2 September 2021

VALS welcomes the Victorian Government’s announcement today that they will proceed with legislation to make Victoria a fairer place for everyone.

The Victorian Government has committed itself to implementing the recommendations of the Anti-Vilification Protections Inquiry tabled by the Legal and Social Issues Committee in March.

VALS worked closely with Charmaine Clarke to support her advocacy for these proposed changes. Charmaine was subjected to vilification in 2019 and was let down by the current anti-vilification laws that failed to hold the perpetrator to account.

Charmaine’s experience of vilification highlighted the unique way Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people experience discrimination in Victoria without access to justice. Laws that allow for perpetrators to be held to account are an important structural reform.

These laws will require an effective implementation process to ensure the promise of a fairer Victoria is fulfilled. VALS looks forward to working with the Victorian Government to do just that.

Particularly, we note that the Government will be considering whether further funding will be required for the provision of legal information and assistance to navigate the system for reporting vilification.

If Aboriginal people are not aware of their rights and are not supported through the process, if VALS cannot undertake strategic litigation in this area, these reforms will fail to achieve their objectives. It is critical that VALS is properly funded to provide culturally safe legal education, information, advice and representation to Aboriginal people in Victoria.

Quotes Attributable to Lee-Anne Carter, Statewide Community Justice Programs Leader, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

“Aboriginal communities are subjected to racial discrimination, systemic and structural exclusion on a daily basis. The Victorian Government’s anti-vilification reforms come after a long fight by so many communities.”

Any changes should be done in consultation with Aboriginal communities and led by communities. Too often processes and procedures are designed to exclude our participation, and this perpetuates the ongoing trauma, racism and discrimination faced by our communities. Changes need to ensure that Aboriginal communities can participate in a culturally safe way that provide assurance that our voices will be heard.

“A lot of credit has to go to Charmaine Clarke. It is not easy to make a stand. It is even harder to continue the fight for many years to make change. VALS is incredibly proud to have been a small part of Charmaine’s journey by supporting her advocacy.”

“VALS hopes that there will be bipartisan support in the Victoria Parliament for the proposed legislation, as there was for the committee report that made the recommendations for this legislation.”