Victoria bans Nazi swastika in state in effort to curb hate speech
Victoria will become the first state in Australia to ban the Nazi swastika in response to a worrying rise of neo-Nazi activity.
The government announced on Thursday it would ban the display of all Nazi symbols, making it illegal for residents to exhibit the material.
The ban will come into place in early 2022 in an effort to curb hate speech and discriminatory behaviour.
Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the state’s anti-vilification protections would also be extended beyond race and religion to include sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and HIV status.
“All forms of hate are unacceptable and have no place in Victoria, and this sends a clear message that this vile behaviour will not be tolerated,” Ms Symes said.
“We will make sure we consult widely with the community and impacted groups to get the settings right before making legislative changes.”
The state has recorded growing reports of hate speech and behaviour in both regional Victoria and Melbourne.
The display of Nazi symbolism in public has been noticeably on the rise since last year, including reports of a swastika being displayed on a car in Bendigo, flags flown in the regional towns of Kyabram and Beulah, on the hat of a train commuter in Melbourne, as well as graffitied to a tree in the CBD.
There is also concern the hate has been spread through organised groups, after dozens of white supremacists gathered in the Grampians in January chanting white power slogans and "Heil Hitler".
A parliamentary committee earlier this year called for the banning of the symbolism amid the growing hate.
The report, which made 36 recommendations, was tabled in March after an eight-month inquiry.
Committee chair Natalie Suleyman said the inquiry found a lack of awareness of Victorian anti-vilification laws, and frustration at their lack of effectiveness.
“We heard evidence of increased racial threats and vilification throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, particularly directed at Asian communities in Victoria, in addition to the Jewish community,” she said.
“Symbolically, the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act sets the standards of appropriate behaviour for a harmonious, multicultural society.
“But there’s a question over its ability to address the rising problem of hate crime in Victoria, especially for First Nations, multicultural and multifaith groups, women, LGBTIQ+, people with a disability and other minority groups.”
Premier Daniel Andrews voiced support for the changes.
“There’s no place for those views, there’s no place for those symbols, there’s no place for those attitude and conduct in a modern Victoria,” he said.
Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission Dvir Abramovich welcomed the announcement, calling it a day for the history books.
“This is a joyful and profound moment which represents the culmination of a personal campaign that I have spearheaded for the last four years, and I will be lying if I didn’t admit to shedding tears of joy,” Dr Abramovich said.
“Above all, 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.
“Bravo to the government for rising to the challenge and declaring in a clear and unmistakable voice that the ultimate emblems of inhumanity and racism, that are meant to break our spirit and instil fear, will never find a refuge in our state.”
Originally published as Victoria bans Nazi swastika in state in effort to curb hate speech
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