Harris Park, within Parramatta and on the fringes of western Sydney, has been the focal point of racial tension in recent times. Harris Park, which houses a large Indian and Hindu population, has witnessed unprovoked attacks on people with ethnic backgrounds.
A recent attack on a group of Sikh men was particularly alarming. The Sikh men claim a group of men attacked them while they sat in their car because they were wearing turbans. The Sikh men fled the scene on foot; however, their vehicle suffered substantial damage to the value of $10,000, caused by the hammer and bat-wielding thugs. This is not an isolated report. Police have refused to confirm attacks are racially motivated and have inferred there is a strong element of being at ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’.
Others suggest that political tensions are to blame, namely, the farmers’ protests in India. Farming Sikhs from Punjab and Haryana states have set up camps at the edge of New Delhi, blocking motorways with the North, as part of an anti-government protest. The farmers demand the repeal of new laws that they claim will favour industrial, corporate farms, therein devastating the livelihood of many small farmers by cutting price supports and leaving those who hold small plots unable to compete. These protests in India have caused inter-community tensions with fellow Indians in the greater western Sydney area.
However, racist attacks on those of Indian heritage have plagued Harris Park for many years. Back in June 2009, hundreds of Indians marched in protest of an unprovoked petrol-bomb attack on two young Indian students. Harris Park’s protests coincided with demonstrations in Melbourne over the stabbing of Shravan Kumar Theerthale, hoping to emulate the success in Melbourne. It worked on many levels. Many believed it was more than a demonstration against cultural insecurity and fear, but rather a display of frustration over poor housing, false promises, poverty, the education system, exploitation, and a sense of hopelessness.
Twelve years on, and many of these issues remain unresolved in western Sydney as well as throughout Australia. The recent pandemic has acted as a catalyst in stirring tensions among communities. In Epping and Ryde, suburbs in northwest Sydney, racist graffiti have sprung up outside Asian (and Indian) residents.
It is important to remember that Australia was built on the pillars of multiculturalism and emigration, so to suggest Australians are inherently racist would be unfair. In August, a video posted to Tik-Tok showed two Indian communities engaged in an on-street brawl in Harris Park. The local multicultural communities need to take an inner look at ways to prevent the recent attacks and acts of violence, as evidence suggests the problems are community-based.
In the meantime, Indian residents in western Sydney are advised to be cautious over the coming months and to avoid Harris Park late at night.