Professional boxer, former rugby league star and mental health advocate, Joe Williams has been in the public eye since he made his debut in the national sports landscape, signing with the Penrith Panthers in 2008. Throughout his success he has been through his fair share of challenges, both professionally and personally.
When Indigenous people speak out on Indigenous issues, in an overwhelming majority of cases, people who are insensitive, superficial and plain ignorant, and a product of a country with a deep racist history, take advantage of the situation to air their most vile thoughts about diversity, cultural difference and face.
This behaviour appears amplified when the activist has a public profile; one which Australia experienced first-hand as we watched relentless boos and racial slurs thrown at Adam Goodes on the AFL field last year and the sabotage of Thelma Plum’s social media after she called out blackface.
As an outspoken advocate for liberal topics like Indigenous rights and mental illness - and in society’s eyes, somewhat of a trouble-making blackfella - sadly, Williams was most the recent public figure to survive an attack of abuse.
Last night, Williams, posted on his Facebook page that he had just received a phone call from a private number who hurled abuse of violent threats, threats of sexual violence, racist language and abstract insults down the line at him.
Williams does not know the identity of the perpetrator, nor does he know how his personal number was obtained by them. He told NITV that the caller was male, with a younger sounding voice and guessed around 25-35 years of age.
“They were telling me that they were going to ‘bash’ me, then rape me whilst I dance around in my 'lap lap', they said [I had to] make my mind up whether between being an NRL player, boxer and suicide mental health advocate and called me an A** and a dog,” he says.
Williams, who has battled with mental illness and is now a public speaker and promoter on the subject, says that he has come a long way to let such mindless racism and bigoted people affect him.
“Racism and people like this one on the phone can't hurt me,” he told NITV. “I know I am too resilient for them to upset me. Instead, I out it on social media to show others that racism is alive and present and that anyone can be a victim of these heartless attacks.
Williams,a proud Wiradjuri man, points out how damaging this type of content is,
“Racism is worse than bullying - it's attacking an individual's heritage that dates long before I've even lived. If we can learn anything from these incidents, it's to be strong and supporting to each other and to those who come under attack. I have had numerous calls from non-Indigenous friends with their support. Racism is everyone's business and we can fight it together.
"Racism is worse than bullying - it's attacking an individual's heritage that dates long before I've even lived."
While it’s shocking that such archaic abuse is still very much present in today’s modern society, Williams encourages other victims of racial abuse to challenge the concept of this behaviour.
“People attacking me through words will never hurt me; it's how I perceive those words that does the damage. Therefore, it's my thoughts that give those words the power to hurt me or not. Words from a stranger will never hurt me, and the fight against racism continues.”