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Regulating Racial Hatred

NCJ Number
S F Reid; R G Smith
Date Published
6 pages
The introduction of anti-racial vilification legislation in Australia and other countries has furthered the debate over two apparently conflicting rights, the right of all citizens to freedom of expression and the right of all citizens to live free from harassment and discrimination.
New South Wales was the first state to regulate racial hatred. The Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977 makes it unlawful to incite hatred toward, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a person or group of persons based on race. Since October 1989, it has been reported that the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales has dealt with a range of complaints dealing with racial vilification. Despite a gradual increase in the number of inquiries to the board regarding all forms of discrimination over the past 7 years, however, the number of inquiries and complaints regarding incidents of racial vilification has shown no clear trends. In recent years, most complaints of racial vilification have been made by males rather than females, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been the most frequently represented complainants of all ethnic groups. In Western Australia, the Criminal Code was amended in 1989 to regulate acts of racial hatred in direct response to various racist poster campaigns that occurred in the 1980s, but no prosecutions have occurred under this legislation. In Queensland, the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1991 provides that a person must not, by advocating racial or religious hatred, incite unlawful discrimination. In the Australian Capital Territory, the Discrimination Act of 1991 closely mirrors provisions of the New South Wales legislation and contains civil remedies for racial vilification and criminal penalties for serious racial vilification. Legislation has also been recently introduced in South Australia in response to concern about activities of extremist racial groups. The Racial Hatred Act of 1995, covering the entire Commonwealth of Australia, makes unlawful public acts that are reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate another person or group of persons. The effectiveness of the different laws is assessed in terms of criminal sanctions and civil remedies. 20 references and 2 tables


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