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Ray Martin stands in a busy underpass, with other people out of focus along on either side.

Ray Martin presents Is Australia Racist? on SBS. Photo credit: Megan Lewis

Presented by Ray Martin, Is Australia Racist? puts the largest survey conducted on racism and discrimination in Australia to the test through a series of ground-breaking social experiments to see how people react when faced with issues around race.  The compelling one hour documentary kicks off SBS’s Face Up to Racism week on Sunday, 26 February at 8:30pm.

The film was born after co-director and co-executive producer Dan Brown of Joined Up Films read an academic paper that claimed Australia was one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world.

This notion challenged what Brown was witnessing in the Australian and world media at the time and together with SBS commenced the film’s development which included a survey commissioned by SBS with Western Sydney University to take the pulse of the nation and help analyse the results.

Hidden cameras were used to film racial hotspots to capture racism through the eyes of those who have suffered it.  Experiments were conducted to test bystander reactions, reactions to Aboriginal youth and Anglo-Australian youth using a hacksaw to free a locked bicycle and allowing the audience to walk in the shoes of a Muslim woman wearing a traditional Niqab.  The film documents a wide mix of responses, from those who look on in uncomfortable silence to those who vigorously interject.

Those who are fighting back against intolerance also encounter a wide mix of reactions, many of which are unexpected and highly emotionally charged.

Muslim woman Rahila bravely fronts up to protesters at a Reclaim Australia Rally. Ugandan born Jafri stages a silent protest with his ‘Stop Racism Now’ sign battling racism vulnerably in the public eye.

Co-executive producer Jacqueline Willinge said, “according to the survey almost 1 in 5 Australians have experienced racism in the past 12 months but only just over 1 in 10 Australians self-identify as racist. Is Australia Racist? probes the survey results and challenges us to think about our own behaviour and how it impacts others.”

Whilst the results are at times confronting, Is Australia Racist? also reveals inspiring Australians facing up to racism and standing up when witnessing discrimination.

Martin also investigates the framing effect: the way that the media and political discourse affects how our opinions are formed; with an experiment showing that prejudicial views can be changed depending on how the information is delivered, concluding that entrenched attitudes can be changed for the positive.

“The fact is we are a multicultural country. New Australians will keep coming here, but how understanding we are, how generous we are, how tolerant we are…well, that’s up to us,” said Martin.

Joined Up Films has also produced a virtual reality short film with Frame VR that allows viewers to experience racist behaviour or observe racist behaviour as a bystander.  The Is Australia Racist? virtual reality film will release on the SBS website soon.

SBS’s Face Up to Racism week including Is Australia Racist? will be available for viewing after broadcast on SBS On Demand.

Watch the trailer for Face Up to Racism here.