Cadet pilots from China training on the Mid North Coast are remaining silent on what they say is a disturbing increase in the level of racial abuse in Port Macquarie.
Students are being verbally abused, intimidated and taunted by members of the public, according to Australian International Aviation School staff and students.
Cadet airline pilot Frank Qun is one of the 76 cadet pilots from China based in Port Macquarie and training at the school. He agreed to speak on behalf of a group of students who were confronted at a Port Macquarie supermarket.
"Most of the time when I go to a restaurant or go to get food people are usually friendly and easy to talk to, but there are some occasions which make me unhappy," Mr Qun said.
"People have begun saying words to you in the street like calling you 'coronas' and some young people will swear at you in the street. It's unfortunate but it's not all people who are like this.
"When I talk to my friends and classmates most of them have the same experiences as me. But we don't retaliate because we don't want to make things worse or provoke people.
Before the virus it was safer, even though there were some drunk people who would shout at us or throw bottles at us.Frank Qun
"We came to study here and that's our goal. We don't want to worry our parents so we only tell the happy things to our families. The bad things we don't want to worry them with."
Mr Qun, who has been in Port Macquarie for three months, said he believes instances of abuse are increasing because of the threat of coronavirus in Australia.
"Before the virus it was safer, even though there were some drunk people who would shout at us or throw bottles at us," he said.
"Now when you walk on the street people say things about coronavirus to you. It makes you feel like saying to them ''it's not my fault". The virus is the same enemy we should all be fighting against.
"Of course I know the virus started in China but Chinese people have paid a lot to deal with it. I think most people understand that the virus is a threat to all, not just Chinese or Australians."
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We understand that there is a great deal of anxiety within our community at present due to the COVID-19 situation, however this type of behaviour is repulsive.Kevin McMurtrie
Australian International Aviation School head of operations and chief pilot Kevin McMurtrie said racism against foreign students is overt and appalling.
"It is very unfortunate, sad and deeply disturbing that a number of our Chinese aviation students have been subject to racial vilification in public last week," he said.
"They have been subject to verbal harassment because of their nationality and even had one member of the public taking video of them from his smartphone as they were conducting a normal grocery shop.
"We understand that there is a great deal of anxiety within our community at present due to the COVID-19 situation, however this type of behaviour is repulsive.
"We will report it to the police, and we will do everything possible to bring these people to account.
"This type of offensive and objectionable behaviour is deeply troubling and is the type of behaviour that once it gains a foothold, is what will keep visitors away from our magnificent town."
Mr McMurtrie said many students take part in sports, volunteering, the arts and fishing with a great sense of pride to be living in Australia.
"Our Chinese students contribute significantly to our local community. For 15 months our students live and learn in our community," he said.
"All of our students know that they are living and learning in a very special part of the world, and even when they graduate from our college a number of them come back and visit Port Macquarie, as it is a location that is very dear to them.
"None of our international students have arrived in Australia after December 2019. Our students are a part of our community and for the 15 month period they are here please continue to help them feel welcome, safe and to enjoy what our beautiful town has to offer."
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