In September 2021, the ANU Students’ Association (ANUSA) Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) Department released its inaugural Racism Report. The compilation of de-identified disclosures highlighted that ANU BIPOC students have been the victims of covert and overt forms of racial abuse within ANU campus. These disclosures were received through “an anonymous form, direct messages to the BIPOC Department, social media pages, emails to the BIPOC Officer or disclosed at BIPOC Department meetings.” Not all disclosures received were included in the report. Hence the report only provides a snapshot of the submissions that the Department receives in addition to the large swathes of incidents that are never reported at all.
The purpose of the document was to “provide more clarity to the ANU community” about the nature of racism on campus as previously reported by Woroni. We spoke to the current BIPOC Department Officer, Chido Nyakuengama, who elaborated on the report’s conception: “During the handover process, I was told about how we had an anonymous reporting tool. I thought about where we could take this information, and after receiving a very serious disclosure at the beginning of my role, I got the idea of tallying them.” The discloser had voiced a desire to have “others … know about the incident” but to also maintain “a certain level of anonymity.” This perhaps speaks more broadly to the nature of addressing racism in that awareness is critical for change yet those affected may hesitate to identify themselves.
We were interested to learn more about the reaction of the ANU BIPOC community to the report’s release. For some, this was a validation and confirmation of their lived experiences. For others, these findings were a new and confronting spotlight on an aspect of campus life of which they had been previously unaware.
We sourced responses from the ANU BIPOC community through a survey distributed through ANU Schmidtposting and ANU BIPOC Department Social/Alumni’s Facebook page. The survey encouraged participants to share their reflections and feelings after the release of the Racism Report. We would like to thank everyone who submitted responses and recognise that due to the vast quantity of received responses we were unable to include all of them. We would also like to acknowledge that the responses within this article represent a sample of the ANU BIPOC community. Thus, the collated responses are not reflective of the entire ANU BIPOC community.
How Do You Feel After the Publication of the BIPOC Report?
- I was very disheartened to see so many recorded incidents of racism. It was also validating at the same time though, because it felt that my experience wasn’t unique and I wasn’t ‘imagining it’ as I had been sometimes led to believe.
- Exhausted. The BIPOC report is a strong and damning summarisation of our experiences, and it surprised me how many of those experiences I had also experienced at some point or another while at the ANU. I can’t imagine how many more incidents haven’t been reported – and I’m guilty of this, I haven’t reported incidents I experienced too. I’m exhausted because it is so difficult to comprehend how much trauma our community experiences on a day-to-day basis. Yet, it is always somehow our responsibility to educate basic respect. It’s exhausting.
- I was initially doubtful that the report would make a difference, but I think a lot of BIPOC students appreciate that attention is being brought to our experiences.
- I feel really let down by ANU and non-BIPOC students. ANU advertises itself as an ultra-progressive university, however, this report highlighted that ANU is not as woke as it pretends. I’ve been surrounded by Caucasian people who consistently virtue signal and pretend that they aren’t racist whilst being racist. I am appalled to hear of lecturers throwing around the n-word in class. I am distraught to hear what my peers have suffered. The non-BIPOC students at ANU have belittled us and even hate-crime us. I felt so disgusted reading that non-BIPOC called BIPOC ‘Monkeys’ and ‘Gorillas’. ANU Campus now seems like a scary place. When I return, I’ll just be hoping I don’t get verbally assaulted with racist bullshit again.
- It’s certainly disheartening to read about what other BIPOC students have had to face and to know that there are so many other occasions that aren’t included. I’m glad it was compiled, but it honestly makes me feel distressed at living on campus and attending this uni. I’ve been expressing these issues and my concerns for ages, and I hope this finally makes someone pay attention.
- I’m quite shocked that ANU students can be so racist.
- I am shocked and disappointed that compared to other Group of Eight universities, ANU is severely lacking in services and support for the BIPOC community.
- If the contents of the BIPOC report made you uncomfortable, then know that this is how myself and probably other members of the BIPOC community feel on an ongoing basis whenever we experience racism, be it online or in-person, on-campus.
- Unsurprised, but it has renewed the sense of solidarity I feel with my BIPOC siblings.
- I feel heard and that people can’t get away with saying racism doesn’t exist at ANU.
- Be better allies, be active bystanders, learn how to support your BIPOC friends, peers and colleagues.
- Angry. Why are these things still happening, and why do I have to watch myself and my peers suffer through them?
- Reading the BIPOC racism report brought me to tears almost immediately. I was aware of my own experiences at ANU, but reading and seeing just a fraction of countless instances of racism made me feel helpless and distraught about my future studies. Especially reading about post-graduate student experiences. I hoped that it would get better after undergrad, but it’s just as bad and even worse. Feeling the pain, frustration and helplessness in the stories made me wish there were more safe spaces and communities for POC on campus.
- It was enlightening. As a BIPOC international student, I could never put a finger on whether or not the discomfort I had were related to racism. I was able to echo some of the experience’s students had and felt that the report was educational as much as it was representative of the voices of BIPOC students at ANU. Would love to see more reports like the BIPOC Report, although this is not to imply that there should be more negative experiences on campus.
- Unchanged – the report was pointless as it didn’t highlight any remotely valid or realistic solutions.
- Awful, scared, anxious about who might have been looking at me or my friends and saying things like these about us without us even knowing
Do You Have Any Messages to the Non-BIPOC Members of the ANU Community?
- This report was not created for BIPOC people – it was made to give our non-BIPOC community members and the ANU administration an insight into the reality of many BIPOC students on campus. The simple existence of this report doesn’t solve any of the issues detailed in it, but hopefully it can be the push the university needs to take these issues seriously. Please don’t forget about this report and the experiences of racism on our campus because your BIPOC friends and family don’t have that luxury.
- If you read the report and found a lot of the incidents to be a stretch and that ‘they probably aren’t racist’, please understand that the report was only formulated on reported incidents and in my opinion, didn’t truly reveal the racism at ANU, especially in residential halls/colleges.
- To the non-BIPOC please stop messaging me. Start just listening to others who have the emotional energy to share. I can’t keep having educational conversations. And don’t let this go. It’s important now, and it will always be important.
- Why are you so comfortable and okay with supporting women’s issues and LGBTQ+ issues with ANU implemented programs and support like the mandatory consent module and the ally support network email signature, but when it comes to racism you are often silent?
- How hard is it to just not be racist??? Also, if you see any of these behaviours subjected towards your BIPOC friends and peers, speak up for them/call the perpetrator out. BIPOC are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves, but it always feels nice to have some reinforcement around you when you’re slapped in the face with racist bs.
- Like… be a little more woke.
- Call out your friends. This shit is dangerous. Fetishism & taboo words are real racism. Do your research and learn what’s right and wrong.
- We are human beings, equal to yourselves. Just because we aren’t white doesn’t mean we are deserving of your racial abuse. Heaps of Caucasian people get angry when they’re called racist. But imagine how it feels to be constantly demeaned for the colour of your skin. Or to be called phrases that were used in eras of genocide and slavery. Please unpack your racial biases. Please call out your Caucasian friends who are racist – racists are more likely to listen to a Caucasian person than a BIPOC person. Why do you want to be on the wrong side of history?
- I hope that you will carefully read and reflect on this report. It’s more than just being not actively racist, but rather ensuring that you are actively inclusive too. Things can seem small, like having an all-white, male panel for a research conference, but they can have subtle effects on the BIPOC community. We can feel that we don’t belong and that our achievements are insignificant. Sitting with these things and reflecting on how you might directly or indirectly contribute to racism is really, really hard. I’ve had to do it too, even as a BIPOC person. But it makes our community a better place.
- Be better. Do better. If you hear something, report it, stand up for your BIPOC peers. The onus is on the victim far too often. Take some responsibility and do your own research.
As of 19th October 2021, the BIPOC Department has not received a formal response from the university. In response to the release of the report, we received the following statement from a university spokesperson:
“The University has received a copy of this report and noted the concerns it raises. ANU denounces any form of racism. There is no place for racism in our community. ANU is committed to stamping out these unacceptable behaviors. ANU would like to thank the ANU BIPOC Department for calling out racism. If members of our ANU community experience or witness these behaviours the ANU has a range of support mechanisms in place and ways to discuss or report these behaviours. There are many options for support available for students, the ANU Wellbeing and Support Line which is available 24-hours a day. The ANU is committed to students’ safety and wellbeing and will take all steps necessary to protect students. ANU values inclusion, equity and diversity.”
The BIPOC Department intends on releasing an annual report and advocating for the fourteen recommendations stipulated in the document. The responses we have received are reflective of the need to meaningfully address the experiences of BIPOC students here at ANU. An acknowledgement and understanding of the problem are the first steps to fixing it.
If you or someone you know has been affected by this, please contact one of the support services below:
13 11 14
1300 22 4636
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service
(02) 6284 6222
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
(02) 6125 2442
1800 737 732
ANU Women’s Department
ANU Queer* Department
ANU BIPOC Department
ANU Respectful Relationships Unit