ANU PhD candidate Atem Atem in the Australian flag t-shirt he wore when he was racially abused next to Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Stuart Hay.

ANU PhD candidate Atem Atem in the Australian flag t-shirt he wore when he was racially abused next to Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Stuart Hay.

Face-to-face with racism

When PhD candidate ATEM ATEM took a casual walk around Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin, he did not know he would confront racism head on. RICHARD FOX reports.

It was 11.30am on a warm Canberra summer's day when Atem Atem, walking next to Lake Burley Griffin, heard a man shouting.

"Stop him! Stop him! He has no ID."

Atem walked in the direction of the ranting man but blocked out the noise, preferring to concentrate on thoughts about his PhD instead.

But Atem's attention was partially grabbed when he noticed the man was wearing a long coat that would have been more appropriate for a cold winter's day in the capital, rather than early January.

The next words brought Atem fully into the present.

"Fucken darkie," the man shouted.

"Fake ID, darkie. Fake ID. Go back to where you came from, darkie. Darkie immigrant go home."

Atem looked around him. Two people sat not far away. Neither moved or said anything. The attack continued.

"Fucken darkie. Do you want another punch? Do you want another one, darkie immigrant?"

The tirade continued for five minutes and Atem stood his ground, before the man walked away.