The Human Rights Law Centre has called on the Victorian Government to establish a Hate Crimes Act to provide legal protection for LGBTIQ people.
The HRLC has released a report, a year on from the marriage equality postal survey, to highlights the negative impact of hate speech and hate crimes during the survey on the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people.
“LGBTIQ people reported that verbal and physical assaults more than doubled during last year’s postal survey,” HRLC senior lawyer Lee Carnie said.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. Hate speech and hate crimes that target people because of who they are affect how safe they feel in our communities but also diminish our society as a whole.
Carnie said no one should be a target because of who they are or who they love.
“We should all be able to walk down the street without being attacked or abused,” Carnie said.
Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Luke Cornelius said he wants to ensure the police force has both the capability and capacity to respond to and prevent prejudice motivated crimes within the community.
“Targets of prejudice motivated crimes should feel safe to come forward and report to Victoria Police, knowing they will be empowered and supported throughout the process,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Cornelius said.
“We don’t know exactly how many LGBTI people are victims of hate crimes because people are often reluctant to report, and when they do this data is not accurately recorded.
“Third party reporting has been introduced overseas so people can be supported by trusted community organisations to report these crimes to police.”
The HRLC report identifies current gaps in the law. In 2009, specific provisions were inserted into the Sentencing Act to allow for heavier sentences in cases where crimes were found to be motivated by prejudice, but these have rarely been used.
Lee Carnie said the report calls for a new approach – a dedicated Hate Crimes Act for Victoria.
“Add-on sentencing provisions clearly aren’t enough to curb hate crime, and there are currently no federal or Victorian protections against LGBTI related hate speech,” Carnie said.
“A Hate Crimes Act sends a clear message to people who commit or incite violence based on their hatred of LGBTI people that this will not be tolerated.”
In June, New South Wales passed legislation protecting minority groups, including LGBTIQ people, from threats or incitement to violence.
Last month, Brisbane’s LGBTI Legal Service announced it was pursuing legal action against 25 people who “engaged in public acts of hate speech” during the same-sex marriage postal survey.
Queensland’s vilification laws prohibit publicly engaging in hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severely ridiculing someone because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.