Macquarie University has partnered with the City of Ryde council to measure and report on the experience of international students when it comes to racist behaviour.
The study – co-authored Dr Alice Chik, Associate Director of the University’s Multilingualism Research Centre – is a key component of the council’s long-term commitment to stamp out racism in the local community, as part of the national Racism: It Stops With Me initiative.
The City of Ryde is one of the most diverse communities in Australia, with 48 per cent of residents speaking a language other than English at home and more than 13,000 international students living in the area. The five most common countries of origin, as of April 2020, are China (47 per cent), India (19 per cent), Nepal (10 per cent), Vietnam (8.5 per cent), and Bangladesh (7 per cent).
“International students are a great addition to our community and make it richer and more diverse,” says City of Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale.
“Unfortunately, during Coronavirus we have seen increased incidents of racism towards the Asian Australian community. As part of the council’s ongoing commitment to anti-racism, we need to do what we can to combat that, and working with the University and the community is an important way of doing it.”
Mapping incidents of racism
The study’s authors conducted focus group interviews and street surveys of more than 400 young students, which were conducted before the pandemic hit.
The subsequent report maps where the racist incidents have occurred around Ryde, and makes recommendations for better involving international students in community and civic life.
“International students are less supported and more likely to be isolated than other culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups in Ryde, given they are away from their families,” notes Dr Chik.
The report found:
- International students are likely to experience one incident of racism during their time in Australia, which is most likely to be casual or verbal.
- More than 90 per cent of the surveyed students reported hardly ever or never having been called names or insulted because of their language, cultural or religious background. Just over 9 per cent said they have being called names or insulted often or very often.
- Casual racism was a more common experience: 12.9 per cent reported that some people act as if they are not to be trusted, and nearly 20 per cent said they were treated with disrespect often or very often because of their background.
Encouraging students to report racist behaviour
The study found that students were unsure what they should do, reporting wise, if they experience a racist incident – and even if they should report it at all.
“A lot of international students mention they are wary that if they report any kind of crime, their visa may be revoked,” Chik says. “And, depending on their own personal experience and background, a lot of students may be fearful of police, or they may not actually know racism is not acceptable and that it is not legal in Australia.”
In response to this feedback, Ryde Council has commissioned the Multilingualism Research Centre to produce pamphlets that will be distributed to the area’s residents, explaining what racism is, the available reporting mechanisms for people who experience it, and what bystanders can do if they witness it.
“We want to encourage people to speak out,” says Mayor Laxale. “As community leaders, we need to be the first to denounce racism and lead our community to say this is not OK.”
The report, International students’ experience of racism: A City of Ryde report, will be released later this month.