Message from the Chief Commissioner

Crime Prevention & Community Safety

Racial and religious vilification

Release date: Mon 2 November 2009

Last updated: Mon 25 February 2013

Victoria Police takes racial and religious vilification seriously. Racial and/or religious vilification occurs when a person behaves in a way that encourages hatred, revulsion or ridicule of another person, because of the other person's race or religion.

Serious racial or religious vilification occurs where a person intentionally behaves in a way that encourages hatred, revulsion or ridicule of another person and threatens physical harm to that person or their property, or encourages serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule of that person/class of person, because of their race or religion.

 

What to do if you are a victim of serious racial or religious vilification involving threats of violence?

Serious vilification may involve threats of violence. This can be both upsetting and frightening. Should you become a victim of serious racial or religious vilification, you should:

  • remain assertive but not aggressive
  • stay calm
  • if the situation escalates, yell to attract attention to yourself
  • create distance between yourself and danger, by running to safety.

In an emergency, always phone Triple Zero (000).

 

Reporting serious racial or religious vilification to police

If you believe serious racial or religious vilification has occurred you are urged to report the matter to your local police. Victoria Police understands that for some people attending a police station can create stress and anxiety. If this applies to you, please contact your local Multicultural Liaison Officer (MLO). While the MLO will not actively investigate the matter, he/she will support you throughout the reporting process. Community groups may also become aware of possible serious religious or racial vilification and can similarly report matters to local police. 

 

About the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001

In recognition of Victoria's cultural and religious diversity, the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act (the Act) was introduced to promote community acceptance of racial and religious diversity.

While the Act recognises the importance of freedom of expression in an open and multicultural democracy, it also recognises the rights of all citizens to full and equal participation in society. Victoria is a model of cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and whilst the majority of Victorians embrace this diversity, some individuals and groups do suffer vilification on the grounds of their race or religion. Vilification diminishes dignity and sense of self worth and affects the ability of individuals to contribute to society. This reduces the benefits that diversity delivers to the community.

Contained within the Act are the two criminal offences of serious racial vilification and serious religious vilification. Serious racial or religious vilification occurs where:

  • a person, because of the race or religion of another person/class of person, intentionally engages in conduct that the person knows is likely to incite hatred against that other person/class of person and either threatens physical harm, or incites others to threaten physical harm against that person/ class of person, or their property, or
  • a person, because of the race or religion of a person/class of person, intentionally engages in conduct that the person knows is likely to incite serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that person/ class of person.

Under the terms of the Act, such conduct includes use of the Internet or email to publish or transmit statements or other material.

 

Lodging a civil complaint

Civil complaints of vilification are different by definition to criminal complaints of vilification. The following organisations can be contacted for information about lodging a civil complaint of vilification.

  • The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC)

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission can lodge complaints about racial or religious vilification. VEOHRC can be contacted at::

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 204 Lygon Street,
Carlton, 3053, 
Phone: 1300 891 848
Email: information@veohrc.vic.gov.au

  • Australian Human Rights Commission

Civil complaints about racial hatred can also be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission. You can contact the AHRC for more information, via:

Australian Human Rights Commission
GPO Box 5218
SYDNEY NSW 2001
Complaints Infoline: 1300 656 419
Email: complaintsinfo@humanrights.gov.au

 

References

For a copy of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, please visit the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website at http://www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au.

For a copy of the Race Discrimination Act 1975, please visit the AHRC website at: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/legislation/index.html.

 
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