Three of the people in the front line in the fight against racism fear too many of its Nelson victims are suffering in silence and not using the services set up to help them.
It’s just over a year since the Speak Out reporting system for racist incidents in Nelson and Tasman was launched, but so far the number of people using it has been lower than expected.
The scheme allows racism to be reported confidentially on the Speak Out website, through a free-call number or face-to-face at several community centres.
Nelson Multicultural Council co-ordinator Evey McAuliffe thinks the low number of users may be partly because of people from some cultures believing that identifying themselves as victims will lead to a loss of face.
She said some of Nelson’s refugees and immigrants came from countries where the police were corrupt, some feared reprisals and others had not heard about Speak Out because they did not read newspapers.
As a result Speak Out’s co-ordinator Lillian Li-Kurtovic is visiting places of worship, work places, community events and language schools to tell members of Nelson’s ethnic minorities and their supporters about the programme.
It was important for these people to understand that the community cared, she said.
Community constable ethnic liaison officer David Cogger wants everyone to know that racial abuse is against the law.
“You should have the freedom to walk around the town without being abused, regardless of your colour, race or creed,” he said.
David said police had zero tolerance for racially motivated crime and people who suffered racial abuse on the street should dial 111. He said not reporting such crimes immediately made it harder for the police to do their job.
“If we can apprehend the offender red-handed we dont have any issues with identity,” he said.
“Police were more than happy to attend. The 111 system is there to apprehend offenders.”
David said photos of offenders’ cars and registration plates could also be very helpful.
Evey, Lillian and David all agree that even if victims are too scared to be identified, they should anonymously use the Speak Out system so authorities can get an idea of what racist incidents are occurring and when and where they are happening.
And if you thought that low levels of reported racism might mean it is declining, consider what happened to Biying (Bic) Huang last week. Walking home from work in Nile St, Bic, 32, passed a young man and woman sitting on the seat outside Global Soap. As she passed, the man called her a “f…ing Asian”. Scared and angry, Bic told him to “f… off” which resulted in him yelling more racial abuse at her.
“He kept shouting at me,” she said.
“I love this city but this kind of thing has really put me off.”
SPEAK OUT NELSON TASMAN
To report a racist incident you have three options:
- Phone 0508 773 256 (0508 SpeakOut)
- Fill out an online form on the website speakout.org.nz
- Visit a participating community centre: In Nelson: Victory Community Centre on the corner of St Vincent and Totara streets, Nelson Bays Community Law Service at 241 Hardy St, and the Nelson Multicultural Resource Centre at 4 Bridge St.
In Richmond: TDC Customer Service Centre at 189 Queen St and Richmond Library.
By Matt Lawrey