One of the two women filmed attacking an elderly man on a Gold Coast bus on Tuesday has handed herself in to Queensland police.
The incident was recorded by a 13-year-old on a bus in Kirra at around 3.45pm, and shows two women punching, kicking, spitting and verbally abusing the man. One of the women is heard saying to the cowering victim: “Oh bro, we’re in Abo land.”
The girl holding the phone can be heard pleading with people to stop the attack. The man attempted to fight back but was punched by one of the women. The bus eventually stopped and a male passenger pushed the women off the bus and threw their hats after them.
The video was posted to social media and quickly went viral. Channel Nine news broadcast the footage and described the two women as sisters.
A police spokesman told Guardian Australia on Friday one woman had taken herself to Coolangatta police station shortly before 2pm and was being questioned.
He said they were not releasing details of her identity at this stage.
The spokesman said police were still calling for the other woman to contact police. He said the 77-year-old victim, who was found earlier on Friday, was expected to make a formal complaint and press charges.
“Police have checked on the welfare of the man and he has bruising to his arms,” a statement said.
Acting Superintendent Brian Swan told media on Friday the man came forward early that morning, and was upset and shaken, and had bruising to his arms. Swan described the incident as “abhorrent”.
Swan corrected earlier reports that the victim was blind, and said the man’s glasses were knocked off during the incident, impairing his vision. Swan said reports the man is Indigenous were also incorrect.
“The victim actually doesn’t identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” he said.
“However it is concerning that the alleged [attackers] perceived that he was.”
Dr Tim Soutphommasane, race discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission praised the actions of the young girl who filmed the incident, Rebecca Ribbons.
“It is worth commending her intervention in filming the incident and coming forward. It’s an example of how there is more than one way you can stand up to racism,” he told Guardian Australia.
“One of the things you can do is to report an incident, or alternatively film an incident, which is what the young girl on the bus in this case did. If it weren’t for the footage that she recorded on her phone, you probably wouldn’t have seen police follow up the matter and find the two women responsible for this horrendous attack.”
Rebecca told the Gold Coast Bulletin the driver of the bus did not respond to the attack or turn around in his seat while it was happening in the seat behind him.
“He didn’t even look back. Even when the man was getting off the bus I didn’t hear him say ‘are you alright?’” Rebecca said.
A spokesman for Surfside Buslines told Guardian Australia the bus was travelling through a “known traffic hotspot” and the driver pulled over as soon as he found a safe place to do so.
“The fastest way to mitigate [a situation] … is to first and foremost stop the bus,” he said.
“He had over 20 passengers on board and he immediately identified the safest stopping point.”
The spokesman disputed the claim the driver made no effort to check on the welfare of the passenger.
“We certainly have footage that shows the driver did turn around to check on him,” he said, declining to say if any details were requested or taken from the victim, for privacy reasons.
The spokesman said no official complaint or report had been made to Surfside Buslines, but the driver radioed through to operations when he pulled over, which the spokesman said was “standard procedure”.
Despite the pleadings of Rebecca for someone to intervene, it was not until well into the attack that a passenger forced the two women off the bus.
“You’d hope that when something like this happens there is someone prepared to make an intervention,” Soutphommasane said.
“I can understand why people may not want to intervene because of their personal safety, but when it is safe to do so, one would hope that people would stand up for a fellow citizen and member of society being abused or harassed or subjected to violence.”
The incident follows a number of high-profile racist attacks on public transport in Australia, including abuse of an Asian schoolboy in Sydney last year, and a French woman being told to “speak English or die” on a Melbourne bus in November 2012.
ABC news presenter Jeremy Fernandez was also subject to a racist tirade by a woman on a Sydney bus. Both he and the woman were travelling with their children.
He said that he confronted the driver to ask why he did nothing to stop the abuse and was told it was his fault for not moving seats.
Queensland police are urging anyone with information on the Gold Coast incident, particularly if they witnessed the attack, to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au.