Following a series of anti-LGBTQ+ incidents across Australia, advocates are calling on the Government to implement stronger legal protections for Rainbow communities.
Concerns have been expressed by Equality Australia that there is a lack of uniformity in laws across Australia, leaving the rainbow community vulnerable to hate speech and discrimination.
Currently, no laws in Victoria, South Australia, or Western Australia protect LGBTQ+ people from vilification, including inciting hatred in the public sphere, whether online or on the steps of parliament.
In Victoria, however, the Government has agreed to implement anti-vilification laws, with the state’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, saying implementing the laws “remained one of her priorities.” While this is a step forward, the process is complex and could take some time.
Legal director at Equality Australia, Ghassan Kassisieh, said that the patchiness of laws across Australia was leaving the community vulnerable to hate speech and discrimination.
“Without offences in Victoria that deal with serious vilification, the police have no powers to deal with Nazi salutes or hate speech directed at trans people,” he explained.
“It only takes one person with extremist views to cause widespread tragedy, and anti-vilification laws will help prevent hate from spreading.”
Laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community also differ across the country. For example, teachers in New South Wales can be fired from religious schools for their sexuality. Meanwhile, in Queensland, the Law Reform Commission has recommended adding sex characteristics to laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community so intersex people are covered. In Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, explicit laws make it illegal to incite hatred against someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.
Dr. Sav Zwickl, a researcher at Trans Health Research, said that while recent protests have been highly visible, there has been “a long lingering issue of discrimination” against the trans community.
Additionally, research shows that 60% of transgender people in Australia have experienced verbal abuse, and one in five has experienced physical abuse because they are trans.
Zwickl adds that while legislation helps, ultimately, attitudes and culture are the main driving force in making real change, adding, “Anywhere between 0.5% and 4% of the population is trans; that’s a significant number of people. We are everywhere. We need to shift the narrative and celebrate diversity.”