Victoria Govt response on Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protection and its impact on Hindu Swastika

Report on Anti-Vilification Inquiry in Victoria and its consequences on Hindu Swastika

On 2nd September 2021, Premier of Victoria Hon Daniel Andrews made an announcement related to Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections in Victoria.

The Legal and Social Issues Committee investigated how Victoria’s anti-vilification laws are working. This committee is part of the Legislative Assembly in the Victorian Parliament.

The Committee released its report on Anti-vilification Protections (the report) on 3 March 2021.

The report found that vilification is common for many Victorians, including people:

  • from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • from particular faith groups
  • who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • who identify as LGBTIQ+
  • with a disability

The report makes 36 recommendations to strengthen Victoria’s protections against anti-vilification. Some of the main recommendations include:

  • extending anti-vilification protections beyond race and religion (for example to prevent vilification on the basis of gender and/or sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression, sex characteristics and/or intersex status, disability, HIV/AIDS status or personal association)
  • lowering the thresholds for what amounts to civil and criminal vilification
  • banning the public display of Nazi symbols.

The Victorian Government has responded to the report’s recommendations. The Government supports or supports-in-principle 34 of the report’s 36 recommendations.

The response can be found here.

HCA Victoria found this response disappointing as the Govt accepted recommendation number 24 and 25 of this report without any consideration to the impact on the Hindu community in Victoria.

This is particularly related to the “Nazi Swastik” potentially prohibited by the Govt impacting the entire Hindu community.

Attachment to the response can be found here. Please refer page 11 on this link to read recommendation number 24 and 25.

HCA(Victoria) , with 35 supporting Hindu organisations and temples, sent a letter to the Hon Premier on 8 Sept 2021 expressing disappointment of the Hindu community on this announcement and raised concerns related to the use of Hindu Swastika symbol in various Hindu settings. The letter requested following changes to the recommendations and considerations:

  1. A clearly stated, public clarification that the Victorian Parliament prohibition is limited to the Nazi hate symbol ‘Hakenkreuz’ and NOT the holy Swastika.
  2. Excluding the Swastika (as a Hindu religious and cultural symbol) from the remit of the ban by the Victorian Parliament
  3. That the Parliament of Victoria works with us to support a multi-lingual awareness campaign about the origins, positive meaning of the (ancient) swastika and to counter any prejudicial misunderstanding that can lead to discrimination and potential attacks.

HCA (Victoria) is delighted to inform the community, that the Govt has listened to our views and as a first step to address this issue, have revised the content of their announcement.

Following wording is now added to the revised announcement on 20 Sep 2021:

The government will consult with the Victorian Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities, among others, to develop this law.

 The government acknowledges the cultural and historical significance of the Swastika symbol for Hindu and other faith communities, including Buddhist and Jain communities.

 For members of these faith communities, the Swastika symbol is not only inscribed in places of worship but is often displayed outside their homes and religious settings as a symbol of blessing and peace. It is important to understand and be aware of the difference between this symbol and what the Nazis called the Hakenkreuz symbol, with the Hakenkreuz used to spread hate and violence. The Nazi Hakenkreuz symbol, which has some common visual features with the swastika, is expected to be covered by the ban.

 In developing the law, we will work alongside community leaders from impacted groups to develop clear and permanent exclusions for religious and cultural use so that these communities do not face negative consequences from the proposed ban on the Nazi Hakenkreuz.

 The revised announcement can be read here.

HCA (Victoria) will continue to engage with the Govt and Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) on this matter to ensure that wording of the legislation is drafted such that Hindu Swastika in all Hindu settings is completely excluded from this proposed prohibition.

HCA(Victoria) is also actively engaging with Jewish, Buddhist and Jain community peak body organisations to support our efforts in protecting Hindu Swastika.

We will provide updates when they come to hand in following weeks.

In the meantime, HCA (Victoria) would like to assure the Hindu community in Victoria that we are heading in the right directions, with all Hindu organisations’ support to completely protect Hindu Swastika from the proposed legislative changes to the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.