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Strengthening Victoria’s Anti-Vilification Laws: Have Your Say

Implementing the legislative recommendations of the Victorian Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections, the Department of Justice and Community Safety (“DJCS”) is seeking to strengthen current protections against hate and violence by reforming anti-vilification laws. Victorians have been invited to have their say on the issue by making submissions on the proposed reforms to the DJCS.

What is the current stance towards vilification and hate speech in Victoria?

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic) (“The RRTA Act”) protects Victorians from hate speech or conduct due to their race or religion. The law acknowledges the profound harm such behavior can have towards people, and by extension, their communities. Sections 7 – 8 of The RRTA Act defines vilification as public behavior that incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against a person or group of people based on their race or religion. Herein is an implicit exclusion in that The RRTA Act does not protect people who are vilified for reasons other than race or religion. It follows that a range of Victorians including people who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Muslim, Jewish, identify as LGBTIQA+, or have a disability, are not protected by The RRTA Act in this way. Although The RRTA Act provides criminal protections against vilification it recognises, there is no established recourse in Victoria to seek further protection or remedy for their experiences.

Recommendations from the inquiry

The Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections recommended changes to the existing law to strengthen civil and criminal anti-vilification protections. The recommendations were aimed at better understanding and preventing vilification, including more research, improved data collection, education and public awareness campaigns. More specifically, the DJCS is seeking feedback by way of submissions on the following recommended reforms:

  • Extending civil and criminal protections beyond race and religion, to Victorians who experience vilification on the basis of their LGBTIQA+ status, identify, gender, disability, or HIV/AIDS status; and
  • Ensuring that people can make vilification complaints based on one or more attributes. For example, a complainant may seek redress for vilification experienced in relation to both their sexuality and race.

Overall, the intended effect of these reforms is to strengthen civil and criminal anti-hate laws to effectively protect more Victorians.

What can future reform bring?

The identified reforms will ensure that anti-vilification laws protect Victorians more comprehensively, in two key ways. Firstly, the proposed change would allow for recognition of hate speech or vilification based on attributes beyond race and religion, to reflect more accurately the varied bases upon which people are unfortunately vilified. Secondly, by permitting complaints based on one or more attributes, Victorians can be assured that they are safer from vilification which goes to multiple aspects of their identities. Cumulatively, these reforms would ensure that vilification laws are strengthened, and Victorians can enjoy further protection against behaviour that should not be tolerated.

Have your say

Share your views on how to reduce hate and violence by strengthening Victoria’s anti-vilification laws to protect the community by making written submissions on the Engage Victoria website (https://engage.vic.gov.au/anti-vilification) before 16 October 2023 or by email to the Department of Justice and Community Safety at reform@justice.vic.gov.au

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


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