The NSW Government has recently implemented new legislation that prohibits the act of vilification based on religious belief, affiliation, or activity. The Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act 2023 amends the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, making it illegal to, through a public act, incite hatred, serious contempt, or severe ridicule towards an individual or group due to their religious beliefs, affiliation, or activities.
The term 'public act' encompasses any form of verbal and non-verbal public communication or conduct.
These amendments complement the existing laws that already prohibit vilification based on race, homosexuality, transgender status, and HIV/AIDS status.
NSWCCL calls amendments a “missed opportunity”
Speaking to City Hub, Lydia Shelly, President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) described the amendments as a missed opportunity. She expressed her belief that everyone should be afforded protection from any kind of vilification.
“We are very disappointed that the government has rammed through the amendments to essentially protect, or favour, religious vilification over other forms of vilification, and it will still leave people essentially unprotected.”
Ms Shelly told City Hub, “I think it’s horrific that the government has cultivated a political environment where people of faith need to feel that the only way to secure their rights and liberties and protections is at the expense of other people in the community.”
“These amendments have been in the pipeline for a long time, but I certainly think that the fact that they’ve come about at a time where we’re seeing an increase in both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, is really quite important. Again, people of faith deserve to be protected from vilification, but it’s my view that it doesn’t take away the fact that these amendments fundamentally do not ensure that everybody is protected from harm and vilification. And that’s incredibly disappointing.”
Ms Shelly shared her concern for the government overlooking queer communities and their right to be protected, not just in this round of amendments but in the last decade especially.
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