Australia’s education system endeavours to provide an environment in which students can learn in a safe and comfortable manner, free of fear of verbal or physical abuse. However, for many schools, the ability to create this safe environment has been undermined by a recent rise in society-wide intercultural tensions that inevitably permeate the school boundary. Empirical data from a national project about racism among Australian youth provides evidence that these intercultural tensions are generating an unsettling level of verbal, and in some cases, physical abuse in Australian secondary schools. These project findings inform the discussion presented in this paper that schools, as sites of intercultural relations, reflect wider societal attitudes. Nevertheless, this paper also contends that schools as microcosms of social realities have the potential to change social attitudes gradually, including those about diversity, culture and race. To do so, schools need to be supported by teacher education programs which explore the ways in which issues of race, culture and diversity can be incorporated in the content choice in school curriculum. This will influence positively the way in which graduating teachers approach diversity and inter-cultural tensions within their own classrooms and the wider school.
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