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'The Invisible Discriminator'

beyondblue's new national anti-discrimination campaign highlights the impact of racism on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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One in five young Australians would move if a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent sat next to them, a survey has found. And the same percentage would keep an eye on an indigenous person if they were shopping.

More than one in three young Australians also believe that indigenous people are lazy and have been given an unfair advantage by the government.

The findings are published in a research paper commissioned by Beyond Blue.

Called lazy: Greg Fryer

Called lazy: Greg Fryer Photo: Paul Rovere

The study provides a snapshot of the awareness, attitudes, intentions and behaviours in relation to discrimination against indigenous Australians. 

"The results were consistent with my experience," said indigenous Australian actor, Greg Fryer.

The 47-year-old also said that while Australia has made progress since he was in his 20s, it still has a long way to go. 

The study was based on the opinions of more than 1000 participants aged between 25 and 44. 

“This research shows that racism in Australia is still common and that many people engage in racist behaviour,” said the chairman of Beyond Blue, Jeff Kennett. 

The former Victorian premier said he was concerned about the impact of racism upon the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 

“Racism, like any form of discrimination, leads to distress, which in turn can lead to depression and anxiety," he said. 

The study found Western Australia had the highest levels of discriminatory attitudes towards indigenous Australians. 

Mr Fryer said that the higher than average results from Western Australia (WA) did not surprise him. 

"A lot of indigenous artists have left WA because they just couldn't cope," he said. 

Mr Fryer experienced this first hand when, during a flight back from Perth, he was the only one not offered an alcoholic drink. He believes this was due to his heritage. 

The study revealed that 42 per cent of participants believed that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are given an unfair advantage by the government, while 37 per cent believed they were lazy. 

Mr Fryer said that he had been experienced being called lazy because of his heritage.

But because he comes across as articulate and well-educated, many people would not consider him as an indigenous Australian. 

"'Well you're not a real blackfella', they'd say." 

The data also suggests that other Australians are suspicious of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in shops and stores, with 21 per cent saying that they would keep and eye on an indigenous person while they were shopping. 

Beyond Blue CEO, Georgie Harman, said many people harboured an unconscious bias towards indigenous Australians. 

“Unfortunately, many people don’t realise when they are discriminating against indigenous people and therefore, don’t understand the profound effect it has on how they feel about themselves," she said. 

This attitude was mirrored in the result for Australian's attitudes towards changing discrimination, with 28 per cent saying it wasn't a priority. 

On Tuesday, Beyond Blue launched the Invisible Discriminator campaign to show the psychological effect that subtle racism has on indigenous Australians.