Shining a light on racism in Launceston

STAMPING OUT RACISM: David Nguyen, who asked for his face to be obscured, has experienced racism in Launceston. Picture: Paul Scambler
STAMPING OUT RACISM: David Nguyen, who asked for his face to be obscured, has experienced racism in Launceston. Picture: Paul Scambler

“Go back to where you came from.”

It’s a phrase David Nguyen, 27, has heard used too many times.

It’s been yelled from car windows, muttered in bars and said while Mr Nguyen walked along the streets of Launceston.

The Launceston resident said he has been racially targeted in the city during the past nine years after moving down from Sydney to study at the University of Tasmania.

Mr Nguyen decided to share his experiences in light of a professional dancer who was racially vilified while visiting the city this month.

The racially-motivated phrase was used as he and his friends went to go into a Launceston venue for a drink.

A “passing comment” that should never have been uttered , yet it was made like it was entirely acceptable to say to another person, he said.

Racism has stopped him going out for drinks to meet up with friends.

He has been verbally and physically assaulted with racial slurs while walking between venues.

“I feel less safe … it’s to the point of not wanting to raise my kids here,” Mr Nguyen said.

Many Tasmanians were welcoming and friendly, but the minority tainted their experiences, he said.

Born in Australia, he identifies as Australian with Chinese-Russian heritage.

When Mr Nguyen first arrived to study a Bachelor of Applied Science, he said he was one of the only “ethnically-diverse” people in the class.

While more people from different cultures and backgrounds had moved to Launceston in recent years, the number of incidents of racism Mr Nguyen and his friends had experienced or witnessed had increased in kind.

The frequency of racism in Launceston is “remarkable”, Mr Nguyen said.

Mr Nguyen vividly remembered visiting a Tasmanian pub for a lunchtime meal with friends who felt so uncomfortable with the strange looks they received, they left the pub.

“We were treated like outsiders,” he said.

“We collectively agree that we have not experienced such frequent anti-social behaviour in our respective towns/cities compared to this "city" that is Launceston.”

Imagine hearing “we don’t want you here” while going for a run, which happened to one of his friends from Pakistan, he said.

With Tasmania supporting a big tourism push, it was surprising to see the level of anti-social behaviour towards people from different backgrounds, he said.

Education on acceptance and multiculturalism, and a bigger police presence would help make people feel a bit safer, Mr Nguyen said.

“It’s unacceptable behaviour.”

And it’s happening more frequently, he said.