Standing between racism and spectating

We are all peas in a pod

Amy-Ann Nolan | 26th May 2017

On Tuesday the ABC reported that a passenger on a Sydney train earlier this month was on the receiving end of a tirade of verbal racial abuse from another commuter.

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The video footage sparked a heated debate on Facebook about mental health and racism. Two questions that divided the public response were:

  • Is it really racism when the perpetrator is mentally unstable or is mental illness used too often as an excuse in cases like these?
  • Was it unethical of the ABC to publicly “shame” a mentally ill person?

While it appears from the video footage that the woman may be living with mental illness, does this make the abuse any less harmful or hurtful for the victim?

It wasn’t only the perpetrators aggressive behaviour that was cause for debate. Many of the Facebook comments questioned why none of the other commuters intervened or showed their support for the victim. Many argued passengers should have done more to support the victim and stop the abuse. Others said this would only agitate the situation and make it worse. The reality is that if you are witness to racial abuse and do nothing in response you are a spectator and an enabler.

So what can people do to support the victim when a situation like this arrises?

Multicultural hands edit
Photo: Anthony Easton, Source:

Western Sydney Universities ‘Challenging Racism Project‘ suggests ways people respond to racism:

  • Confronting or disagreeing with the perpetrator
  • Calling it “racism” or “discrimination” (if it is safe or productive to do so)
  • Interrupting or distracting perpetrator
  • Comforting the person(s) targeted
  • Expressing upset feelings
  • Seeking assistance from friend, teacher, manager, coach etc.
  • Reporting the incident to authorities

However, there was one comment on Facebook that struck me as possibly the best way to avoid being a spectator in situations like this. Simply stand  between the person and the victim, no physical or verbal interaction is needed. Create a wall and show your support for the person being targeted. Show that you do not accept racial abuse!


Responding to Australia’s homeless

Is Australia doing enough?

Amy-Ann Nolan|19th may 2017 | A university assignment

Homelessness is a serious problem in Australia and every year more people are living rough on the streets.

Knitting for Brisbane’s Needy (K4BN) founders Karen and Peter Croke said many people were unaware of the severity of the homeless situation in Australia.

Mr Croke said many people have blinkers on when it comes to homelessness.

“They don’t want to see it,” Mr Croke said.

The 2014 General Social Survey report showed that 2.5 million people aged 15 years and over, now living in private dwellings, had experienced homelessness at some time in their lives.

Of these, 351,000 had experienced homelessness in the 12 months prior to the survey.

The Federal Government currently provides most of the funding for the homelessness sector through the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH).

Mrs and Mr Croke said it was the not-for-profit organisations like K4BN that are doing some of the most important work for the homeless.

“The small grassroots groups get nothing, and if it wasn’t for them, well, all of these people that get help now would have nothing,” Mrs Croke said.

“They’d be in a lot worse off position.”

Organisations like K4BN collect and distribute items such as toiletries, clothing and warm blankets directly to the people experiencing homelessness.

K4BN members are also involved in regular street feeds for the homeless and spend holidays such as Christmas distributing gifts to the less fortunate.

Mrs and Mr Croke said many of the supplies such as the wool used to make winter warmers for the needy were paid for by the group members, including many pensioners.

Over 2015-2017 the Commonwealth Government provided $250 million in funds to homelessness services in Australia with priority to women and children experiencing domestic and family violence.

Despite this substantial funding Mrs and Mr Croke said they have seen a definite increase in the homeless, particularly youth and elderly woman.

“These people are not there by choice,” Mrs Croke said.

Many of the homeless are on the streets because of domestic difficulties such as family breakdown and domestic violence.

Others are there because of failed businesses, and most are due to the shortage of affordable housing for low-income Australians.

The recent Federal Budget announcement by Treasurer Scott Morrison sees $375 million over three years, from 2018-2019, going towards a permanent extension of homelessness funding under the new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

However, there has been no direct investment in social housing despite current waiting lists of more than 220,000 people.

Mission Australia recommends in their ten step action plan to reduce homelessness in Australia that helping people to keep their home is much more effective than responding to their increased needs once they become homeless.

Have you been affected by homelessness? Tell me your story!

  • Lifeline, 24 hour counselling Ph: 13 11 14
  • Homeless Hotline (QLD) Ph: 1800 474 753 (1800 HPIQLD)
  • Domestic and family violence counselling service Ph: 1800 737 732 (1800RESPECT)
  • Knitting for Brisbane’s Needy Facebook Page

*Published Suncoast Times 17th May 2017