A SIERRA Leonean man who was punched, kicked, threatened and abused in a racially-motivated attack at Mayfield East says the experience evoked the trauma of fleeing his war-torn homeland.
John Sandy – who spent six years in a refugee camp in Guinea and was separated from his wife for more than 12 years while waiting to migrate to Australia – is now a University of Newcastle Honours student and a social worker who helps other African families settle in Newcastle.
He says while the racially-targeted attack left him “shocked and terrified”, he is determined that it will not colour his opinion of his new home.
“I will not allow this experience to impact on the good relationship I have with Australians,” Mr Sandy told the Newcastle Herald.
Mr Sandy had just arrived home from work at 8.45pm on July 24 when Jeffrey Jarvis – a stranger – suddenly charged at him and launched what police labelled a “racially-motivated attack”, punching and abusing him, threatening to “shoot” him and his wife and repeatedly referring to the colour of their skin.
“We were shocked that this could happen in Australia,” Mr Sandy said. “We came to this country with the belief that it would be safe. For us to experience this brought up the trauma of coming for a war-torn country where our rights are abused.”
Mr Sandy, who works as a case worker for Catholic Care Refugee Service, said the man who attacked him was not representative of the community.
“There are lots of good people in the community,” he said. “This is just the behaviour of one man. You cannot categorise everyone to be the same.”
Jarvis, 39, was on Thursday jailed for a maximum of 16 months, with a non-parole period of eight months after he pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Sandy and intimidating Mr Sandy and his wife.
Mr Sandy was walking in his front gate when Jarvis suddenly charged at him, hit him in the face and shouted: “You f---ing black man, get out of here. What are you doing here?”, according to a statement of police facts.
He kicked Mr Sandy and repeatedly referred to him as a “black c---”, police said. Covered in darkness, Jarvis alternately put his hands in his pockets or held his fingers like a gun as he repeated he would shoot Mr Sandy.
It's unusual for police facts to detail a victim's good character. So it is testament to Mr Sandy and his wife that the police wrote: “since immigrating to Australia, both victims have played an active part in contributing to their local community”.
Mr Sandy says it is his dream to support other refugees, “break down barriers, build relationships and share his story to give people hope.
Arresting police had suggested prosecutors consider charging Jarvis with a more serious offence, which included the aggravating feature that the assault and intimidation was “motivated by hatred for or prejudice against a group of people”.
But, before that could be considered, Jarvis pleaded guilty. He will be eligible for parole in March, 2019.