MESSAGES of support have gone out to some of Bendigo's refugee and migrant communities as the city responds to reports of racism exacerbated by fears related to COVID-19.
Bendigo Community Health Services and the City of Greater Bendigo have published videos and statements from mayor Margaret O'Rourke in four languages: English, Karen, Dinka and Dari.
The campaign encourages people who have experienced racism and abuse to contact Victoria Police.
To the broader community, it says: "We all have a role in preventing racism and reporting it if it occurs."
The campaign says, "There is no room for racism or discrimination here."
It makes it clear abuse directed at Karen and other Asian-Australian residents following the outbreak of COVID-19 is "deeply disappointing and unacceptable".
"This behaviour is unfounded and unfair. It is not who we are and it is not who we want to be," the English language statement says.
"We are a welcoming, inclusive and safe community that celebrates our growing diversity."
Bendigo Inspector Shane Brundell appears in a separate video aimed at encouraging the Karen community to report racism.
Community leaders teamed up earlier this month in support of Asian-Australians.
It came after reports Karen community members were being verbally abused, coughed on and called names because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bendigo Community Health Services chief executive Gerard Jose said most people in Bendigo would be horrified if they were to witness an act of racism, or believed it was happening in their neighbourhood.
"People just being kind is still absolutely critical," Mr Jose said.
"It is essential we keep on speaking out to ensure our communities feel welcome."
To view the coronavirus Bendigo refugee resource hub, click here.
Read the English language statement, in full:
We are living in an extraordinary time.
Reflecting on the year so far, it has been an incredibly challenging one for our community but we will get through this because we are a strong community and we are in it together.
The City recently launched the Love Your Local campaign to remind us of why we love where we live and to safely reconnect us with our community.
The campaign encourages us to stick together and support one another.
Although there are many positive examples of how residents have supported each other through these challenging times, the recent reports of racism and abuse directed toward our Karen and other Asian-Australian residents are deeply disappointing and unacceptable.
This behaviour is unfounded and unfair. It is not who we are and it is not who we want to be. We are a welcoming, inclusive and safe community that celebrates our growing diversity.
I encourage anyone affected by this or any other type of racism to report it to Victoria Police.
We all have a role in preventing racism and reporting it if it occurs. Recent international protests around racial inequality are a strong reminder about the importance of this and the impact inequality continues to have around the world.
Our vision is for Greater Bendigo to be the world's most liveable community. That vision and the commitment to equity and respect as outlined in our Humans Rights Charter, means we wholeheartedly reject racism and discrimination of any sort.
There is no room for racism or discrimination here.
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