85% of Asian Australians Have Suffered Discrimination Amid COVID-19, Survey Says

More than eight in 10 Asian Australians have experienced discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

Between January and October 2020, researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) surveyed 3,043 adult citizens, 334 of which identified being of Asian descent.


View this post on Instagram


Two women in Sydney, Australia, were racially harassed and spat at by another woman who accused them of “bringing corona here.” . The incident, which was caught on video by passersby and 23-year-old Sophie Do who was with her 19-year-old sister, Rosa Do, occurred in Marrickville in Sydney’s inner-west at 3 p.m on Monday. The videos were shared on social media before the original poster removed them. A woman in a gray shirt and jogging pants threw profanity at the sisters as she walked toward them before trying to kick Rosa. . “I got a knife in my bag, you wanna f**k around?” the woman appears to say as she provokes the sisters. A passerby intervened but not before the woman spat in Rosa’s face. . “Asian b****. You brought corona here. Eat a bat again you dumb w****,” she shouted as she and her friend walk off. Bystanders reportedly helped Rosa wash the spit out of her hair and eye. She and her sister visited a doctor before filing a police report. . “Two girls walked passed us yelling racist things like, Stay away from them, they’ve got coronavirus,’” the Daily Mail quoted Rosa as saying. “’I simply could not tolerate it so I yelled back and said, ‘Excuse me? What did you just say? Say it again.’ She was untying her jumper from her waist and putting her bag on the ground, ready to fight me.” . In a Facebook post, Sophie said she never thought such an incident would happen to her. . “Hate crimes against Asians have increased and I’ve seen disgusting videos from all around the world,” she wrote. “This is what racism and xenophobia can do.” . “I remained level-headed and wanted to diffuse the situation and walk away because we were clearly dealing with someone who had no common sense and only wanted this to end in one way.” . The video went viral on social media, with more than 3,000 reactions, 4,000 comments and over 2,000 shares since it was first posted on Facebook. It was also on the front page of Reddit with more than 22,000 upvotes. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to the New South Wales Police. @nextshark 👈👈👈 support by following 🙏🙏🙏 #australia

A post shared by NextShark (@nextshark) on

They found that 84.5% of Asian Australians suffered at least one instance of discrimination in October, compared to only 38% of the rest of the population.

Most of the incidents (80.6%) occurred in shops or restaurants, followed by workplaces (66.4%), government departments or services (65.6%), banking, finance or legal services (64.7%), and while renting or buying houses (63.9%).


Discrimination dropped 12.3% from April 2019 to April 2020, likely due to imposed lockdowns that limited people’s movement.

However, it increased almost equally from the end of the period to October 2020, when restrictions had been eased — at least outside of Melbourne.

Asian Australians reported higher levels of psychological distress ahead of the pandemic, yet they still experienced a much greater increase until April 2020.

The survey also found that about 80% of Asian Australians were anxious and worried about COVID-19, while about 62% of the rest of the population felt the same.

Tong Lok Chinese Restaurant, located in Melbourne, received a racist, hate-filled letter last week. Image via Tong Lok Chinese Restaurant

The biggest difference, however, can be seen in labor, as Asian Australians worked twice less (five hours) than the rest of the population (2.4 hours) between February and April 2020.

“Some of this gap has been regained since, but even in October 2020 Asian Australians were working fewer hours than they had in February 2020, whereas the rest of the Australian population were back closer to their pre-COVID levels,” co-author Nicholas Biddle said in a statement.

Such a decline can be explained by the fact that Asian Australians are younger and work in urban areas impacted by the pandemic, though labor market discrimination could also be a factor.

Co-author Jieh-Yung Lo, director of the ANU Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership (CAAL), recalled experiencing discrimination early in life.

“Despite being born in Melbourne, discrimination has been a big part of my life due to my ethnicity,” Lo told the ABC.

“From outright racism in the school playgrounds, coming face to face with the ‘bamboo ceiling’ during early parts of my professional career, dealing with unconscious bias in the workplace, and in recent years having my allegiance and loyalty to Australia challenged and questioned due to my contribution to the public debate on Australia’s bilateral relationship with China.”


The survey comes amid increasing tensions between Australian and Chinese authorities. China has repeatedly accused Australia of racism, warning its citizens in June to avoid travel.

More recently, Australian Senator Eric Abetz came under fire after leading three Chinese Australians to publicly condemn the Chinese Communist Party.

“It creates a sense of division and a sense of doubt in the minds of all Australians that we, as Asian-Australians, are not part of this country, which as a matter of fact, we have been for hundreds of years,” Lo told The Canberra Times. “It does not help in a situation like what we are experiencing with the pandemic because already Asian-Australians have been experiencing a resurgence of racism and xenophobia.”

The survey also found that 65% of the Australian population had high trust in Asian Australians, compared to 55% who felt the same for Anglo-Australians.

“What is perhaps more interesting though is that Australians are more likely to think that Asian Australians can be trusted, are fair, and are helpful than they are to think the same thing of Anglo-Australians,” Biddle said.

Feature Images Screenshots via Amy’s appetite (left), NextShark (right)

Related Posts