Tuesday, 05 April 2016

No place for racial and religious vilification

In events and activities over the past few days there has been a disturbing demonstration of racial and religious hatred and intolerance towards people in the Muslim community in Victoria. This behaviour is not acceptable and it is up to all of us to call it when we see it if it is safe to do so.

This is a matter for the whole community. It's everyone's responsibility to stand up to racists and say "that is not ok" and there are a range of things we can all do. Research shows that when people watching don't do anything, it increases the impact of the incident. That is, by everyone staying quiet while someone is yelling hateful things, it makes it seem like they all agree with what's going on. This can be far more hurtful than the abuse itself. Visit antihate.vic.gov.au for more suggestions on how you can stand up to a racist.

The impact of racism on individuals and communities is vast and insidious. If we continue to marginalise and victimise people through racial and religious intolerance, the entire community pays a high price.

It is the Commission's job to remind people of the laws around racial vilification, discrimination and human rights and to make sure that those who suffer from vilification or discrimination are able to report it. It is also our role to call out racism and to say it is not acceptable. Ever.

We are fortunate in Victoria to live in a community where cultural and religious diversity is embraced and protected in law. The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act makes it against the law to vilify people because of their race or religion. Vilification is behaviour that incites hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule of person or group because of their race or religion. Serious vilification, behaviour that threatens or incites others to threaten physical harm to a person or group because of their race or religion, is a criminal offence.

If people feel they have been vilified or discriminated against they are encouraged to contact the Commission.