Support for you and our community

17 March 2020

As a University, we are conscious this has been a difficult time for many of our community and we are determined to continue to respond with compassion and come together to support each other during what has been an incredibly challenging start to 2020.

The University will continue to be generous and flexible in supporting our students, and our staff, through this time.

We also ask that you do the same.

We, as a community, must show empathy, care and support for our students affected by this situation and to one another during what has been an extraordinary start to 2020. We must be kind to ourselves. We must be kind to others.

We are one community and we will meet this challenge together and support all those affected as one community - so that we can all get back to doing what we do best: studying and working together as one ANU. 

In fostering and ensuring this support to all in our community, the University is determined that any anxiety related to coronavirus does not give rise to any form of marginalisation, discomfort or discrimination against any individual or groups within our community.

Simply put, viruses don't discriminate. And neither do we.

Only those people who meet health authority criteria for isolation will be isolated. So, if a student or staff member is not isolated, regardless of their ethnicity, it is because they do not need to be.

There is an expectation that all students and staff will conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with Australian law, University policy and our shared values. Breaches may be subject to disciplinary action.

Be pro-active, a positive influencer and role model

When engaging in conversations, show leadership and support by disseminating the following messages:

  • ANU is a caring, compassionate and inclusive University
  • We are one community and we will meet this challenge together and support all those affected as one community
  • We need to ensure that our behaviour does no harm to others
  • Viral outbreaks do occasionally occur, this is not anyone's fault
  • It is important not to make assumptions about a person's travel history, or stereotype them based on their appearance or status (local or international)
  • We respect the evidence-based recommendations from the Australian Government Department of Health and the World Health Organisation
  • We support all the good work and the wonderful cooperation between countries all around the world to get the situation under control

Be informed and up to date. Correct rumour and misinformation:

  • The University provides regular updates on the response to the coronavirus available here
  • The illness caused by the Novel Coronavirus has been named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation. COVID-19 was chosen as the new name to avoid stigma as it makes no reference to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people associated with the COVID-19.  Use the correct name of the virus and never refer to the 'Chinese Virus' or 'China Virus'.
  • The current Australian travel ban is denying entry to anyone who has left or transited mainland China from 1 February 2020 (with agreed exemptions). It is not a "travel ban on Chinese nationals."
  • There is also a University helpline for enquiries +61 2 6125 3346, Option 1 or 
  • Other useful resources include:
  1. Australian Department of Health
  2. ACT Health
  3. World Health Organisation
  4. Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Ten misconceptions about coronavirus

Speak up and be supportive

So what do you do if you witness, or are involved in, a conversation or see an email or social media post or are in a situation that makes you uncomfortable? We are all human, we all make mistakes. Sometimes this may also stem from fear of unknown circumstances. Let's help to teach each other what our values are as a community. Whether it's staff or students involved, these conversations can be hard but hopefully these tips will help.

Put yourself in the other person's shoes.  Before you do or say something, think about how it would feel if the same was done or said to you.

Be alert. Look out for the following types of scenarios:

  • People deliberately avoiding contact with others based on appearance (in lecture theatres, student activities, campus cafes, meetings)
  • People making assumptions about the wearing of masks, appearance or cultural heritage
  • Overt racist comments or social media posts

Redirect the conversation

Racism is often born of stereotypes and ignorance that's often shaped by factors outside of an individual's control including exaggerated media narratives, immediate family views or blatant misinformation. However angry we may be, shifting someone else's perspective requires constructive conversations and gentle temperament. 

Stay calm and try not to get angry or stern as this may only entrench negative views.

Combative or aggressive language can lead to the offender shutting off completely and not taking in a word of what you say. No one wants to be called a racist regardless of their actions so a good first step is to explain the impact it can have. 

  • "this conversation is making me uncomfortable, could we talk about something else?"
  • "I think if someone else overheard this conversation it may make them uncomfortable, I don't want to have a negative impact on someone that way"
  • "I just heard your comments about the Coronavirus and they made me uncomfortable, I feel that we should support all members of our community"
  • "It seems like you are really concerned about the Coronavirus situation, let me send you some information" (Send them links to the ANU Coronavirus information page)

Remember to empathise. It has been a challenging, disruptive and distressing start to 2020 for everyone and impact is being felt by individuals and families right across our community.

Reassure them that everyone (ANU, Governments, World Health Organisation) are doing everything they can to keep people safe; and that it is important that everyone get accurate information.

If the response from the person making the racist remarks continues, they mock or defensively refuse to engage in meaningful conversation saying they have a right to their beliefs or a right to continue to behave that way - state the University has a zero tolerance position and report the incident to your supervisor of the ANU helpline

Check in with the person you think may be affected, or tell someone who can

Regardless of whether you or someone else intervened in the incident, checking in with the person or people affected by racism or discrimination is a powerful step in showing they are valued despite what happened. 

Or ask someone with different skills and experience to check in if you are uncomfortable to do so.

  • "That situation made me feel uncomfortable and I wanted to check and see how it made you feel?"
  • "I just witnessed a situation with XXX and I think they may be upset. I'm not sure what to say but could you check on them?"

I am needing some support or know someone who I think needs some help, what should I do?

If you are feeling worried or anxious or seeking some support, please make use of the counselling services available to the ANU Community.

Reference: This information was put together with the assistance of the article "Coronavirus or Racism: which is spreading faster?" by Asanga Seneviratne published online:


For more information including ANU response to COVID-19, visit: