Experiences and effects of racism in school: The quantitative evidence

Experiences and effects of racism in school: The quantitative evidence

Nicholas Biddle and Naomi Priest

Draws together published and ongoing quantitative research that documents the experiences of racism amongst school-age children in Australia.

child lying down on school steps

This event was held on Tuesday 8 April 2014.

As Australia becomes more ethnically, culturally and racially diverse, there is greater scope for children at school to experience, witness and engage in racism (which we define as avoidable and unfair phenomena that produce disparities in resources, opportunities or benefits among racial/ethnic groups). At the same time, attitudes towards diversity are fluid and individuals may experience increasing or decreasing levels of racism, depending on their background and social situation. Understanding the level and type of racism experienced in schools is important for designing interventions that lead to all students experiencing a positive and enriching school environment. Furthermore, racism has the potential to significantly impact on child health outcomes and wellbeing. Therefore, understanding experiences of racism is important for identifying potential sources of health and wellbeing disparities across children and potentially into adulthood.

In this presentation, Dr Biddle and Dr Priest draw together published and ongoing quantitative research that documents the experiences of racism amongst school-age children in Australia, with a particular but not exclusive focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. They use a subset of the surveys to document the potential effects of racism on child outcomes, with a particular focus on health and school attendance.   


Co-author Talia Avrahamzon has a Bachelor of Arts (USyd) and a Masters in International Social Development (UNSW). She is currently undertaking her PhD at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research and the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU, as a Sir Roland Wilson Scholar. Her research interest is primarily on how caregivers, educators, policy makers and the broader social discourse construct a young child's readiness to engage in ‘reconciliation' and whether current efforts will empower children to be active citizens who will contribute to social justice, social inclusion and democracy or whether the policies and programs are creating more cultural bias, racism and social exclusion. Prior to starting her PhD, Talia worked for the Department of Social Services for over 10 years and has extensive experience in the development and implementation of social and community development programs and policies with a strong focus on Indigenous child, family and community wellbeing.