Hate-Crime in Victoria – next step announced

// December 9th, 2009 // AVP news, Within Australia

The Anti Violence Project of Victoria (AVP) applauded today’s announcement by state Attorney General Hulls of the next step towards addressing hate-crimes including homophobic harassment and violence.

“We welcome the establishment of Justice Geoffrey Eames’ review of Victoria’s hate-crimes legislation,” said AVP head Greg Adkins, adding that the announcement was a key part of the Brumby government’s continued progressive reform agenda which reinforces recent changes in criminal sentencing.

“This review is a welcome next step, but it’s not the last step by any means.

“Currently all violence and hate-crime reporting services for the LGBT community, outside Victoria Police, are provided without funding by the AVP. Our work supports people experiencing hate and prejudice motivated crime but we are limited by the absence of government funding.

“Outcomes from this review of hate-crime laws must be matched with the provision of an ongoing funding model to sustain the work currently undertaken by AVP volunteers on behalf of the LGBT community.

“Hate-crimes are criminal acts. They can cover a range of offences against the person and can often target an individual’s property. And if one gay man, one lesbian or one transgender individual is a victim of a hate-crime then the State has a responsibility to ensure that every crime is reported, that in each case the perpetrators are brought to justice and future hate-crime is prevented.

“Sadly, hate-crime against the LGBT community is vastly under-reported and research shows that lack of funds limits the way the AVP can engage our community to fully support the reporting of violence, leaving Victoria Police to allocate limited resources responding to a hidden pool of hate and prejudice motivated crime.

“During the 12 year life of Victoria’s AVP we have worked within the community to deal with a wide range of hate-crime including verbal harassment and vilification, intimidation on the streets and in the workplace or at school, threats and property damage and even physical assault and murder. All have been committed due to a bias or prejudice by the perpetrator against us because of our sexual orientation or gender identification.

“This means that perpetrators of hate-crime intentionally choose us as the targets of the crime because of who we are.

“Today’s welcome review announcement by the Attorney General is the opportunity for the GLBT community to submit to Justice Eames that existing law in Victoria must be amended to draw a line in the sand on hate-crime, these amendments identify that crimes motivated by bias or prejudice based on our unique personal sexual orientation and gender characteristics should regarded as higher-end crime, and that increased or additional penalties should be imposed for bias and prejudice motivated crime”.

Adkins said that the GLBT community stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Victorians of other races, languages, faith and religious beliefs, nationalities, ethnicities and disabilities, when it comes to the issue of hate-crime.

“It is our individual attributes that lead some people to target crime against us in a biased way. For far too long a majority of our society and the institutions supporting it, have sat silently on their hands while hate motivated crime impacts people’s lives and the Attorney General’s announcement sets the stage for real outcomes targeting hate-crime.

“We feel very positively that this review will establish benchmark offences and penalties that appropriately reflect the serious nature of bias and hate motivated crimes in our society where we should be equals with people regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion and disability.

The AVP applauded the Attorney General’s direction to review head Justice Eames to have particular regard to the “With Respect” discussion paper and the principles of the Human Rights Charter.

“This review enhances any potential outcomes from the work of the ALSO Foundation, the AVP, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Transgender Victoria in their partnership taking “With Respect” to the next step, the development of a state-wide homophobic harassment strategy,” Adkins said.

“It also highlights the need for funding of community organisations who are delivering the means of supporting victims of hate and prejudice motivated crime and working to increase the poor current levels of hate-crime reporting.

The AVP looks forward to consulting with Justice Eames at the earlier opportunity during his review

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