Racist assault in Australia leaves Sri Lankan family traumatised, police response questioned
Colombo (LNW): A Sri Lankan father, visiting Ballarat, Australia, with his differently-abled daughter, faced assault and racial abuse, prompting him to reconsider returning to the city, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported in a staggering revelation.
The Nugagahakumbura family, navigating challenges due to 12-year-old Anuli’s cerebral palsy, blindness, and wheelchair use, encountered an unsettling incident, according to ABC report.
After a day of sightseeing, a group of boys subjected the family to verbal abuse and threw a metal chain at Anuli’s face as they were returning to their car.
A father who was assaulted and racially abused while visiting Ballarat with his young daughter, who lives with a disability, says he may never return to the regional Victorian city.
The Nugagahakumbura family’s trip from Melbourne was not easy to plan; 12-year-old Anuli lives with cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, is blind and needed to be accompanied by a carer.
Thusitha Nugagahakumbura said he, his wife Neelanthi Munasinghe, Anuli and her carer were heading back to their car after a day of sightseeing when a group of boys started shouting at them, and a metal chain was hurled at the girl’s face.
“I asked, ‘What’s wrong with you?'” Mr Nugagahakumbura said.
“He then just came in, without telling [me] anything, and started to punch me.”
Mr Nugagahakumbura said he was forced to defend himself while trying to get his family into the car as he called triple-0.
“By the time that I was getting onto Ballarat police, the boy stopped punching me,” he said.
“The group got into a bus … and left.
“I was shocked.”
Mr Nugagahakumbura, whose family has lived in Melbourne since they came to Australia a decade ago, said Anuli’s carer heard the group shouting racial slurs during the attack, which occurred in early October.
Like ‘a pack of hyenas’
Kate Skinner, who raced to intervene when the assault occurred, told ABC Statewide Drive the area near Coles on Peel Street was a known trouble spot.
“My daughter said … ‘Mum, that family is in danger … they’re hitting that family,'” she said.
“So we just took off and started sprinting over.”
Ms Skinner said there were “seven to nine” boys surrounding the terrified family.
“They were absolutely traumatised,” she said.
“My daughter stepped up to the kids, which was so brave, but she just knew that if she didn’t, those kids were not leaving.
“It was like they were a pack of hyenas.”
Ms Skinner said one of the boys was using a small chain as a weapon and that the mother of a child in the group was also shouting at the family.
“It was disgusting,” she said.
Police station 400m away
Ballarat police station is only a few minutes’ walk from where the incident occurred, but officers did not attend the scene.
Mr Nugagahakumbura was told by police to file a report at the station because the offenders had by then left the area.
“I’m not much familiar with Ballarat, right — this is the second time in the last 10 years that I’ve visited Ballarat,” he said.
Police told Mr Nugagahakumbura there was no CCTV footage of the attack, despite the centrality of the location.
“We are not living in [the] 18th or 19th century,” Mr Nugagahakumbura said.
“If someone needs to find someone, there are so many ways of doing that.”
Ms Skinner said she saw three “horrible-looking men” filming the assault.
“Someone’s got the phone, someone’s got the video,” she said.
In a statement, Victoria Police told the ABC an investigation into the incident was continuing.
“Police units in Ballarat were attending another incident at the time,” the statement said.
“The victim was requested to attend the police station so written statements could be obtained and an investigation could be commenced as a priority.”
‘Disgusting and deplorable’
Ballarat Mayor Des Hudson said the incident was “absolutely horrendous”.
“Disgusting and deplorable behaviour on the part of every person who played a part to traumatise the family that was here visiting,” he said.
“They just shouldn’t have had to endure that particular type of behaviour.
“This is not usual Ballarat behaviour.”
Cr Hudson acknowledged that the transport interchange on Little Bridge Street had been a problem for “a long, long time” and said that recently, some of the seating and shelters had been removed to try to address antisocial behaviour in the area.
He also said the lack of surveillance footage concerned him, and that the area would receive a CCTV upgrade when improvements to Bridge Mall were made.
Cr Hudson said he hoped the family would return to the city, but Mr Nugagahakumbura has his doubts.
“I don’t think we’ll come back to Ballarat because it will give us a lot of mental stress,” he said.
“Even visiting some other places … we haven’t thought of that, but it would be really hard.”