Victorian GLBTI community organisations have welcomed the state Government’s proposed crackdown on gay hate crimes.

The Government last week announced it will amend Section 5 of the Sentencing Act to require judges to recognise hatred for or prejudice against a particular group in society as an aggravating factor when sentencing.

Once in place, judges will be required by law to take into account if a crime was motivated by prejudice, which may result in harsher penalties for offenders.

-œWe are looking at a range of reforms that send a clear message that attacks against any Victorian based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation will not be tolerated, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said last week.

The ALSO Foundation led the chorus of support, alongside the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre, Transgender Victoria, People Living With HIV/AIDS Victoria, Anti-Violence Project, Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and the Rainbow Families Council.

Announced amid tensions over a spate of attacks on Indian students, Hulls said he had already been in lengthy discussions with the gay and lesbian community before the changes were announced.

ALSO Foundation CEO Lyn Morgain confirmed the proposed changes came about after long campaigning from gay and lesbian community organisations.

-œThe proposed changes will respond to extensive work our community has done over time to underscore the unfortunate prevalence of this type of crime, she said. -œImportantly it makes clear that any and all prejudice-motivated crime is unacceptable and criminal and will attract strong penalties.

-œThe key issue now is to ensure the Government provides the necessary funding for community education efforts required to ensure the laws are understood by all Victorians.
AVP spokesman Greg Adkins said the key is to ensure all hate-based crimes are reported to police.

-œEvery time GLBT individuals witness violence, regardless of whether its directed towards us or people from the broader community, we have a responsibility to get on the phone and call the police, he said.

The Government says it expects legislation to be passed before the end of the year.

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