It has been a terrible few weeks watching the events precipitated by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in the USA. Australia urgently needs to confront its own issues with police brutality and institutional violence, with 437 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991. This statement is to express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign. The Statistical Society of Australia is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion.
I was heartened to read the strong statements from the presidents of the American Statistical Association and Royal Statistical Society. I echo their sentiments that a key thing we can do is educate ourselves about the problems in our own borders. Another positive step statisticians can take is to use our knowledge of statistics to work with our colleagues in health and social sciences who research the areas of health, justice and equity. Data can make a difference and we have the power to help bring about positive change.
You might have seen the campaign to rename the Fisher lecture after the African American David Blackwell. I support this change and I have signed the petition. David Blackwell was a remarkable talent and it is important that our field can tear down the statues of our past, as happened literally in Bristol this week.
As a Society we recently made changes to our code of conduct, to include personal as well as professional conduct. We want to make it clear that our Society will not tolerate racism. Codes of conduct are now mandatory at our conferences and large events: these Codes explicitly state that racist behaviour will not be accepted at our events. Promotion of equity and diversity are now key criteria in Society awards.
There is undoubtedly more that our Society can do to become the safe and welcoming place for everyone that we want it to be. We want our Society and our country to be free from racism and disrespect. We recognise that we are working and living on Aboriginal land, and that there is much work to be done towards reconciliation.
Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss these issues or have any ideas about how the Society might support the Black Lives Matter campaign.
President of the Statistical Society of Australia