The Online Hate Prevention Institute warmly welcomes the report of the Inquiry into anti-vilification protections which was tabled today in the Victorian Parliament. The Inquiry undertook extensive consultation. Committee members were deeply engaged and worked in a spirit of cooperation to ensure the best possible outcome could be reached for the Victorian community.

The report recommends the law protect against vilification on the basis of race, religion, gender and/or sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and / or gender expression, sex characteristics and / or intersex status, disability, or HIV/AIDS status. It also recommends extending coverage to vilification against the partners, children and other associates of those who would be protected. It also recommends lowering the barriers so the law can be more readily used.

The expansion of coverage and lowering of barriers is just the start of the critical work undertaken by this Inquiry. The report provides an in-depth understanding of the problem faced by many in the community who are targeted with hate and vilification because of their identity. It charts a way forward to address this growing problem. The hate has been fed by online culture, but increasingly manifests not only online, but also on our streets, in our workplaces and in our schools. It is feeding extremism and puts the safety of the community at risk. The action proposed in the report protects not only the victims of vilification, but in reducing the fuel for extremism, it will protect the whole community.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute provided two written submissions to the Inquiry and gave evidence in person. A number of our concerns and our recommendations are reflected in the Inquiry’s report and we thank the committee for their detailed consideration of our engagement with their work. We particularly welcome recommendation 35 in the report:
“That the Victorian Government work with relevant agencies, community organisations and stakeholders (such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the Online Hate Prevention Institute and others) to develop a strategy to reduce and prevent vilification online. The strategy should include steps to build digital literacy and online safety skills, data collection and publication and raising awareness of the application of the anti-vilification laws to online settings.”

The recommendation calls for an approach to online hate which will build community resilience, ensure transparency and accountability of online platforms, and which will promote greater use of anti-vilification law to directly tackle the threat posed by online hate. Most importantly, this recommendation will future proof the efforts to tackle online hate by ensuring there is active data collection and publication so that government agencies can respond to changes in the source of hate as technology changes, and the targets of hate as society changes.

We thank Ms Natalie Suleyman MP, Mr James Newbury MP, Ms Christine Couzens MP, Ms Emma Kealy MP, Ms Michaela Settle MP, Mr David Southwick MP and Mr Meng Heang Tak MP and the staff who supported them for all their efforts. We commend the Inquiry on its work and urge the government to adopt the recommendations and to provide sufficient funding, both for government agencies and civil society organisations, to enable a full and meaningful implementation.