Here is the launch to our press conference yesterday launching the 2021 COVID-Racism Comprehensive Report..


02 APRIL 2020 – 28 JUNE 2021

The COVID-19 Racism Incident Report Survey was launched by the Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) in collaboration with Osmond Chiu – Research Fellow at the Per Capita Think tank on April 02, 2020. The first Preliminary COVID-19 Racism Incident Report covered 377 incidents for the period April 02, 2020 – June 02, 2020. This comprehensive report will cover 541 incident reports recorded from April 02, 2020 until June 28 2021, which includes data from the first report.


Though the origins of the virus are still being investigated (World Health Organization, 2021), it is generally acknowledged that the virus originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Australia reported its first official case of coronavirus in a traveller from Wuhan, who arrived via Guangdong on Jan 19, 2020 (Hunt MP, 2020). In addition to widespread media coverage in Australia into the Chinese origins of the virus, the term “Chinese virus” was popularised after US President Donald Trump tweeted the term on his (now banned) Twitter account in March 16, 2020 (Hswen et al., 2020). Subsequent repeated references to the “China virus”, “Wuhan virus” and “Kung flu” by US President Trump triggered an increase in the use of anti-Asian hashtags online. (Darling-Hammond et al., 2020, pp. 870 – 879).

The COVID-19 Racism Incident Report Survey was launched on April 2, 2020, at the peak of this association between the virus and China/Chinese people. This was also occurring against a backdrop of rising anti-China sentiment that began prior to the pandemic as a result of the deterioration in Sino-Australian relations (Zhou, 2021), leading Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call out attacks on the Asian community (Truu, 2020). Thus, at the time of the release of the preliminary report, there had already been a steady rise in anti-Asian sentiment in Australia. This, coupled with anger and blame for the virus being wholly placed on anyone who looked Chinese/Asian, led to a rise in incidents of anti-Asian racism which was reflected in the high response rate to the survey. The Chinese government went so far as to issue an official statement warning its citizens not to travel to Australia in light of this rise in anti-Chinese racism (ABC News, 2020).


In June 2020, Victoria was hit by a second wave of the virus, with the blame for community transmission and the prolonged lockdown shifting from only being primarily against Asians to other migrant communities (Vrajlal, 2020). This impacted heavily in Melbourne, with suburbs that had high migrant/CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) populations being referred to as “COVID-19 hot spots”(Mao, 2020). Furthermore, there were harsher measures applied to certain suburbs and snap lockdowns of specific public housing buildings, in which the spread of the virus was attributed to residents not being able to self isolate. The residents of these buildings (in Flemington and North Melbourne) are mainly of Muslim background. (Weedon, 2020) This heavy handed response was later found by the Victorian Ombudsman to be in breach of human rights (Victorian Ombudsman, 2020).

In late April 2021, a huge spike in COVID-19 cases in India made headlines in Australia. The Commonwealth Government subsequently banned all flights from India, which left around 10,000 Australians stranded there and unable to return. The Federal Government went so far as to threaten Australians in India who tried to come back (via third countries) with heavy penalties and even imprisonment (ABC News, 2021). This led to national and international condemnation against the treatment of Indian-Australians as second class citizens, given that similar outbreaks that had occurred earlier in the US/UK did not result in a similar ban of returning Australians. (Khorana, 2021).

Sadly, there is a sense of dejavu with the latest outbreak in Sydney, of lessons not learnt from the Melbourne experience. There are fears that blame for the current wave, due to the Delta variant which originated in India, could be misdirected towards the Indian community, just as it previously had been with the Chinese community. Similarly, the concentration of community transmission in South-Western Sydney, with its highly multicultural demographic, points to a racial/ethnic focus of blame directed at a community for breaking lockdown rules rather than a deeper analysis of how a higher casualised workforce, larger households and ineffective public health campaigns targeting CALD communities has led to the latest surge (Briggs, 2021). The continued scapegoating of migrant/CALD communities has shifted from Melbourne to Sydney, but the underlying racial focus of the blame is the same. There have also been claims of over-policing of Sydney’s South-West as compared to the lax management in the affluent Eastern suburbs (from where the outbreak originated) (Emmanuel, 2021). Local community leaders criticised this difference in approach, with a local resident stating: ‘it’s that idea that we’re ethnics, we’re lawless. There’s never mediation, just enforcement.” (Amin, 2021). 



PLEASE NOTE: Respondents were able to select more than one category. Percentages reflect this variable.

  • Direct racial slur/name calling (“Go back to China”, “Stop eating bats/dogs”, “Ching Chong” etc) (35.7%)
  • Online harassment (25.7%)
  • Making it out as a joke (13.1%) – i.e., making a racist targeted comment/statement and then laughing it off and/or dismissing it as not being racist but just joking around.
  • Verbal threats (8.9%) – i.e. making a targeted racist comment/statement with verbal intent to cause harm
  • Getting spat/sneezed/coughed on (7.78%)
  • Physical intimidation/harassment (7.03%) 
  • Shunning (6.5%) – i.e. deliberate avoidance/exclusion of Asians/Asian Australians
  • Workplace discrimination (2.2%)


PLEASE NOTE: Respondents were able to select more than one category. Percentages reflect this variable.

  • Public street/sidewalk (27.1%)
  • Business: supermarket/grocery store/general stores (15.1%) 
  • Public Transport (9.6%)
  • Shopping centres (8.7%) 
  • Public park/community areas (6.2%)
  • Restaurants/bars/public food areas (5.4%).


  • In terms of gender, those who identified as female (60.1%) were the largest number of respondents, followed by those who identified as male (34.1%). Respondents who identified as self described – i.e. those who did not identify as being female or male  – constituted (3.8%) of respondents.
  • Respondents who identified as having a Chinese cultural background (52%) reported more incidents than other races or ethnic groups, followed by Vietnamese (8.38%), Malaysian (4.5%), Korean (6.5%), Singaporean (2.1%) and Filipino (3.2%). Note that respondents were able to select multiple cultural backgrounds and identities.
  • For respondents who identified as international students (12.3%), (95.2%) were of Mainland Chinese background.
  • (85.9%) of respondents reported that they did not know the perpetrator, indicating that the majority of incidents were perpetrated by strangers.
  • In terms of reporting to the authorities – i.e. reporting to the police or any type of regulatory body, (84.8%) reported that they did not report their incident.