Abdullah Qaiser says he came to Newcastle from Pakistan last year to study in a secure environment.
But on Saturday night, the 21-year-old had his nose smashed by a man wearing a knuckle duster after his car was stopped at the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus.
“I came over here because I believed it was pretty secure,” Mr Qaiser told the Newcastle Herald on Monday.
“I’m from Pakistan - you know what’s happening in Pakistan - people come here to get a better education, to be a bit secure. So when this kind of thing happens, it’s pretty sad.”
Mr Qaiser was driving alone along Ring Road just after 8.30pm, on his way to finish an assignment with a friend at the Auchmuty Library, when he saw six or seven people standing on the road blocking his path near the medical science building.
Before he knew it, a woman was reaching through the passenger door trying to grab his mobile phone and a man had pulled open the driver’s side door and was yelling: “go back to your f***ing country, you don’t belong here”.
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The man then punched Mr Qaiser with a hand wrapped in a knuckle duster, leaving the student with a broken nose that will likely require surgery to repair it in the coming days.
The group fled the scene after the punch, taking the mobile phone.
Mr Qaiser said he blacked out briefly but then drove to the uni gym, The Forum, where staff administered first aid and called police, campus security and an ambulance.
“I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. The blood was flowing out of my nose,” he said.
“I had no option but to stop my car [when he saw the group on the road].
“I was just thinking they were students just making fun.”
Police told the Herald investigators were reviewing CCTV footage from the campus grounds.
Despite the racial abuse, police said they did not believe the attack was racially motivated.
Mr Qaiser agreed and said the incident turned racial when his attacker saw him up close.
“I was in the car, how would they know I was a brown person in the car? It could have been anybody,” he said.
Mr Qaiser arrived in Newcastle from Pakistan in February, 2017, to study engineering.
He lives in North Lambton with six other people - all of whom had a connection with each other in Pakistan.
Mr Qaiser’s housemates said they couldn’t believe it when they got the call on Saturday night to say he had been hurt. They described the 21-year-old as quiet.
There is a well documented history of violent incidents at and around the Callaghan campus.
Among them, an 18-year-old was robbed at knife point while walking from Warabrook train station in June and a 19-year-old had his car stolen by a man with a gun near the university’s residential towers in March.
A University of Newcastle spokesperson said the institution was helping with police inquiries into Saturday night’s attack.
“We promote a culture of respect and tolerance and our priority is making sure the student is OK and is supported while the police conduct their investigation,” the spokesperson said.
When asked what the university was doing to ensure students were secure, the spokesperson said the uni was increasing patrols and would continue to invest in security infrastructure such as CCTV and emergency help points.
“If anyone on our campuses feels unsafe or needs assistance, they should contact Security Services immediately,” the spokesperson said.
“Security Services will provide them with a safety escort or shuttle bus service to move them around campus safely at any time of day.”
Newcastle University Students Association president Christy Mullen said the student body needed to take action to make the campus safer.
“We have been pressuring the university to increase security surveillance and lighting, however this is not enough to end attacks on vulnerable people in the community,” she said.
Police want to speak with a man and woman in relation to the attack.
Both are described as being of caucasian appearance, aged between 20 and 25.
The man had a muscular build and short blonde hair, while the woman had a slim build and long blonde-brown hair in a pony tail.
Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.