Download the FREE SBS Radio App for a better listening experience
Two women claim they were racially abused at a cafe in Perth and nobody came to their help.
Neera Mukherjee and her friend Anjanette Hardy just wanted to have a cup of coffee on Thursday, last week when they say they were left 'shocked to the core.'
"This was on Thursday afternoon. We were meeting for coffee at The Coffee Club, Ms Mukherjee told SBS Hindi.
"I accidentally sat down at somebody's seat, which I did not realize was taken. It was an elderly lady, and she came and sat right next to me and told me that this seat was taken. I said no problem; I am happy to move on. I moved and then she became racially abusive," she said.
"She called me a black… (I don't want to really swear) a female dog. She then told me using the swearing words to go back to my own country. She told me to f-off and go back to my country," claims Ms Mukherjee, who hails from Jalandhar district in Punjab.
Neera Mukherjee is a finance professional in Perth. She was born and raised in the UK and moved to Australia in 2008. She says this was the first time she had experienced racial abuse and decided to stand up to it.
"It came as a shock to my core. I said to the lady that she should be ashamed of herself and being a senior citizen with her years of experience that she should not be talking like that."
Her friend Anjanette Hardy, who arrived a few minutes after the incident, claims the café staff called the security and the two women ended up leaving after nobody came in their support.
"There was actually a couple behind. They picked their things and physically moved away. People were actually trying to avoid the situation," said Ms Hardy, who has been living in Australia for over 35 years.
"I went to primary school here, but I never experienced such blatant rudeness and racism."
The two women say that what left them disappointed was the behaviour of café staff and other customers present at the scene.
"There were people around when this happened, but nobody did anything," claims Ms Mukherjee.
"I think that what happened, but it is how you deal with such incidents. In my experience, the café staff supported racism. They should have asked the lady to leave. When we asked them to deal with them, they said they wanted to call security," claims Ms Mukherjee.
"We strongly feel that if the roles had been reversed, police would have been called. That is the issue. If it were me, attacking somebody racially, I would have been arrested. There is no doubt it."
"We are two grown women that can take care of ourselves. What if there was someone else, an elderly dark lady, an older adult or a child. That is the concern," adds Ms Hardy.
The Coffee Club told SBS Hindi in a statement that the incident is currently being investigated.
"The Coffee Club is aware of the incident that occurred in Galleria Shopping Centre on Thursday 20 June, where customers were involved in an altercation. Team members did their best to neutralise the situation, however, when it became beyond their control, security was called," a spokesperson said.
"The Coffee Club is currently investigating this incident, including liaising with the customer who felt they were vilified, the store’s franchisee and the centre’s security."
A study by Western Sydney University has found that 1 in 5 people living in Australia has been the target of verbal racial abuse. The report also suggested that verbal abuse is the most common form of racism.
Ms Shyamla Eswaran, whose video against racism had gone viral last year, felt there was an undercurrent of racism in Australia, with people subjected to routine abuse because of their skin colour or nationality.
Neera Mukherjee and her friend do not believe Australia is a racist country.
"I think it is everywhere you go. If we went to India, there is racism in India too. That is not the issue here. No matter where ever you go, you are always going to get the minority of people with small-minded thinking. The issue is how you deal with it."
According to the Scanlon Foundation, 1 in 5 people in Australia were the target of racial discrimination (around 4.6 million people) in 2016-17. "Nearly half of all Australian residents from a culturally and linguistically diverse background have experienced racism at some time in their life," the report suggests.
The foundation's 2017 Mapping Social Cohesion Report found that, since 2007, those reporting discrimination based on their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion had more than doubled, from nine to 20 per cent.
"The take-home message is that people want to sweep it under the carpet. It is too hard to deal with. If you do deal with it, then it opens up a whole Pandora's boxes," says Ms Hardy.