Australian Law on Racial Discrimination

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

It was meant to be just another routine trip to Woolworths to grab some groceries for Sydney hairdresser, Linda Ha, when she visited her local Revesby store with her partner.

But what she wasn’t expecting to transpire was a deplorable, racist rant against her in which a foul-mouthed shopper unleashed lewd profanities and demanded she “go back to her own country”.

The incident took place on 15 July 2020, with Ms Ha saying the verbal attack unravelled when a woman wearing a Canterbury Bulldogs jacket started to gaze at her in disgust.

 

“F***ing Stupid Asians”: Vexed Woman Begins Her Racist Rant

Ms Ha managed to capture footage of the appalling tirade against Asians on her phone, which she shared to her Instagram account.

“So I stared back at her,” Ms Ha explained in an Instagram story.

“She then stuck up her middle finger up at me as if to say, ‘f*** you. What are you staring at?’”

“So I said, ‘what the f*** is your problem?’”.

It was at this point that the woman snapped, screaming out, ”F***ing stupid Asians”.

The racist rampage continued, with the woman demanding Ms Ha to “go back to where you came from, you racist b***h”, while sticking up her finger at her.

Confused, given Ms Ha was born in Australia, she confronted the indignant shopper, saying, “What did you say? Did you say disgusting f***** Asians?” 

“I was born here. Are you crazy?”

 

Confrontation Continues as Woman Accuses Ms Ha of Smoking “Wacky Tabacky”

Nevertheless, the vexed shopper simply continued with her outburst, and in a pitiful attempt at lying, claimed she was actually talking about food.

“I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking about f***ing food you idiot,” the shopper squawked.

“F*** off. Mind your own business, p*** off,” she carried on.

The confrontation persisted with the woman then calling Ms Ha a wacko and accusing her of smoking “wacky tabacky”.

“F*** off, b***h,” she then screamed.

A Woolworths employee was forced to intervene, telling Ms Ha she had to stop filming.

 

“A Lot of Asians Are Being Attacked Every Day”: Ms Ha Urges Victims of Racism to Speak Up While Woolworths Apologises for Incident

Ms Ha spoke to Daily Mail Australia about the ugly behaviour, expressing her shock over the “disgusting” incident.

“I can’t believe this is 2020, I’m so f***ing disgusted,” she said of the expletive-laden outburst.

Ms Ha said she had no regrets about calling out the woman’s unacceptable demeanour in front of other shoppers.

“I had to speak up and stick up for myself,” she said.

“It’s one thing to stare at me but it’s another to stick up your rude finger and abuse me.”

For the Sydney hairdresser, the confrontation was reminiscent of the racism she had experienced growing up and vowed to pursue the matter further.

“Growing up, I had racist words thrown at me. But I’d never encountered like this until now.

“A lot of Asians are being attacked every day because of everything that’s been going on with coronavirus and it’s getting worse.

“We’re getting attacked for no reason and need to speak up about what’s happening,” she said, urging victims of racial hatred to act on the behaviour.

Ms Ha is contemplating taking the footage to police, although expressed uncertainty about what more can be done.

Since the incident, the store manager at Revesby Woolworths has approached her to check how she is doing and apologising for what happened in their store.

 

Racism on the Rise Against People of Asian Background Amid COVID-19

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, racist and xenophobic episodes against Asian communities have been on the rise across the nation and even the world.

Increasingly, people of Asian background are becoming the targets of racist encounters, with incidents reported to have occurred in universities, workplaces, and commonly, supermarkets.

To a large extent, fear around the coronavirus having developed in China has translated into this racial hatred, with members of the Asian diaspora describing being racially discriminated as a result and thus isolated in many aspects of public life.

Reports from the media show that there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest that COVID-19 has prompted a spike in racism – although a detailed picture of what is happening across the nation is yet to be provided with very little actual data available.

That said, in February 2020, the Australian Human Rights Commission recorded more complaints in line with the Racial Discrimination Act than at any time over the previous 12 months.

Moreover, since the start of February, one third of all racism complaints made to the Commission have been related to COVID-19.

Have further questions on this topic? Get in touch with our team of criminal lawyers today.

Australian Law on Racial Discrimination

In Australia, as set out in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), it is unlawful to discriminate against a person based on their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, or immigrant status.

Put simply, this is understood as racial hatred or racism.

More specifically, according to section 18C of the Act – referred to as “offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin” – it is unlawful to do or say something that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people based on their race, colour, national or ethnic origin.

Such behaviour is prohibited if it is communicated in public, takes place in public, or even if it occurs in sight or hearing of people in a public place.

A “public place” refers to any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.

An unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence.

Click here for an outline of your options if you’re a victim of racism in Australia.

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