THE SCHOOL THAT TRIED TO END RACISM: Premieres Tuesday, September 21, 8.30pm, ABC TV and ABC iview
Internationally awarded journalist and author Marc Fennell describes the ABC TV series The School That Tried To End Racism as one of the most important things he has been a part of.
"It's about starting a conversation that Australia as a nation has to finish," he says.
Fennell has worked with the ABC for many years and has always been interested in diversity.
"They knew I'm a dad and were curious as to whether I was interested in this, dealing with kids, and being up front and honest about the truth about racism in Australia."
Filmed at a multi-cultural western Sydney primary school chosen by the Department of Education, the three-part series looks at a program in which a team of educators and psychologists try to reverse racial bias within a classroom.
"The staff, teachers and parents wanted to understand the process, and it was all about putting the kids' safety at the forefront.
"I learnt so much from watching their duty of care."
"The show gives them [the students] a toolkit so they feel comfortable talking about it," Fennell says.
"People have asked why with this particular age group (10-11-year-olds). Research shows this stuff [racism] is embedded from this age.
"Plenty of shows over the years have asked the question 'is Australia racist?'. It is a big scary word but, if you break down the words, it is a solvable problem."
Fennell says some of the students didn't have the words to describe racism.
"Others had experience with it and some hadn't even seen or known what it is - that's phenomenal for them.
"I expected pop culture would be highlighted but it didn't come out as a big influence. It speaks to the media they consume.
"A version of the program has been used in the US and they did a pilot program in the UK, but this is the first time it has been presented in Australia," Fennell says.
Fennell says it was a diverse cross-section of kids, from different incomes and cultures and he looks "ambiguously ethnic".
"At my first meeting with them I remember being so nervous as to what they would make of me. I felt really positive afterwards."
Over three weeks the students went through a series of entertaining and eye-opening activities in and out of class that challenged everything they thought they knew about race.
They were guided by their specially trained teachers and overseen by race expert, Professor Fiona White, who measures the students' racial bias after the three weeks, to find out if this new approach actually works.
"To see kids articulate where they think they belong in Australia, I was really grateful to be involved," Fennell says.