The Victorian government announced that it will extend the state’s anti-vilification laws beyond existing protections on the basis of race and religion to include sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and HIV/AIDS status.
Victoria will join ACT, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland – these states and territories already have anti-vilification laws that cover the LGBTQI communities, either partly or wholly. At present there is no Commonwealth law to protect LGBTQI+ communities from vilification.
Victoria said that it will also become the first state or territory in Australia to make it illegal to publicly display Swastikas or other Nazi symbols. The legislation is expected to be placed before the Parliament in the first half of 2022.
The announcement on Thursday follows the report tabled in the Victorian Parliament by the Legal and Social Issues Committee in March 2021.
The committee had made 39 recommendations, including enacting a law to ban the public display of Nazi swastikas and other Nazi symbols and strengthening the state’s anti-vilification laws to cover hate crimes against LGBTQI and other communities.
Protecting LGBTQI+ Students, Teachers & Staff
LGBTQI+ rights advocates have welcomed the Victorian government’s decision.
“We look forward to working with the government, its agencies and other community organisations to ensure the report’s recommendations are swiftly implemented,” Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia said in a statement.
The Victorian Pride Lobby said that the government’s commitment was a major step to protect LGBTQI+ and PLHIV communities from vilification.
“Everyone should be able to participate in community life without fear or attack. We also welcome the Government’s commitment to better protecting LGBTIQ+ students, teachers and staff from discrimination. Nobody should face expulsion or the sack because they are LGBTIQ+,” Neven Spirovska, co-convenor of the Lobby told Star Observer.
The committee was set up by the Dan Andrews government after it was unable to to stop a neo-Nazi music festival from going ahead in 2019.
‘Prejudice And Hate Still Rife In Victoria’
The committee had referred to a 2015 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission that revealed that 75% of LGBTQI+ people in Australia had experienced bullying, harassment or violence on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A large majority – 80% – of the homophobic verbal and physical abuse had occured in schools. The committee also heard that LGBTQI people are less likely to report abuse or violence to the police.
The committee found that “prejudice and hate are still rife in Victoria, and our anti-vilification laws are failing to deliver upon its objectives and purposes”.
MP Natalie Suleyman, who chaired the committee, thanked the committee and stakeholders “for their valuable contributions in shaping reform and equality in our state” in a post on Twitter.
📸 taken pre COVID-19 restrictions
— Natalie Suleyman MP (@NatalieSuleyman) September 2, 2021
Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes indicated that the government is planning to have the law reforms in place after consultations with the wider community.
“All forms of hate are unacceptable and have no place in Victoria – expanding our anti-vilification laws to protect more Victorians sends a clear message that this vile behaviour will not be tolerated.”
“I thank the committee and all those who participated in the inquiry for their work on these complex issues. Our new laws will build upon their efforts and we will make sure we consult widely with the community and impacted groups to get the settings right before making legislative changes,” the Attorney-General said in a statement.