As people of Asian appearance increasingly become victims of racist incidents and rumours spread online about Chinese Australians sending face masks back to China, one community association is doing all it can to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Tasmania.
The Tasmania Shadong Association has been sourcing personal protective equipment from overseas and donating it to community organisations across Tasmania including the Mersey Community Hospital.
Coronavirus: All the latest updates on COVID-19 for Tasmania
Executive Geng Song said the group wanted to play a role in helping Tasmania fight COVID-19.
We are Australian and we are part of Australia. We are a part of the community and we wanted to contribute something to help stop the spread of coronavirus.Geng Song
"We are Australian and we are part of Australia," he said.
"We are a part of the community and we wanted to contribute something to help stop the spread of coronavirus."
He said so far the group had sourced about 10,000 face masks.
"When the coronavirus first came to Australia we started to prepare to organise face masks to help the local community because ... we know how important the mask is for people to protect themselves," Mr Song said.
"In Tasmania we started to organise our community to [get] these masks and now we [have] around 10,000."
Mr Song said it sadden their community when anti-Chinese sentiment was spread in the media and online.
"[Most] Australians are nice, there are only a few people who do the wrong thing," he said.
"We [need to] work together to help each other [in] fighting the coronavirus because we are all in this together, we are all family.
"We are a family so we are fighting together."
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Multicultural Council of Tasmania chairperson Waqas Durrani said they had seen a huge rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in community.
"There [has been] a lot of escalation in racial abuse which has formed [as] physical and verbal [abuse]," he said.
"I think the spike of complaints is evidence that we are seeing our social fabric being deteriorated.
"Whilst the physical and verbal abuse is quite obvious there is a lot of other abuse which may not be in the form of physical or verbal but it will come in the form of ingrained mindsets which continue to brew racism and hate."
He said social media posts labelling COVID-19 'the Chinese virus' or a biological weapon are creating fear and causing division.
"None of that is helping because it is just creating further fear and it is dividing," he said.
"I think the last thing we wish to see right now is for our unity to be risked.
"Such attacks are affecting people's mental health and it is all going to have a domino effect on everyone."
Mr Durrani said it is important not to let the stress and anxiety created by the COVID-19 pandemic undermine our society.
"To vilify and racially abuse people from Chinese backgrounds in Australia or Chinese looking people who have been here and who have been contributing to the community in the past and currently, I think it is just going to undermine our reputation," he said.
"It is moments like this where we need to bring the best out of ourselves because that is where we will shape ... who we are as a people."
Anti Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt confirmed that there had been an increase in reports of discrimination against people of Asian appearance in Tasmania.
She said there was a sharp spike in reports at the beginning of April which has since plateaued.
"I think the pandemic was the major reason from our observations and the anecdotal evidence that we have heard," Ms Bolt said.
"The racist comments or antisocial behaviour which was directed to people who were Asian or Chinese of appearance was related to the pandemic.
"The timing ... is [also] a clear indication that there is a link."
Ms Bolt echoed concerns about the use of the phrase 'Chinese virus'.
"[It] simply exacerbates the problem and then people become anxious or fearful and often look for someone to blame.
"It certainly doesn't help.
"It means that a lot of people who are of Asian appearance, and a lot of them have been living in Australia for generations, would now feel a level of anxiety that they may not have felt before when they are just going about their daily business."
She said now more than ever it was important for leaders to lead in a non divisive manner.
"At times like this it is important that people in leadership roles model non-discriminatory behaviours and attitudes," Commissioner Bolt said.
"Social cohesion is more important now than ever."
"It is important that we are as inclusive with each other as we can be so we remain a safe community for everybody to go about their daily business regardless of appearance, race or anything else people might take offence to."
Anyone who witnesses racial discrimination online or in person can report it to Equal Opportunity Tasmania and if you have been the victim of discrimination you can make a complaint with them.
"[Reporting] helps us to get the trend as to whether there is in fact the use of social media to incite hatred or racists attitudes towards people," Ms Bolt said.
"If they are specifically affected [they can] make a complaint.
"The use of a carriage service by way of social media ... or other means to discriminate menace or harass is likely to be unlawful."
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