‘People need to know this goes on’: Doctor sent racist hate mail at work

Professor Rhea Liang has posted the letter on social media.
Sarah Simpkins

A high-profile surgeon has revealed the hate mail sent to her work from someone who claimed to be a GP following the Voice to Parliament referendum.

Associate Professor Rhea Liang posted the letter on X, formerly Twitter, with the name on the letter censored.

Despite the sender adding the FRACGP, as well as MD and MBA, Professor Liang said the RACGP had responded to say the person was not a registered GP or college member.

Source: Professor Rhea Liang on X.

Professor Liang — a general and breast surgeon on the Gold Coast — told AusDoc that not everybody would agree with her decision to publish the hate mail, with the risks of giving the writer a sense of satisfaction that “they got to you”.

But she decided that “people need to know that this goes on”. 

“It is important for us to raise awareness of it. Back in the ’90s, it might have been acceptable to voice that sort of language publicly but not anymore.

“We will not stand for it.”

Professor Liang’s post attracted more than 800 responses — mostly from other doctors expressing their shock, including RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins and AMA Queensland president Dr Maria Boulton.

She said it was not the first hate mail she had received as a long-term advocate for women in surgery, Indigenous Australians and LGBTIQ+ people.

Professor Rhea Liang.

“It used to be overt: people would say to you, quite publicly, that they did not think women could be surgeons or that women were weaker or that we have babies.  

“I have been told to go back where I came from.

“I did train in New Zealand, but I suspect whoever said that thought that actually meant China or somewhere in Asia — just classic racism. 

“I don’t know that people recognise the cost for advocates of doing this work.” 

The latest abuse followed her advocacy for a Yes vote in the referendum.

“People forget what the referendum was about: it was about a very specific constitutional instrument, which people voted against.

“That is fine; l respect that.  

“But it was not a vote on being able to abuse Indigenous people, Indigenous patients or people who are their allies in this way.”