A database of racist incidents against Asian Australians has received 178 responses in two weeks, as Queensland police also condemned a rise in anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey, launched by community group Asian Australian Alliance, has received 12 reports a day since 2 April, ranging from racial slurs to physical assault.
The majority of racist incidents were committed against women (62%) and 86.5% of in-person racist incidents were committed by strangers, according to the survey.
On Wednesday, Queensland police announced there had been 22 incidents of racially-motivated offences against Asian Australians in recent weeks – including robberies, assaults and verbal abuse.
In one case, a 15-year-old girl was charged by police for allegedly punching a 26-year-old woman in the face in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall after she accused her of having Covid-19.
Queensland police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said the true level of racist offences were being underreported and she encouraged more people to come forward to police.
Of those surveyed, 147 of the incidents were in-person, 18 were online and 13 were “other”.
Just over 60% of the self-reported incidents included racial slurs, 21% included verbal threats and 15% included physical intimidation such as being punched or shoved.
Over a third occurred on a public street, 23% occurred in supermarkets, 15% on public transport, 12% in shopping centres and 11% in public parks and community areas.
Erin Wen Ai Chew, the national convener of the Asian Australian Alliance, said the results of the database were “extremely concerning”.
Only 5.6% of those surveyed reported their incidents to police.
“What our tracker shows is how under-reported incidence of racism is,” she said. “Even those which were described as physical racist altercations were not reported to the police, and this is extremely concerning.”
Victoria police are also investigating an incident on Thursday in which two female international students in Melbourne alleged a group of women attacked them and said “we’re going to kill you” over coronavirus fears.
Last week, NSW police charged a 55-year old man who allegedly harassed and threatened people with a whip outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney.
Of those who reported a racist incident in the survey, 81% said they believed it was related to the Covid-19 pandemic and 3% said it wasn’t, with 7% saying maybe and 9% “other” or “don’t know”. A quarter of incidents were said to be “made out as a joke”.
Chew called on politicians, public figures and media to make more public statements against prejudice.
“The only way to combat this racism is to speak up and to be united against this hate,” she said.
“This Covid-19 racism is a symptom of the bigger issue of racism in Australia, and how this pandemic has been reported in tabloid media and by world leaders like Trump only encourages and enables this hate.
“Our Covid-19 racism tracker is a mechanism to create long-term campaigns to fight against this racism and to push our country’s leaders and institutions to take this more seriously.”
Earlier in April, a group of 16 prominent Asian Australians created a petition calling for “national unity” and an end to anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic. The #UnityoverFear letter has been signed by former Australian of the Year John Yu, celebrity chef Adam Liaw, theatre maker Annette Shun Wah and writer Benjamin Law.
Queensland’s multicultural affairs minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, said on Wednesday that some of the incidents in his state were organised by “very extreme, extreme rightwing activists who are using this current situation to attack members of our community.”
Earlier in April, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, also condemned an alleged instance of racism where a Chinese-Australian bus driver was abused by a passenger who accused him of having Covid-19 and “bringing it to Australia”.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has condemned anti-Asian and anti-Chinese racism.
“It was the Chinese Australian community that actually protected Australia so early on in this virus outbreak around the world,” he told SBS. “The virus started in Wuhan, in China, that’s what happened, that’s just a fact. But that doesn’t mean that this … has any nationalistic, or any other sort of characteristics to it. That’s just where it started.”