Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 11 November 2021) . . Page.. 3408 ..
approached by a number of people over the last two years who have told me about verbal racial attacks on them or people in their communities, and that those attacks increased during this time.
I have lived in Australia all my life. My mother experienced a level of racial discrimination and abuse, but even from her I never heard these stories—that is why I am so worried about it—people being abused in multi-unit complexes who cannot get away from their abusers, because they are locked in because of the COVID-19 lockdown at the time; rocks thrown at people’s windows; taxis driving past people because of their colour, perhaps; women in hajib being verbally abused; business owners of Chinese origin being targeted; and Indian Canberrans being called “curry dogs” and “effing Indians”.
While we differ on many things in this place, I am sure that all of my fellow MLAs here will have heard of similar experiences and some of us may have been subjected to them ourselves. I meet regularly with representatives of the various multicultural communities. They are not homogenous; they are very different people with very different views and beliefs. One thing that has struck me about each of these communities is how they wish to support each other. Each of these communities have had similar experiences and are keen to see a reduction in racism, regardless of where it is directed.
In my meetings some have said to me, “We have been trying to get this sorted for years, to find a place to report and for those reports to be taken very seriously.” In one recent meeting I asked community leaders why such attacks cause so much hurt, and the answer I received really struck me. It was that “an attack on one member of our community is an attack on our whole community”.
One issue that has arisen is the lack of effective reporting mechanisms in the ACT for racist attacks. I have become concerned that there is a gap between what individuals and communities are experiencing and what is officially recorded as having occurred. Such attacks are illegal, and ACT police are able to receive these reports, but it seems that they do not have adequate resources to respond in many instances. The Human Rights Commission is also able to receive reports, but it requires complainants to go through a complaints process.
While the Human Rights Commission does what it can to make sure that the complaints process is accessible to all Canberrans, regardless of their language skills, not all instances are being reported. This process is not easy for people for whom English is a second language and it is not well-known by this group of people. The simple fact is that I have been meeting with multicultural groups about this issue now for several weeks and not a single one of them knew how to report to the Human Rights Commission. This is evidence enough that the reporting mechanisms are not working. Those who actually need this service do not know that it is there or how to access it.
In proposing this motion, I am hoping for a range of outcomes. Firstly, I want to get an understanding of the prevalence of such attacks in our community—quantified, if possible. I believe that the Human Rights Commission and ACT Policing will be able