It’s an important day for gender equality in Victoria – today, the Victorian Parliament passed its first gender equality law, which promises more equitable workplaces and fairer treatment for Victoria’s 380,000 public sector workers.

From sensational headlines that tie the coronavirus to nationality, to advertisements that peddle tired old stereotypes about China, over the last fortnight we’ve seen many unfortunate examples of racism directed towards members of the Chinese community. 

Victoria’s anti-vilification laws are not adequately protecting Victorians from hate speech, trolling and other hate crimes – and there’s an urgent need for stronger protections, says the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Today, Victoria advances one step closer to gender equality. The Victorian Parliament’s Lower House is debating the state’s first Gender Equality Bill which promises more equitable workplaces and fairer treatment for women in the public sector.

 

A young gay retail worker feels unsafe going to work after her supervisor posts on Twitter that gay people are sinners and destined for hell. A group of school students are refused access to a camp site because their school’s curriculum doesn’t accord with the beliefs of the camp site owners. A business feels powerless to protect its female workers when one of its senior managers states repeatedly online that, according to his faith, women should be subservient to their husbands and that they don’t belong in the workplace.

Aboriginal flag crop

The 26 January marks a defining moment for Australia as a nation. But in recent years, there’s been a growing acknowledgement that for Australia’s First Nations peoples, the date is layered with pain and sadness. It marks the beginning of a period in which their communities experienced the loss of many lives and the erosion of culture and traditions. 

Vilification cropped

Distressing news reports emerged earlier this week about a Nazi flag flying above a house in regional Victoria.

The symbols on that flag are more than just lines and colours – they represent hate and trauma for so many people around the world, including the members of Victoria’s Jewish community. To display that flag publicly is reprehensible – it runs counter to community values and the importance Victorians place on inclusion and diversity. It has no place in this state.

Woman holding sign at rally - what lessens one of us lessens all of us

There is a clear message in yesterday’s County Court’s decision to uphold Victoria’s first conviction under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act – that there is no place in Victoria for hateful conduct that incites ridicule and contempt for members of our community because of how they look, where they are from or what they believe.

For many in modern Australia, it’s easy to imagine that our human rights and freedoms are well protected. But some Australians have less assurance of this - young people navigating the youth justice system, vulnerable individuals and families relying daily on public housing, disability services or social security, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities seeking to uphold their cultural rights.

The Gender Equality Bill being introduced to Parliament today promises better opportunities for women in the public sector and fairer, more equitable workplaces.

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