CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced plans to amend the Racial Discrimination Act, arguing that amending the controversial section 18c will simultaneously support freedom of speech while giving more protection to those at risk of discrimination and abuse.
Government members agreed to changes which would remove "offend, insult and humiliate" from 18c, and replace them with "harass" and "intimidate". Turnbull claimed the changes would strike a better balance between freedom of speech and protection from abuse.
In the wake of the announcement, Australians from diverse backgrounds are sharing horror stories about copping racial abuse under the Twitter hashtag #FreedomOfSpeech.
Writer Benjamin Law started the push on Tuesday afternoon, sharing a series of his own experiences.
Gold Coast, 21, man slams into my shoulder saying, "Fucking gook." I retaliated, but would've been bashed if not for mates. #FreedomOfSpeech— Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) March 21, 2017
At the age of 10, I was at the local pool as a group of white boys held my head underwater, laughing at me for being Asian. #FreedomOfSpeech— Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) March 21, 2017
Soon, dozens more stories filled the hashtag.
Recently (Jan): being told that I smell surprisingly good, for someone of my background #FreedomOfSpeech— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) March 21, 2017
Former Labor senator Nova Peris, who received vile racist abuse online during her time in parliament, shared several instances of her own.
As did broadcaster Faustina Agolley.
90s: a man asked what race I was. I proudly said I'm Ghanaian & Chinese. He replies "you're not only a n****r but a 'gook' "#FreedomOfSpeech— Faustina Agolley (@Faustinathefuzz) March 21, 2017
90s: spat on and taunted by a group of Italian kids. They forgot us Asians gave them pasta. How's about a thank you?! #FreedomOfSpeech— Faustina Agolley (@Faustinathefuzz) March 21, 2017
90s: almost veered off the road w/ my Chinese Mum & Aunt by a group of white men yelling "go back to where you came from!" #FreedomofSpeech— Faustina Agolley (@Faustinathefuzz) March 21, 2017
Other ordinary Australians kept adding to the hashtag through the afternoon:
When I was 10 my best mate told me he "didn't like Aboriginals", but he couldn't say why. They start em quick in Australia #FreedomofSpeech— Alex McKinnon (@mckinnon_a) March 21, 2017
My mother in her own shop being called an "immigrant bitch" by a school kid #FreedomofSpeech— Claire Usher (@UsherClaire) March 21, 2017
Two months ago I was walking down the street when a guy shouted out "fuck you, you chinese bitch get out of my country" #FreedomOfSpeech— gay wine aunt (@divydogs) March 21, 2017
Being called a "fucking curry" from a passing car while I was minding my own business at a tram stop #FreedomofSpeech— Sonia Nair (@son_nair) March 21, 2017
The 18c changes are set to be put before the Senate, but will face stiff opposition with Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers already voicing their outrage over the push to water down the Racial Discrimination Act.
Check out all the stories on the #FreedomOfSpeech hashtag.