'A problem for all of us': NSW government launches new anti-racism campaign

The NSW government has launched a new anti-racism campaign.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman/A screenshot of a poster from the state government's anti-racism campaign

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman/A screenshot of a poster from the state government's anti-racism campaign Source: SBS News

The New South Wales government has launched a public awareness campaign to help victims of racially-fuelled threats and abuse understand their legal rights.

The Stop Public Threats campaign, launched on Monday night, includes promotional posters bearing the slogan: "public threats against some of us, a problem for all of us".

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said he hoped it would encourage people to report threats of race-related violence to the police for investigation.

Offenders can face up to three years in prison, he added.

“A criminal law was introduced in 2018 in NSW. It makes it a criminal offence to threaten or incite violence on the basis of someone’s race, religion, gender sexuality,” he said.

“We need to work together to combat abusive and violent behaviour that discriminates against cultural or religious groups as well as other sections of our community.”

Promotional material for the campaign
Source: Supplied

The Australian Human Rights Commission has recorded a spike in racial discrimination since the outbreak of coronavirus, particularly against Asian-Australians.

In February, the commission received the highest number of racial discrimination complaints this financial year.

While this dropped to within the usual range during the lockdown months of March and April, around a third of complaints were COVID-19-related.

Peter Doukas, chair of the New South Wales Ethnic Communities' Council, said racist incidents would become more frequent and intense if nothing is done.

“This is an ongoing thing and if we don't stamp it out early it will become ingrained," he said.

Increased attacks during the coronavirus pandemic have prompted community groups to conduct their own research to see how widespread it is.

The Asian Australian Alliance, Being Asian Australian and Per Capita fellow Osmond Chiu set up an online database where Asian-Australians can report COVID-19 racism. It found more than 60 per cent of the victims were female, and the majority of the respondents didn’t report the incident to the police.

“Quite a lot of Asians, and not just Chinese, have been subject to racial abuse,” Simon Chan, a public officer at the Chinese Australian Forum, said.

"I have heard many stories from friends so I think it is good to let people know there is something they can do about it.

“I think people know it is not right but aren’t sure whether there is anything they can do about it legally and what steps they need to take, so they don’t report it."

Simon Chan, a public officer at the Chinese Australian Forum

Victims of race-related abuse such as Emma, who did not give her last name due to fear of backlash, said she and her husband had been targeted many times before the pandemic hit.

“I’ve been called a cockroach, the 'f word', I’ve been told to get back to my country … so, yeah, nothing new," she said.

“My husband works in a real estate agency and he has signboards, and people could tell from his last name that he’s of Asian descent, so sometimes the boards will just get vandalised.”

Mr Chan said it is important victims of racial abuse know what their rights are.

"Australia is the best multicultural country in the world, so on that basis it is unfortunate that the pandemic has brought this out in people."

"We need to educate the public about what they can’t do, but also educate the victims about what they can do about it."

Published 25 May 2020 at 8:21pm
By Charlotte Lam, Nick Houghton