Anti-Discrimination NSW has recorded a surge in anti-Asian racism during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state anti-discrimination body has received 241 official complaints in the four months between 1 January to 30 April this year. Of those, 62 were on the grounds of race – an average of four complaints a week just in one state.
This includes people being abused or spat at in public, harassed for wearing a face mask, and car windows being smashed.
Those statistics also do not include other complaints referred to the New South Wales police, rather than Anti-Discrimination NSW, which were more serious.
The president of Anti-Discrimination NSW, Dr Annabelle Bennett, said they had experienced an “increase in enquiries related to the pandemic and racism against people of Asian backgrounds”.
“Unfortunately, these statistics do not tell the full story of what is happening across the state, as many enquiries or complaints were also cases Anti-Discrimination NSW could not handle because the perpetrator was unknown or the incident was covered under the Crimes Act and referred to NSW Police,” she said.
At the same time, a community database that tracks anti-Asian racism has received 380 reports in two months – the equivalent of 47 a week.
Erin Wen Ai Chew, the national convener of community group the Asian Australian Alliance, said this showed that Australia had more incidents of coronavirus-related racism per capita than the US.
An equivalent American database, called Stop AAPI [American Asian and Pacific Islander] Hate, has recorded 1,710 incidents of racist abuse in six weeks, compared to Australia’s 380 in eight weeks.
Adjusted for the countries’ relative population size, there has been 30% more reports of anti-Asian racism in Australia, Chew said.
In Australia, 65% of those who reported suffering racist abuse identified as being female. More than a third – 37% – of incidents occurred on a public street, and 90% of respondents did not report their experience to police.
“Covid-19 related racism is not the cause of racism in Australia, but it is a symptom of the bigger issue around racism in Australia as a whole,” Chew said.
Osmond Chiu, a co-designer of the survey, said the survey performed a valuable role in recording instances of racism that go under the radar.
“This survey has highlighted the very real experience of anti-Asian racism that is happening across Australia right now,” he said. “It has allowed many Asian-Australians to tell their personal story of what it is like and how they feel, which would otherwise go unheard.”
Bennett encouraged all Australians to continue reporting racism, whether it happens to them or to others.
“We absolutely cannot let the actions of a few disrupt the progress we have already made towards racial equality and inclusion made possible by the commencement of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act in 1977,” she said.
Anti-Discrimination NSW is the state government body that administers the Anti-Discrimination Act.
Instances of racism that could constitute criminal offences, including racially motivated criminal offences, should be reported to police.