Police are investigating an incident where two Indonesian students allege they were attacked at the Canberra Centre last week, possibly due to the head-scarves they were wearing.
The two female master's students were walking to the bus stop closest to Target on the ground floor of the shopping centre, when they were approached by two people.
According to Welhelmus Poek, president of the Indonesian Students Association in Canberra, a woman made comments like "why do you dress all in black? Why are you still alive?" and "it isn't fair to us".
While the two women ignored the comments, they say one of them was then punched in the side of the head, hurting her ear. They were assisted by some passersby.
ACT Policing has confirmed its officers responded to reports of an assault at the bus stop on the Cooyong Street side of the Canberra Centre at around 6pm on Thursday, February 7.
"Investigations into this matter remain ongoing," the spokesman said.
"Anyone who witnessed the incident, or who has any information about this incident that could assist police is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website. Please quote reference 6361241."
Mr Poek is speaking out on the students' behalf, as they have asked not to be identified and don't yet want to speak to the media themselves. One woman is studying economics at the Australian National University and the other is studying urban and regional planning at the University of Canberra.
Both the students have left Canberra as they feel too traumatised to stay in the city at the moment. One has travelled to stay with a friend in Brisbane and the other has returned to Indonesia at the request of her family.
The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra has sent a diplomatic note to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and has also contacted ACT Policing and the ACT government on behalf of the students involved.
The incident has been reported to both the Australian National University and the University of Canberra.
Mr Poek said the incident is isolated and that he has not heard of any other attacks on Indonesian or international students in his time as a student in Canberra.
"This is a safe city for us, Australia is also a safe country for us."
"We love Canberra, this state, this city is very welcoming to us. We can't use this as evidence to say that Canberra is not safe for us. We still love this city."
The student representative said the Indonesian community in Canberra was very positive about the city and generally felt safe.
"We hope the police will take the responsibility to investigate what happened in the case and our friends will join with us and continue their studies," Mr Poek said.
The incident happened on the same day
at Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, spruiking Canberra's education opportunities to students in Australia's closest neighbour. There were just over 300 students from Indonesia enrolled in Canberra's universities in 2018.