also that they are not burdened with the responsibility or a disproportionate amount of the work as we move forward. This committee will also address other dimensions inequity and underrepresentation beyond race.
- Annual performance review of all staff will now include goals and activities of individuals to incorporate and support diversity in teaching, mentoring, and research and the actions proposed here. This will allow us to reflect on our efforts and adapt our practices as needed.
- We will produce an annual Equity and Inclusion ‘report card’ to share evaluation and progress with the community, and to plan future efforts.
- We will work with the Faculty to create a position of a Deputy Head of Department, or a Faculty-level leadership position, to ensure sustained commitment with representation across teaching and research committees.
- A Culturally Safe Department
- We will ensure all staff and HDR students engage in cultural competency training .
- We will ensure all students and staff are aware of and have access to safe, formal avenues for communication to raise challenges or issues related to equity and inclusion in the department.
- We will continue to work with Walanga Muru and the campus community to support Indigenous and underrepresented staff and students to capitalize on opportunities, outreach and best practices outlined in the Indigenous Strategy.
- We will continue to work to identify and implement ways that the department can be more welcoming for Indigenous and underrepresented students.
- We will work on ways to implement a culturally diverse and Indigenous informed curriculum. This will include, but is not limited to, education for first-year students, as well as the creation of Toolkits to assist staff in their efforts in creating a more culturally informed curriculum.
- Educational and Professional Pathways for Indigenous and underrepresented students
- We will work with the Faculty and University offices to formally create scholarships to support Indigenous and underrepresented students at every stage of educational training, and to ensure successful progression for those students wishing to pursue postgraduate training.
- We will offer professional development and opportunities for internships that help with career preparedness within and outside of academia.
- We will work with the University to create additional support for outreach to Indigenous and other disadvantaged communities to develop relationships that create more opportunities for people in these communities to study at MQ.
- Culturally Diverse Research
- We will continue to educate ourselves on ways we can address racial inequalities and underrepresentation in our research questions, methods, and interpretation. This includes, but is not limited to, ensuring more diverse samples, developing culturally informed research questions, gaining training in how implicit bias affects research, and developing community and industrial partnerships to facilitate consumer involvement in our research.
- We will expand our research priority areas to include topics of direct importance and relevance to the Indigenous community. This will be done in consultation with Indigenous community members and stakeholders.
1. Australian Human Rights Commission (2020). What is Racism? Retrieved from: https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/whatisracism.pdf
2. McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace and Freedom, (July/August), 10-12.
3. Henrich, J., Heine, S. & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466, 29. doi:10.1038/466029a
4. Rad, M. S., Martingano, A. J., and Ginges, J. (2018). Toward a psychology of Homo sapiens: Making psychological science more representative of the human population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115, 11401–11405. doi:10.1073/pnas.1721165115
5. Muthukrishna, M., Bell, A.V., Henrich, J., Curtin, C., Gedranovich, A., McInerney, J., & Thue, B. (2020). Beyond western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) psychology: Measuring and mapping scales of cultural and psychological distance. Psychological Science, 31, 678-701. doi:10.1177/0956797620916782.
6. Bonilla-Silva, E. (2018). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States (5th edition). Lanham, USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
7. Rothenberg, P.S. (Ed.) (2015). White privilege: Essential readings on the other side of racism (5th edition). New York, USA: Worth Publishers.