IPA Today

‘Quick, somebody call a Diversity Officer!!’

Written by
15 September 2022
Originally appeared in The Spectator Australia

Identity politics is seriously damaging our most important institutions

It is not just young and impressionable university students who are being compelled to attend virtual re-education camps before being permitted to proceed with their degrees, but also older and considerably less impressionable members of society whose university days are but a distant memory. Apparently, you can never be too long in the tooth to have your thinking checked.

It has recently come to light that volunteers at the State Library of Western Australia have been on the receiving end of a passive aggressive email which ‘encourages’ them to take part in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultural awareness training module. If for any reason, said volunteers decide to decline the offer, their names will be put on a list of troublesome dissenters, and they can expect a phone call asking them to explain why it is they are bigoted racists.

According to the recipient of the communication, this is not the first woke imposition that staff have had to endure. The question is, how long will it be until the library does what the Art Institute of Chicago did last year, which was to shut down its volunteer program and fire more than 150 white unpaid staff in the name of ‘equity and diversity’?

As it turns out, this kind of coercion is quietly taking place within numerous Australian organisations. Staff at the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet, Gold Coast Health, the Fair Work Ombudsman, Libraries Tasmania, City of Melton, and the Royal Life Saving Society have also been compelled to undertake an Indigenous Cultural Training module developed by the SBS Inclusion Program.

A few of the model’s components will teach you how to ‘recognise the importance of spirituality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures’, to ‘grasp the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and to ‘comprehend the trauma felt by the Stolen Generations and the intergenerational trauma still being felt today’. Finally, it will you give you the ‘tools to move forward in the reconciliation process as both an individual and a business’. This module it seems, works wonders. It promises that in just half an hour, you will be transformed from a knuckle-dragging, cultural philistine into a fully enlightened and culturally proficient human being.

Clearly however, the Royal Life Saving Society has decided that half an hour of cultural competence training simply won’t do the trick. Under the guise of ‘Diversity and Inclusion’, it directs interested parties to a LinkedIn page which is a veritable smorgasbord of identity politics, critical race theory and radical gender theory. Among the offerings are six hours and thirty minutes of ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for all’, 28 minutes of ‘unconscious bias,’ 55 minutes of ‘using gender inclusive language’, 15 minutes on how to fight gender bias at work, and 3 hours and 52 minutes of ‘how to engage meaningfully in allyship and anti-racism’. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

It goes without saying that not one of these training modules is designed to teach you how to swim, spot a rip or develop techniques in advanced resuscitation. They are specially designed to train you to think in a different way, to alter your attitude and to question your beliefs. They are, to all intents and purposes, meant to brainwash you. This is a recalibration, designed to shift your loyalty from one moral code to another through hours and hours of relentless, mind-numbing ‘training’.

In his book A Time to Build, Yuval Levin puts forward a theory that when institutions fail to fulfil their essential roles in society and instead focus on trivial matters outside their remit, trust in them declines. The basis for Levin’s thesis is a distinction between formative institutions serving a social role and performative institutions that only provide a stage for partisan politics. As Levin notes, ‘When we don’t think of our institutions as formative but as performative – when the presidency and Congress are just stages for political performance art, when a university becomes a venue for vain virtue-signalling, when journalism is indistinguishable from activism – they become harder to trust. They aren’t really asking for our confidence, just for our attention.’

The revelation that Ambulance Victoria spent $760,000 on diversity officers while 33 Victorians died because there were not enough people to take emergency calls makes that particular institution very hard to trust indeed.

There has not been a push by the Victorian public for Ambulance Victoria to spend countless hours on obscure theories about gender, power, and race. Rather, the orders to pursue the woke agenda have come from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, which was handed down in March this year in a diabolically lengthy Volume II of its ‘Workplace Equality in Ambulance Victoria’.

The reason why employers are pursuing this agenda so vigorously is because they have the full support of the permanent political class occupying government agencies and departments. There is no way that Ambulance Victoria would be focusing on ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘diversity and belonging’ if the government was not leading by example.

Australian governments ought to be the custodians of a rich liberal democratic tradition of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and equality before the law. The federal government has also expressed its commitment to these values in international law, by becoming a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 of the ICCPR outlines a signatory’s commitment to protect the right of individuals to think freely and entertain ideas and hold positions based on conscientious, religious, or other beliefs.

This entails protection against brainwashing or indoctrination. Agencies such as the Australian Human Rights Commission have been specifically established to uphold these values.

But instead of defending the civil and political rights of individuals, the AHRC has become one of major proponents of radical and divisive ideologies which have become the established norm in the public service, and are now taking root in the private workplace.

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Bella d'Abrera

Dr Bella d'Abrera is the Director, Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs

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