The SOAR Project: Speak Out Against Racism
The SOAR project is a collaborative study on racism and racial bullying in Australian schools. We are interested in finding out what Year 5-9 students in NSW and Victorian schools and their teachers think about racism, racial bullying, standing up for others, health and wellbeing and school connectedness. A random selection of state primary and secondary schools have been invited to participate.
The main focus of the project is to find out what makes bystanders speak out when they see racism and racial bullying occur in the classroom or playground, or even on the way to and from school. We will engage students, teachers and school executive in the study to gain a holistic understanding of racism in Australian schools. SOAR researchers are developing a program to encourage students and teachers to act when they witness racism, which will be piloted with Year 5 students in a small number of schools in NSW and Victoria. By surveying students and their teachers before and after and evaluating the pilot program, SOAR Project aims to improve our knowledge of bystander responses to racism and racial bullying in school settings.
The SOAR project is funded by the Australian Research Council, and the NSW Department of Education and Victorian Department of Education and Training. Project partners are the NSW and Vic education departments and the Australian Human Rights Commission, with a research team from the ANU, Western Sydney University, Deakin University, University of Technology Sydney, and the University of Melbourne.
What are we studying?
The SOAR project is interested in finding out about the opinions, experiences and behaviour of Year 5-9 students in NSW and Victorian schools and their teachers, in relation to racism and racial bullying, prosocial behaviour, bystander responses, health and wellbeing and school connectedness. First we will survey around 5000 Year 5-9 students in Victoria and NSW across approximately 25 schools to gather data on existing bystander responses to racism and racial bullying. Teachers from those schools will complete brief surveys documenting their observations in relation to bullying and discrimination, as well as their school environment.
Following the baseline survey, SOAR researchers will pilot a school-based program in a small number of schools to support students in positive bystander behaviour against racism and racial bullying, and will include teacher training, online resources and tools, and workshops for students. A post-test survey questionnaire will be administered to the schools that take part to track changes across time.
Focus groups and in-depth interviews will be conducted among students, teachers and members of school leadership in the schools that receive the intervention program, to examine their experiences and responses in greater depth.
Why is the SOAR project so important?
Racism and racial bullying are pressing issues in the lives of many Australian children and young people, especially at school. There is a strong potential to reduce racism and promote diversity into the future by targeting racism among children and youth through school-based programs, as childhood and adolescence are formative periods for future attitudes and behaviour.
This project aims to reduce racism by encouraging bystander action within schools. Bystander anti-racism is defined as action that someone takes in response to witnessing racism, such as reporting the incident to an authority figure, seeking the help of others, comforting or supporting the target or interrupting or distracting the perpetrator. Bystander anti-racism aims to stop an incident of racism, prevent it from escalating, or minimise the physical, psychological and social harms that may result from racism. The SOAR Project is important because it will be one of the first projects to examine bystander anti-racism among children and adolescents. The study will help us find out how to best encourage bystander action against racism in school settings.
Meet the SOAR team
Dr Naomi Priest - Lead Researcher
Naomi has been working on research projects to understand what makes children healthy and well for over ten years. She’s done a lot of work looking at issues of racism and racial bullying, and how these experiences impact on how children and adolescents grow, learn and live. Naomi is interested in making sure that all children and young people, no matter their background or where they come from, have every opportunity to do well throughout their lives. She’s excited to learn more about how we can support schools and communities to become more confident and skilled in speaking out against racism. Outside of work, she loves spending time outdoors running, swimming and biking, and being with family and friends.
Dr Oishee Alam - NSW Contact
Oishee completed her PhD in sociology at Western Sydney University in 2016, where she has been working and studying since 2012. Her research mainly revolves around racism and anti-racism, with a focus on Islamophobia and bystander anti-racism. When she’s not working, Oishee keeps herself busy with soccer, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, weightlifting and hiking.
Dr Mandy Truong - VIC Contact
Mandy completed her PhD in public health at the University of Melbourne in 2016. She is interested in how people’s ethnic/cultural background impacts on their health and how we can improve inequalities in health. Mandy is also an optometrist and mum of two. Outside of work she is interested in politics, playing board games and eating yummy food. She is excited about meeting the students and teachers at the schools.
Professor Yin Paradies – VIC Researcher
Yin does research on racism and its impacts on people and societies. He also works on how to reduce racism and promote fair treatment of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Yin grew up in Darwin but has now lived in Melbourne for 10 years. He has two children, both girls aged 8 and 10 years. Besides work, he likes to take gym classes, hang out with his kids and learn Portuguese.
Dr Jacqueline Nelson - Co- Researcher
Jacqueline works at the University of Technology Sydney, where she is currently doing postdoctoral research looking at racism and families. At work, she is interested in how and why racism is denied, and how to best address different types of racism. Outside of work, Jacqueline likes drinking coffee, walking in the Blue Mountains and reading fiction.
Frequently asked questions
Download the SOAR FAQ sheet.
Racism hits Indigenous students’ attendance and grades
The Conversation, September 29, 2015
How do you talk to kids about racism?
The Conversation, November 22, 2016
Teenagers who are both bully and victim are more likely to have suicidal thoughts
The Conversation, April 28, 2017
Indigenous students skipping school to avoid bullying and racism
The Conversation, April 11, 2014
Research reveals what racism can do to a child's body (UNICEF Australia)