Most Australian states and territories are still lacking hate crime laws, but that might be about to change for Queensland.

Queensland has had more than its share of hate incidents.

A Muslim woman whose family had been in Australia for more than 100 years, was told “I’m sick of you people, why don’t you f*** off… go back to where you came from,” while being physically intimidated at her car. Her infant and daughter were with her.

Queensland is home to people from more than 220 countries with over 100 religious beliefs and 180 languages being spoken at home. This is a significant strength that needs to be protected to maintain social cohesion and to achieve health and economic prosperity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs.

Religious hatred and racial intolerance carry horrific consequences and psychological costs in the form of ongoing trauma for the victims.

The current Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, particularly involving serious vilification, does not cover most attacks that communities continue to experience. As a result, the community has lost confidence to report at all. Perpetrators also quickly get the message that there are no real consequences.

The #BetterLaws4SafeQld campaign was launched by a coalition of communities in September 2020 and supported by the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

The Community Coalition represents more than twenty diverse ethnic and religious communities. The Palaszczuk Government has committed to a Parliamentary Inquiry to investigate the legal options put forward by these groups.

On the table are some initial ideas like introducing substantive hate crime laws, community scrutiny panels to improve police investigations, and civil injunctions to provide longer term victim protection.

The biggest aim is to increase community confidence in the justice system.

“We know that’s only a fraction of the number of incidents which take place,” says Scott McDougall, Queensland’s Human Rights Commissioner.

He further adds, “Community surveys do show the majority of people who are targeted by hate speech don’t report their experiences, and that one of the reasons is that some people feel their experiences of this are so frequent that they don’t see the point in reporting it. That should distress all of us, and it’s one of the things we hope this campaign will help change.” 

Rita Jabri-Markwell, one of the Co-Chairs of the Coalition says the Muslim community knows first-hand why these changes are essential.

“There is a real sense of optimism that Queensland might become a leading state in protecting citizens against hate,” Rita says.

The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) is one of the members of the Coalition and has been lending its expertise, along with lawyers from other communities. AMAN is ​also looking to transfer ideas and good practice between states through the Australian Hate Crime Network.

Ali Kadri and the Islamic Council of Queensland were leading forces in establishing the coalition. Kadri remains a very vocal advocate for the campaign on social media and in the news.

Muslim community members should continue to report to the Islamophobia Register, at www.islamophobia.com.au/report/.

To learn more about the Better Laws for Safe Queensland Campaign, visit: https://betterlawsforsafeqld.com.au/