One woman is spat on. Another punched in the face. A group of international students are told they’re going to be killed as they’re walking home.
These are examples of attacks the Asian-Australian community has faced since the pandemic started, part of a surge of racially motivated violence that is increasing across the country.
Now, as Asian-Americans demand change after eight women were shot on Thursday, community leaders in Australia say similar racist sentiments are rippling throughout the country.
“Racism towards Asian-Australians is not new in Australia, it has been deeply rooted in our society for decades,” NSW Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance Thomson Ch’ng told The New Daily.
Since the pandemic started the alliance has kept a database of racist incidents against Asian Australians – at one point they were getting a dozen a day.
“What this pandemic has done, is amplified this toxic element of our society,” Mr Ch’ng said.
“The database was launched last year in April, and up until now we have received more than 500 reports.”
But the database doesn’t reflect how widespread the issue is, as it based on self-reporting.
A landmark survey from the Lowy Institute recently revealed nearly one in five Chinese Australians have been physically threatened or attacked in the past year because of their heritage.
A month beforehand, The Scanlon Report into social cohesion found that although most Australians still favour multiculturalism, negative opinions about Australians of Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds persist.
Advocates and activists say we need to start calling out these hate crimes, address Australia’s racism and stop the rhetoric that blames Asian people for the spread of COVID-19.
Most of the violence happens in public, in shopping malls and online, but some have been experiencing it in their places of work.
John, who did not want to be named, was in an office meeting with 20 of his colleagues when his team leader told him all Chinese people should be “nuked and eliminated” for spreading coronavirus.
“Soon after another colleague approached me and the following conversation occurred: ‘I work in Southport Chinatown. I’m concerned that there’s a large Asian community there’,” John said.
Another, who used the pseudonym AX was walking with his 12-year-old brother and their dog, in Sydney when a carload of anglo-teens abused them.
“One boy yelled, ‘Is that your dinner, mate?’ At the time I was in shock and didn’t quite understand or comprehend what they were saying,” AX said.
“Then I realised they were referring to our pet dog, implying that all Chinese people eat dogs.”
On Wednesday, race discrimination commissioner Chin Tan launched a national framework saying the need for a countrywide approach to ending racism had become “painfully apparent over the past year”.
Mr Tan said the framework will include a national assessment of the prevalence of racism and an analysis of options for the best legal protection for people who have experienced racism.
There has been no federal funding for a national anti-racism strategy since 2015, when the campaign ‘It Stops with Me’ ended.
“Current efforts to address racism are not enough. Government actions are fragmented, there are inconsistencies in approaches across jurisdictions, and significant gaps,” he said.
“Too many people are regularly the targets and victims of racism.”
It’s time Australia dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence or the scourge of child abuse, he said.
“On those issues, we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans,” Mr Tan said.