Am I ever made to feel unsafe when wearing my cultural attire in public?

Many Australians like to tell ourselves that we are a ‘successful’ multicultural nation, but what does that really mean? What does it mean for people of many cultures to live equitably and freely in society?
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The 2022 Islamophobia in Australia report surveyed 247 incidents of Islamophobia, including 133 in-person attacks, and found that 82% of victims were women, 85% of whom were wearing a headscarf at the time of the attack.1 Attacks included physical violence, threats of sexual or physical violence, hate speech, intimidation, discrimination, or a combination of these.2


The impact of these experiences is often compounded by challenges in reporting racial vilification and abuse. Research shows that confusion around reporting avenues, frustration around chronic police inaction and public denials of racism by politicians can all prevent individuals from reporting incidents of racism.3 Often, attacks and vilification happen in guarded or patrolled areas, where police officers, security guards or other officials are in force, or surveillance cameras deployed. However, often this does not deter perpetrators.4 Adding to this, is the fact that racist and xenophobic sentiments expressed in the media and by political spokespeople normalise racist attitudes and reinforces individual prejudices.5


Aside from the threat of physical danger they are placed in, those targeted for wearing cultural dress in public report long term emotional effects. Many report having to change their daily behaviour because they fear being attacked in certain areas, or avoid accessing services that should be accessible to all.6 Others become reluctant to wear their cultural attire in public due to fear of persecution or abuse.


Despite claims to our success as a multicultural nation, many people in Australia live with the reality that everyday expressions of their values and beliefs make them a target for hatred and abuse. Understanding how racism manifests and is reinforced in society can help us to identify where change is most needed.


By reflecting on the impact of racism, and taking a stand against it, we can build a fair and equal society – for all.



It stops with me.


1 Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2018-2019 (Report No 3, 2019) 33 <>.

2 Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2018-2019 (Report No 3, 2019) 33 <>.

Asian Australian Alliance and Osmond Chiu, COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report (Report, 2020) <>.

4 Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2017-2018 (Report No 2, 2019) 6 <>.

5 Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2017-2018 (Report No 2, 2019)  <>.

6 Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2017-2018 (Report No 2, 2019) <>;  Rhonda Itaoui, ‘The geography of Islamophobia in Sydney: mapping the spatial imaginaries of young Muslims’ (2016) 47(3) Australian Geographer 261.