Vilification

 

    Vilification factsheet PDF 141KB

    Examples of conciliated vilification complaints

    What does the law say about vilification?

    In NSW it is generally against the law to vilify people because of their:

    • race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin
    • homosexuality (lesbian or gay)
    • HIV or AIDS status
    • transgender status.
      This includes vilification because someone is thought to be lesbian, gay or transgender even if they are not, or thought to have HIV or AIDS, even if they don't.

    NSW anti-discrimination law defines vilification as a public act that could incite or encourage hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule towards people because of the above characteristics.

    The vilification law only covers acts that are in public. It does not cover acts that are not public, for example abuse over a back fence that no-one else can hear.

    Public acts could include the following:

    • image of hands texting on mobile phonesremarks in a newspaper, journal or other publications
    • remarks on radio or television
    • material on the internet, including social networking sites such as Facebook and micro-blogging services such as Twitter
    • graffiti
    • putting up posters or stickers
    • verbal abuse
    • making speeches or statements
    • making gestures
    • wearing badges or clothes with slogans on them.

    How can I work out if something is covered by vilification law?

    To work out whether a particular act is covered by the vilification law, there are three things to check:

    1. Did it happen publicly?
      Was it possible for any member of the public other than those directly involved to see it, hear it or read it?
    2. Could it have incited or encouraged hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule?
      How serious was it? Would it have had an impact on other people?
    3. Is it an acceptable type of free speech and therefore legal?

    Freedom of speech is also important in our society, so the vilification law makes allowances for this. The following are not against the law:

    • A fair report by the media of someone else's act of vilification. The media will only be acting against the law if they add extra vilifying material or commentary to their report.
    • Acts that are done 'reasonably and in good faith' for academic, artistic, scientific, research or other purposes in the 'public interest'.
    • Material that is privileged, such as statements made in parliament.

    If you are not sure about whether the act you are concerned about is against the law, phone our Enquiry Service for more information.

    What can I do about vilification?

    You can try talking to the person or organisation that is causing the problem. Use whatever help you can. There are a range of community organisations that may be able to help you, for example:

    Racial vilification - an ethnic community organisation, a migrant resource centre (see the phone book for listings), the Aboriginal Legal Service on (02) 8303 6600, or any other Aboriginal community organisation.

    Homosexual vilification - the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service on (02) 8594 9596 or 1800 184 527, or the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby on (02) 9571 5501.

    Transgender vilification - the Gender Centre on (02) 9569 2366 or 1800 069 115, the AIDS Council of NSW on (02) 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060, or the Sex Workers Outreach Project on (02) 9319 4866 or 1800 622 902.

    HIV/AIDS vilification - the AIDS Council of NSW on (02) 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060, or the National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS on (02) 8568 0300 or 1800 259 666.

    Violence and threatened violence

    If you make a complaint about vilification that involves a threat of physical harm or inciting others to threaten physical harm, the President of the Board may refer the complaint to the Attorney General. The matter will then be considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and the DPP will decide if it should be prosecuted as a crime of serious vilification.

    In this case, you should lodge your complaint as soon as possible. You generally have 12 months after the events occurred to lodge a discrimination complaint, but prosecution of serious vilification must be commenced within six months from the date when it occurred. If the process is not started within this timeframe there can be no criminal prosecution.

    If you have been threatened with violence or you are physically attacked, you can also contact:

    • the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project on (02) 9206 2116 or 1800 063 060

    • a chamber magistrate to discuss the possibility of getting an 'apprehended personal violence order', that is, an order to prevent any further violence. For more information visit the Department of Justice website 

    • the police - if you want to talk with an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer, or a police officer of your own ethnic or ethno-religious background, you can phone the Sydney Police Headquarters and ask if there is a police officer of your race or background near you, or contact them through a local police station.

    Homosexual, transgender, HIV positive or have AIDS

    If you are homosexual or transgender, or you are HIV positive or have AIDS, you may find that a Gay and Lesbian Police Liaison Officer will be the easiest to approach, phone (02) 9281 0000 to find out the contact details of the nearest Gay and Lesbian Police Liaison Officer, or contact them through a local police station.

    If you have any difficulties when dealing with your local police station, contact the Police Customer Assistance Unit on 1800 622 571. They should be able to refer you to someone who can help.

    Depending what type of media is involved, you may be able to complain to:

    • the Australian Communications and Media Authority on (02) 9334 7700 or 1800 226 667
    • the Advertising Standards Bureau on (02) 6173 1500
    • the Australian Press Council on (02) 9261 1930 or 1800 025 712.

    Of course, you can also complain to the editor or manager of the media organisation causing the problem.

    Neighbour problems

    If you are having a problem with your neighbour, the Department of Human Services, Housing NSW or a Community Justice Centre may be able to help you, as they mediate problems between neighbours.

    Phone the Community Justice Centre head office on 1800 990 777 to find out where your nearest centre is.