Page 1752 - Week 06 - Thursday, 3 June 2021

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I would also like to recommend that you catch the next Stronger Than Fiction film, Set. It is a really great series and a really great show.

COVID-19—racism and abuse against Asian Australians

MS LEE (Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (4.58): When the pandemic hit, Australians pulled together in a way we have probably never done before. In between the overreactions in filling houses with toilet paper, we saw the kindness of strangers in giving our fellow Aussies a helping hand during a time we were engulfed in a darkness of uncertainty and fear. What was quietly bubbling away, however, was an ugly side of our society that came to the surface out of fear and uncertainty from an invisible enemy which seemingly provided an excuse for some to lash out.

I have heard too many stories from Asian Australians about how quickly they were looked at with suspicion at the height of the virus. Thankfully the instances in Canberra have been far and few between, but when you are on the receiving end of the abuse, the suspicion, the discrimination and the hate, it does not matter if it is not a common occurrence. It shatters your entire world. It brings into question your belief in humanity. And it hurts deeply—so deeply—to know that you are in some ways thoroughly rejected by your fellow human beings.

I have empathised, been outraged and cried with fellow Asian Australians who have shared their hurt with me. As usually is the case, we dust it off and we move on. We reassure ourselves that it is the minority, and it is, and that it does not matter. But it does matter, because we matter.

Just months ago, I read with dismay about racist abuse hurled at an Asian Dickson cafe owner. Just recently, I read with dismay about racist comments made about an Asian man, mocking physical stereotypes, designed for maximum humiliation, and using fake Asian accents.

Just today, I read with dismay an article written by Alice Amsel, a Korean Australian musician, artist and writer, about being spat on at a pharmacy and her recollections of racist abuse she has faced all her life. As Alice says herself, she cannot speak for the experience of every Asian Australian, but this article spoke to me strongly, and I know that it spoke strongly to many other Asian Australians: we who, as schoolchildren, refused to eat in front of our classmates, hiding our tears behind a forced smile while other children would pretend to vomit or tell us to sit far away because whatever was packed in our lunchboxes smelled gross; we who, as schoolchildren, had to accompany our parents to parent-teacher nights, the bank, the insurance company and utilities companies to interpret, shrinking with embarrassment because we could clearly see others smirking or becoming visibly frustrated at our parents’ broken English; we who, as university students, were constantly mistaken for international students and asked whether we knew how to speak English; we who, as young professionals breaking into the workforce, were assumed to be there only to fill a diversity quota; we who, even when we thought we had managed to make a successful life for ourselves in our chosen field, faced micro-aggressions of racism and discrimination when the world was thrown into a global pandemic that brought out a sentiment of hate that I, perhaps naively, thought we had long left behind.

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