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Prejudice and racial and religious vilification

Prejudice or hatred increases the severity of crime.

It is an aggravating factor and can occur as part of any crime. It makes crimes more serious because they impact the broader community as well as the specific victim.

Victoria Police takes prejudice motivated crime very seriously.

  • Some crimes in our community are motivated by prejudice.

    These incidents of violence and hate are not okay.

    Targeting you based on how you look, your background, your sexuality, your age, your disability, should never happen, but we know it does, and it will not be tolerated.

    Victoria Police takes your safety very seriously and we will investigate.

    We know these crimes and incidents have increased but do not always get reported to police.

    If you or someone you know have been the victim of a crime, please report it.

    If the crime is motivated by prejudice or hate, please tell us.

    Because if we don’t know, we can’t do anything about it.

    We also want people to feel safe and supported when reporting a crime like this.

    We call them prejudice motivated crimes or incidents.

    There are many ways you can report a prejudice motivated crime or incident.

    You can come into the police station, contact Victoria Police by phone or online, or report it to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

    If you have information that can help solve a prejudice motivated crime, you can share this anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

    Speak out.

    Together we can make Victoria safer for everyone.

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Prejudice motivated crime

A prejudice motivated crime is any crime motivated by bias or hatred towards a person or a group. This crime would be because of the victim’s actual or perceived characteristic/s.

These might be:

  • religion
  • race
  • sex
  • age
  • disability
  • sexual identity
  • gender identity
  • homelessness
  • political activity.

It doesn’t matter if the person has one of these characteristics. What matters is the perpetrator is targeting the victim because they believe the victim belongs to a group, which has one of these characteristics.

Prejudice motivated crimes:

  • undermine community harmony
  • reduce people’s perception of safety
  • make people feel isolated.

Crimes motivated by prejudice can harm:

  • the victim
  • family and friends
  • other vulnerable groups.

Forms of prejudice motivated crime

Any crime may be motivated by prejudice, for example:

  • Obscene, threatening, insulting, abusive words and behaviours
    • this may involve name calling or threats referencing one of the characteristics above.
  • Physical assault and violent behaviours, including:
    • hitting
    • punching
    • pushing
    • slapping
    • kicking
    • beating
    • assault with weapons
    • rape
    • murder
    • or threaten to do any of the above.
  • Damage to property:
    • offensive graffiti
    • desecration of graves or places of worship
    • vandalism to cars
    • smashing windows
    • arson.
  • Harassment:
    • making false complaints
    • stalking
    • persistent phone calls
    • emails
    • texts
  • Hate mail:
    • distributing offensive leaflets or posters
    • threatening letters or other material delivered either by hand or via the postal system.
  • Online targeting:
    • hate messages/posts targeting individuals or members of a minority group.

These crimes are prosecuted under a range of laws, including Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001External Link , Crimes Act 1958External Link or Summary Offences Act 1966External Link .

Regardless of what law applies, the most important thing is for the crime to be reported to police.

Example of a prejudice motivated crime

A vehicle is spray-painted with 'kill all Asians’. The graffiti was motivated by prejudice because the perpetrator believed the owner to be Asian.

The crime is property damage. The motivation behind that property damage makes this a prejudice motivated crime.

Prejudice motivated incident

A prejudice motivated incident doesn’t meet the threshold of a crime.

Like prejudice motivated crimes, prejudice motivated incident target the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim. They affect more than the target of the abuse.

Example of a prejudice motivated incident

A taxi driver refuses to take a man because he is Aboriginal. The actions of the driver were motivated by prejudice but were not of a criminal nature.

This incident should be reported to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights CommissionExternal Link (VEOHRC).

Racial and religious vilification

Racial or religious vilification is when a person incites:

  • hatred
  • revulsion, or
  • ridicule

of another person because of the other person's race or religion.

It is against the law and we investigate and prosecute these crimes. VEOHRCExternal Link can also help.

Nazi symbols and gestures

It is a criminal offence to intentionally display or perform Nazi symbols or gestures if:

  • you know, or should reasonably know, that the symbol or gesture is supporting Nazi ideology
  • the display is in a public place or in public view
  • your display does not fall within one of several exceptions in the new lawsExternal Link .

It is also an offence to refuse to follow police direction to remove a Nazi symbol or gesture from public view.

Nazi symbols include the Nazi Hakenkreuz, and other symbols used by the Nazi party.

Nazi gestures include the salute, a common gesture used by the Nazi party. The arm is extended out in front of the body with the hand flat and palm down.

More information on the laws criminalising the public display of Nazi symbols and gestures, including information on permitted uses, is available on the Victorian Government websiteExternal Link .

Reporting to police

We know many people do not report prejudice motivated crimes or incidents to police. This makes it difficult for police to investigate and prevent the crimes from recurring.

If anyone is in immediate danger, a crime is currently occurring, or you require police attendance please call police on Triple Zero (000).

When there is no immediate danger:

If you think the event is motivated by prejudice, please contact police.

We will investigate and determine if a crime has been committed.

If there has been no crime, you can consider civil action through the Australian Human Rights CommissionExternal Link (AHRC) or VEOHRCExternal Link .

Police will still take a report of the incident.

Community Liaison Officer support

We understand that for some people attending a police station can create stress and anxiety or may be difficult due to accessibility needs. If this applies to you, please contact your Community Liaison Officer.

While Liaison Officers will not actively investigate the matter, they will provide support throughout the reporting process.

Making a civil complaint

Civil complaints of vilification are different from criminal complaints of vilification.

You can contact the AHRCExternal Link or VEOHRCExternal Link for information.

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Civil complaints about racial hatred under the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975External Link can be lodged with the AHRCExternal Link .

You can contact the AHRC for more information, via:

GPO Box 5218
Complaints Infoline: 1300 656 419

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC)

Complaints about racial and religious vilification under the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001External Link can be made to the VEOHRCExternal Link .

More information about vilification can be found at Racial and religious vilificationExternal Link .

Phone: 1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583
Interpreters: 1300 152 494
TTY: 1300 289 621

National Relay Service, Call the Helpdesk on 1800 555 660

Community resources

Download our resources available for community in the following languages:

Reviewed 01 January 2024

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