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Study of hate incidents reveals the situation

A comprehensive study has revealed a clearer picture of the state of reported hate incidents in Australia from 2014 to 2021.

The study was based on the reports of three targeted communities – Jewish, Muslim and Asian – the only communities who have a reporting and documentation system, and which produce reports on hate incidents against their community.

The study found that there were 3,522 reported hate incidents in the seven-year period between 17 September 2014 and 30 September 2021. That amounts to an average of over one incident a day. There are two periods, corresponding to different reporting periods of the communities.

In the first period, in the five years between late 2014 and 2019, there were 2,203 reported hate incidents. These were composed of 1,364 anti-Jewish incidents (in the 60 months from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2019) and 839 anti-Muslim incidents (in the 64 months from 17 September 2014 to 31 December 2019).

In the second period, in the two years of 2020 and 2021, there were 1,319 reported hate incidents. These were composed of 778 anti-Jewish incidents (in the 24 months from 1 October 2019 to 30 September 2021) and 541 anti-Asian incidents (in the 15 months from 2 April 2020 to 28 June 2021).

The intensity of hate incidents on communities can be understood through proportionality. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, in Australia there were just under 100,000 Jews, 604,000 Muslims, and 2.4 million people of east and southeast Asian ancestry. This means that proportionally, for every 100,000 people in each community, there were 306 anti-Jewish incidents, 24 anti-Muslim incidents, and 18 anti-east/southeast Asian incidents, on average annually.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has produced an annual Report on Antisemitism each year since 1990, spurred on by a spate of arson attacks on synagogues in 1990 and 1991. There was a total of 2,142 anti-Jewish incidents reported for the seven years from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2021; averaging 306 incidents annually.

The annual number of anti-Jewish incidents ranged from 190 in 2015 to 447 in 2021. Anti-Jewish incidents, documented in the 2021 ECAJ report, as a percentage of the total number of incidents, comprised: verbal abuse 33%; graffiti 24%; email, postal, phone 23%; placards, posters, stickers 16%; physical assault 2%; and vandalism 2%.

The Islamophobia Register Australia (IRA) was established “in response to increasing harassment and attacks” against Muslims after police raids in Sydney and Brisbane in 2014. There was a total of 839 anti-Muslim incidents reported between 17 September 2014 and 31 December 2019, a 64-month period, of which 388 (47%) were online posts/comments. The average number of anti-Muslim incidents annually for the five years between 2015 and 2019 was 147.

The three reports by IRA documented 243 incidents in 2014 and 2015 (16 months), 349 in 2016 and 2017 (24 months), and 247 in 2018 and 2019 (24 months). Of these incidents, 55%, 42% and 44%, respectively, were online content.

IRA’s 2018-2019 report noted that the 138 offline incidents comprised: hate speech (46%); discrimination (14%); discrimination by authorities (14%); graffiti/vandalism (13%); physical assault (8%); damage to individuals (3%); and property damage (2%). Of the 109 online incidents, these occurred on Facebook (86%); email (6%); online media (6%); and Twitter (2%). These percentages were similar to those in the second report.

The Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) report was motivated by the racism against Asians in Australia arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The first report covered the 2-month period from 2 April 2020 to 2 June 2020 and recorded 377 incidents. The second report covered the 13-month period from 3 June 2020 to 28 June 2021, recording 164 incidents. This is a total of 541 anti-Asian incidents over a 15-month period, and an average of 432 incidents for a 12-month period.

In the second AAA report, incidents comprised: direct racial slur/name calling (35%); online harassment (25%); making it out as a joke (13%); verbal threats (8%); getting spat/sneezed/coughed on (7%); physical intimidation/harassment (7%); shunning (6%); workplace discrimination (2%); and other categories of discrimination under 2%.

These 3,522 hate incidents comprise only a proportion of hate incidents occurring. Many other anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-Asian incidents are unreported. In addition, incidents against other targeted communities go unreported due to the lack of an organisation which takes reports for these communities.

The hate incident data by these three targeted communities can be used by governments, human rights bodies, police, and others, to formulate policies and practices towards countering hate incidents. Hence, it is crucial that all those targeted by hate incidents report such incidents to the appropriate body, where there is one.

About the Author
Julie Nathan is the Research Director at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community, and is the author of the annual ECAJ Report on Antisemitism in Australia.
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