A South Australian councillor says she was spat at during a coronavirus-related racist attack as she went to pick up groceries last week.
- A councillor in Adelaide’s northern suburbs says she was shaken after a racist attack
- The perpetrator then allegedly spat at her as she crossed the road
- Anti-discrimination agencies have recorded a spike in racism reports
Councillor for the City of Salisbury Sarah Ouk said she was waiting on an island to cross a road on her way to pick up groceries last Monday, when a man in a passing car shouted at her.
“[The driver] started to scream that ‘you Asians bring corona[virus] to Australia’,” Ms Ouk said.
“He stuck his head out and tried to do sneezing, coughing, and then he spat at me.
“I don’t know whether it landed or not because my back was towards him.”
After the car passed, Ms Ouk finished crossing the road and went into the store, but she said the incident had made her feel afraid.
“I crossed to the other side to go to Aldi with that fear — I was like ‘what’s happening? What did I do wrong?'” she said.
“I went in [with] all these mixed emotions … into the store, and then this couple was looking at me really weirdly, like I’m full of viruses or something.
“I [thought] ‘oh my god, oh my god, this is not good’.
“So, I just got all my groceries that I needed … and quickly came out and [went] back home.”
‘No-one deserves this’
Ms Ouk said she almost broke out in tears afterwards.
“I was really devastated — no one deserves this,” she said.
“Everyone should have the equal opportunity to shop freely and shop safe.
“Racism … is not fair and it’s not right.
“Anyone does not need this kind of behaviour — it’s not on.”
Ms Ouk said did not see the car’s registration number, or see the man’s face clearly, so she was unable to make a complaint about the incident to SA Police.
Ms Ouk arrived in Australia in 1986 with her mother as refugees from Cambodia.
However, an informal report was made to the Office of South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner.
Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent described the attack as “sickening” and called on all Australians to show kindness to each other.
Racism reports increase during coronavirus pandemic
Dr Vincent said human rights and anti-discrimination agencies across the country had recorded an increase in racial discrimination complaints related to the coronavirus.
“Across Australia, there have been reports of nursing and medical staff being shunned because of their race, people being denied entry to places or services because of fears they will transmit COVID-19 and people of Asian heritage being racially abused while shopping,” she said.
“I am sure most South Australians would agree that this kind of behaviour is incredibly harmful at an individual and community level.
“Can you imagine how your wellbeing would be impacted if you were out doing your shopping in this already stressful time, and then had a stranger racially attack you in public and accuses you of bringing COVID-19 to Australia?”
She added that racial abuse was against the law in Australia and that “this is a time when we need, more than ever, to be compassionate and kind”.
“It’s against the law to insult, humiliate or abuse someone in public because of their race,” Dr Vincent said.
“As an inclusive, multi-racial and welcoming society this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.”
South Australians can report instances of discrimination to Dr Vincent’s office via the website www.eoc.sa.gov.
Racial vilification can be reported to SA Police or to the Australian Human Rights Commission.