ABC presenter racially abused by bus passenger

jerferABC News 24 presenter Jeremy Fernandez was subjected to racial abuse on a Sydney bus in front of his 2 year old daughter.

Fernandez tweeted today:

“Just had my own Rosa Parks moment: Kept my seat on a #Sydney Bus after being called a black c**t & told to go back to my country.

“Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken. Coppef 15 mins of racial abuse. Bus driver said ‘your fault for not moving).

“Worst thing is- i had my 2yo daughter with me. She had her primary school aged kids with her. All heard every word of her racist rant

“It’s a sad thing when a coloured man in 2013 has to show his kid how to hold their nerve in the face of racist taunts.”

Rosa Parks, was an African-American woman who in 1955 refused to give up her seat in the coloured section of a bus to a white man after the whites-only section had filled up. The U.S. Congress later called “the first lady of civil rights.”

NSW State Transit has contacted the ABC to seek further details.

“We obviously expect all passengers to behave in a respectful manner to each other,” a spokesperson said.

“We also expect our drivers to be courteous and respectful to passengers. This is conveyed in bus driver training.”

“If an incident of anti-social behaviour such as this occurs, the bus driver may try to intervene and ask the passenger to leave the bus. If required, the driver can contact a supervisor via radio and organise for police to meet the bus.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph


  1. Here is an account of the incident given by Fernandez to the reporter after the incident.

    Quote. On his way from Marrickville to Ultimo, Fernandez said he sat at the back of the State Transit Authority bus with his two-year-old daughter Emerson, when another little girl started flicking her. ”It was completely harmless, no big deal. I turned to the little girl and I said ‘Darling, that was my arm you just flicked’. I’d put a protective arm around my daughter because she was recoiling a bit.”The girl’s mother started spraying abuse, accusing him of touching her daughter inappropriately, he said.”But it very quickly went to her calling me a black c—, go back to whatever country I came from … she raised a fist to my face a few times and said that I’d better get off the bus or move.”After taking 15 minutes of vitriol from the woman, the driver pulled over and told Fernandez to get off the bus, he said. […]’I said, ‘I’m not going anywhere because she’s just called me a black c— and I have every right to stay in this seat on this bus and I’m not moving’.”Endquote

    So Fernandez stubbornly refused to move seats when asked after he spoke to and touched the woman’s daughter. The incident could have been avoided if Fernandez was sensible and just moved seats, or if the woman wasn’t crazy and just moved herself and her children.

    And he doesn’t have a right to stay on a bus when told by the driver to get off if he is involved in a dispute.

    The SMH later edited the article on their website to spin it and make it all about Rosa Parks and racism. They have removed it from the SMH website but you can still find it here:

  2. bettestreep2008

    Bus drivers are responsible for the safety of the passengers.

    When this bus driver noticed the racial abuse he should have called the depot that he there was trouble on his bus and they would have (hopefully) called police to meet them at the next bus and ask the offending woman to disembark.

    Jeremy was doing nothing wrong and the bus driver demanding he move or get off should be reprimanded or even sacked for adding to a very ugly incident.

    I’ve been on buses where passengers were drinking, swearing and even inhaling aerosol cans. Why should other passengers tolerate this sort of behaviour?

    Jeremy – at the very least lodge a formal complaint with the bus company to take some action against the bus driver who had failed to keep you and your daughter safe.

  3. Like most people commenting I have witnessed this many times on buses in Sydney over the years. Once or twice on trains too although in that instance it’s a lot easier to move away from trouble. Sometimes people speak up and sometimes they don’t (including me) depending on how threatening the person seems, the number of people involved, the time of day etc. The driver never, ever does anything either way. I suspect drivers are told not to do anything but I don’t really think that’s good enough.

  4. This is such a tragic and horrible incident, and I’m so sorry for him. However, I honestly don’t believe you can say racism is not dying. Even though we still have room for improvement, we have definitely come along away, and continue to improve each day.

    I really don’t think there are that many Australians who are genuinely against people simply because of the colour of their skin, especially the younger generation. When it comes to incidents like this, I think for most of the time, it’s the abuser trying to find the first thing they can insult the victim with.

    Anyway, I hope he is okay and that his family is coping well too.

  5. I have gotten of a bus once, travelling back from Maroubra and walked over half an hour to Central because I was being threatened.

    I have gotten off trains several times. The last time this drunk started abusing me, I tried to calm him down and his friend said shut the f*** up and don’t talk back to us because we are carrying knives. So I bailed at the next station.

    Once there was a domestic involving a knife on a train, I got off at the next stop and told staff who called the police.

    Though in this case since it was just a mother I would have just moved seats.

  6. I am not surprised by this, because I’ve seen it happen on a bus before. It was a weeknight, not too late, but after peak hour. I don’t know how it started, but the woman two seats in front of me was arguing with an Asian man. She very loudly referred to him by a racist term. Everyone around her gasped in shock. The woman didn’t stop, telling him he should go back where he came from etc, and the man argued back, with support from those of us sitting near him, but he got off the bus at the next stop, fed up. A girl sitting in front of me spoke up and said “that’s not right, he shouldn’t get off the bus, you should get off!”. Everyone started chanting “off the bus!” but the woman didn’t move, she just started swearing at everyone. Eventually it was clear she wasn’t going to leave, and the bus driver was completely ignoring the situation, so the chanting died down. The girl in front of me kept confronting her (and received a lot of abuse in return…I thought the woman was going to punch her), but it felt pointless, because anything we said fell on deaf ears, it just felt like we couldn’t do anything in the situation, and she really seemed to enjoy the arguing. It was really horrible, and I felt sick once I got home, knowing I had witnessed racism like that and didn’t know what to do. I think everyone else felt helpless too.

    I’m really sorry that Jeremy experienced this, it is awful to see this sort of thing first-hand. I do think the bus drivers could do more, maybe have some kind of plan for these situations. They should definitely be made to get off the bus!! Nobody should have to put up with this hateful behaviour.

  7. That is absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. It doesn’t surprise me because I’ve experienced sexual harassment myself. But I hope he knows not everyone feels that way. I’ll admit I think he’s one of the classiest News presenters. I wish him all the best and hope to see him continue with his dignity intact.

  8. @catherine
    I guess I was trying to say that it happens a lot more than we are aware. Travelling on public transport a lot, I have witnessed way too many of these sorts of incidents. I have spoken up in the past but often the situation is too dangerous to intervene or even say something.

  9. I was sitting next to a quiet Maori guy in a bar years ago and a similar thing happened. I was gobsmacked but thank goodness other white people gave her a mouthful.I pray and hope that people that do this are a very tiny minority.

  10. I can categorically state that there is a section of our society who ‘are’ racist. I think (hope?) it is somewhat small but there are no buts about it. It is up to us as a society to forever continue making these kinds of actions socially unacceptable.

    Mr Fernandez should lodge a complaint with Sydney Buses for being put in such a position on their services. While they can’t control what their passengers think and say, Sydney Buses should (as a result of the formal complaint, if Mr Fernandez were to make one) explicitly reinforce to their drivers that it is totally unacceptable to condone racism.

    Even if the driver stops the bus and gives the offender two options: leave the bus immediately or the police will be called to insist you alight the bus regardless of where the bus has stopped. If the offending passenger refuses, then call the police and wait. While it is an inconvenience for the other passengers, that is the consequence of the offending passengers’ actions. The offending passenger must realise that there is something wrong with what they have done if there is any chance for them to learn.

    Same thing should have been done in that situation on a bus in Melbourne a few months ago. As a society, we have to draw the line. We simply must not tolerate this kind of garbage.

  11. @Pertinax, so if you’re unfortunate enough to be berated by some racist/sexist/humanist troll you’ll step off the bus so as not to cause a fuss … yeah, right.

    The sad thing out of this is that a woman with her kids in tow was responsible for this. It’s also sad that Jeremy and his young child had to witness it. Would have been terrifying for all of the kids.

    The only good thing to come out of it is that all of the kids got to witness someone standing their ground in the face of hatred. That’s a big lesson for young people. **applauds**

  12. @bazza, yes it is surprising that there was no reference to the driver radioing the incident into his depot, considering that it was a 15 minute long rant, according to Fernandez. The bus driver’s indifference is disturbing, but there have been a lot of instances of late of Sydney bus drivers being assaulted by passengers, so I can understand why he may have been in two minds about escalating it by getting involved.

    @dayman, racial attacks like this are not uncommon. Indian students have been randomly attacked and bashed in both Sydney and Melbourne, Muslim women who wear the head scarf often report verbal abuse, think back to the heyday of Pauline Hanson and the vilification of Asians, the recent demonisation of Muslims and boat people, and so it goes on.

  13. Maev....Sydney

    Sometimes I am ashamed of being white and of British stock…I do not know when this feeling of entitlement happened to people of fair skin…
    I cannot believe the comments of the bus driver or Pertinax….not only is racial vilification morally wrong…it is also against the law….if the driver did not want speak to a female primary school person….he should have at least called it in to his superiors or the police…
    I try to avoid public transport…even though I do not drive…

  14. J bar not true. Other incidents have been on the news.

    It seems to be on buses. Its a shame that it still goes on. My god you don’t have to be white to be part of our country.

    The sad thing is this woman who abused him, what are her kids going to be like growing up when they hear there mother abuse someone.

  15. What exactly do you expect the bus driver to do?
    Escalate the situation until someone, probably him, ends up in hospital or the morgue?

    At least no one was physically injured, which in Sydney these days is lucky.

  16. For 15 mins. One has to wonder if the driver would have remained so indifferent had it been two people of the same race involved.
    @Dayman “It seems so foreign from my experiences ” – You should use NSW public transport more, particularly the trains.
    I’m a white Australian married to an Asian. Have been for 25 years. Pretty much used to the comments, usually from white females (same as in Jeremy’s case), by now.

  17. daveinprogress

    I am really shocked and angered by this. Good for Jeremy for retaining his dignity and empowerment by not walking away from it. From that very brief info, it sounds as if the driver was less than sensitive or compassionate: “Bus driver said ‘your fault for not moving).” This is almost as disturbing as the perp’s rant.

  18. Really have to wonder why the driver didn’t do something, even if it was just to radio in. I mean to say, if it went on for that amount of time, he had more than enough opportunity to do the right thing.

  19. It’s always so odd when you read these stories or see videos of such incidents.

    It seems so foreign from my experiences and everyone I know. You go.. maybe some nut bag somewhere. The idea it could be common is shocking.

    There really must be some divides in society and in different regions.

    I know someone who recently saw someone throw an apple and yell offensive words at some black guys walking down a street. His reaction was the same as mine when hearing. This sort of shit happens here?

  20. The Other Adam

    Awful.. racism is truly in full swing in Australia unfortunately. It has gotten worse over the last few years. I don’t want to get into a political debate but there are a couple of party’s that are fueling racism over the last couple of years and things have been getting worse since then.

  21. This is disgusting, and i’ve seen similar things happen and intervened, only to be abused myself. I think Jeremy is a fine newsreader, and a fine Australian.

  22. Absolutely disgraceful incident, but doesn’t really surprise me. Scratch the surface and it is still pretty obvious we are a racist country, I don’t think anybody can deny that, which is why incidents like this still happen. I just heard him speaking on the radio about it, and it was a lot worse than what he says in his tweets – it was a sustained rant that went for 15 minutes.

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