Anti-Discrimination New South Wales (NSW) has recorded a surge in anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state anti-discrimination body said that it received 241 official complaints from Jan. 1 to April 30. Of those, 62 were on the grounds of race — an average of four complaints a week — including reports of people being abused or spat at in public, harassed for wearing a mask and car windows being smashed.
Those statistics do not include more serious complaints referred to the NSW police, rather than Anti-Discrimination NSW.
Anti-Discrimination NSW president Annabelle Bennett said that the agency had experienced an “increase in inquiries 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 inquiries 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.
A community database that tracks anti-Asian racism has received 380 reports in two months.
Erin Wen Ai Chew, the national convener of the Asian Australian Alliance community group, said this showed that Australia had more incidents of coronavirus-related racism per capita than the US.
An equivalent US database, called American Asian and Pacific Islander Hate, has recorded 1,710 incidents of racist abuse in six weeks, compared with Australia’s 380 in eight weeks.
Adjusted for the countries’ relative population sizes, there has been 30 percent more reports of anti-Asian racism in Australia, Chew said.
In Australia, 65 percent of those who reported racist abuse were female. Thirty-seven percent of incidents occurred on a public street and 90 percent 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 designer of the survey, said that it 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,” Chiu 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.
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