The barrage of racist social media comments directed at the three women at the centre of Queensland’s coronavirus controversy has prompted a member of Brisbane’s African Australian community to speak out.
- The release of the names and photos of the two women has led to racist commentary on social media
- African Australian Fortune Ruzvidzo says comments alienate and ostracise community members
- There are concerns the publication of the women’s identity will deter others from getting tested
The women, two 21-year-olds and a 19-year-old, have been charged with fraud and lying to health officials to evade quarantine.
Two of the three have since tested positive for COVID-19.
Police are investigating whether the young women were coached by an organised crime syndicate to cover their tracks at the border.
African Australian woman Fortune Ruzvidzo said the women did not represent the community and public focus on race was not helpful.
“It has been a very racially charged conversation, instead of the focus being on the health of Queenslanders,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“When their faces were put out there and everyone could see that clearly these women were African … there were a lot of racial comments that were put out there.
“Their actions should be seen based on them as individuals, not on their race.
“People were expressing their anger, rightfully, but then they started attacking who they were and speaking of deporting them and things like that.”
Following her own post to Facebook venting her frustration about the racially charged comments, Ms Ruzvidzo said she received threats in her private messages.
She said the comments on social media directed at the three women alienate and ostracise the entire African Australian community.
“Because when people are saying ‘they should be deported’, ‘they should go back to where they came from’, it’s an attack on the whole community,” she said.
“I think for all African Australians you start to question your own identity here in Australia.”
Torres Strait Islander lawyer and human rights advocate Sasha Purcell took to Twitter on Thursday after she was confronted in public by “an aggressive stranger” demanding to know where she was from.
Ms Purcell said her friends believed the encounter was linked with the public profile of the three women.
“Not a first for me, but definitely the most aggressive interaction I’ve experienced in a very long time,” she said on Twitter.
The identity of two of the women was revealed by News Corp newspapers before they had been charged by police, and subsequent republication in the media is the subject of robust discussion across social media.
Member for Rankin and Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said he was concerned about further ramifications.
“The argument is that in doing that [publishing the women’s identity] it is a deterrent for people doing the wrong thing,” he said.
“But what worries me about that is that we don’t want that to be a deterrent to people getting tested.
“Hopefully that publication of those women’s names and photos doesn’t get in the way of that.”
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