• Victoria is set to ban swastikas as anti-vilification laws are strengthened. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)Source: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images
Senator Lidia Thorpe says the rest of the country needs to follow Victoria's lead after the state government announced it would ban the public display of swastikas while strengthening anti-vilification laws.
By
Douglas Smith

3 Sep 2021 - 4:56 PM  UPDATED 3 Sep 2021 - 4:56 PM

Victoria is set to become the first state or territory in Australia to ban the public display of Nazi symbols, in response to a concerning rise of neo-Nazi activity.

Following a parliamentary inquiry, the state government on Thursday it was working on new laws to ban the symbols, such as the swastika, though exceptions will be made for educational or historical purposes, and for other uses.

Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe told NITV News that other states and territories needed to follow Victoria's lead. 

"Jurisdictions outside Victoria should be considering similar measures," said Ms Thorpe. 

"We need to stamp out hate symbols wherever they appear and right-wing violence is a problem in all states and territories.

"First Nations people have experienced colonial violence for over 200 years, so we understand how painful it can be to see people rallying behind a symbol that's designed to erase you."

 

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Ms Thorpe said lawmakers needed to approach victims of racial vilification when it comes time to develop and implement penalties in the legislation. 

"When it comes to anti-vilification legislation, we need to listen to the people who are being vilified," she said.

"... That should inform what penalties are appropriate."

Legislation changes welcomed

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) welcomed the announcement and said the legislation would make the state a fairer place for everyone.

Statewide Community Justice Programs Leader at VALS, Lee-Anne Carter said Indigenous communities needed to be heard in the development of the legislation.  

“Any changes should be done in consultation with Aboriginal communities and led by communities,” said Ms Carter. 

“Too often processes and procedures are designed to exclude our participation, and this perpetuates the ongoing trauma, racism and discrimination faced by our communities. 

“Changes need to ensure that Aboriginal communities can participate in a culturally safe way that provide assurance that our voices will be heard.“

The government will also take up another recommendation of the inquiry to extend the state's anti-vilification protections beyond race and religion.

Such an extension would cover areas such as sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and HIV/AIDS status.

The government is also looking to make civil and criminal vilification easier to prove.

Inquiry prompted by Nazi images

The inquiry was set up by the Legislative Assembly's legal and social issues committee in 2019, just months after the government found itself powerless to stop a neo-Nazi music festival from taking place.

In January 2020, the police and the local council were also unable to stop a family from flying a Nazi flag above their home in the small town of Beulah.

Opposition police spokesman David Southwick welcomed the government's commitment.

"For too long, frontline police and local communities have been powerless to stop the Nazi swastika being used as a tool to spread hate," he said in a statement. 

"More recently we have seen a rise (in) extremist nationalist and racist individuals and groups and this ban will go a long way to take away the symbol that they hide behind."

Dvir Abramovich, the chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, said he had been campaigning for four years to outlaw public displays of the swastika.

"I will be lying if I didn't admit to shedding tears of joy," said Mr Abramovich.

"This announcement is a resounding triumph for the victims of the Holocaust, the survivors and our brave diggers who died to vanquish the evil Third Reich regime, and a defeat of homegrown neo-Nazis who seek to keep Hitler's legacy alive."

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