Open letter to Attorney General – 18C

All Together Now is proud to be one of 156 organisations that have endorsed an open letter to Australia’s Attorney General about Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. All Together Now’s Managing Director, Priscilla Brice, was also part of the panel at the press conference. The letter was sent to the Attorney on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013.


10 December 2013

Dear Attorney

We write to urge you not to repeal the racial vilification provisions in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). It is vital that there are strong and effective protections against racial vilification in Australian law.

Racial hatred causes serious harm to individuals and diminishes us all as a community. It increases the likelihood of racial discrimination and racist violence.

Unfortunately racism remains widespread in our Australian community. Racial vilification complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission increased 59 per cent last year. According to the Challenging Racism Project, approximately 20 per cent of Australians have experienced forms of race hate.

The Racial Discrimination Act has long played a critical role in combating racial hatred and protecting individuals and groups against discrimination and hate speech based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.

The protections against racial vilification in section 18C of the Act make it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the basis of race. Section 18D contains safeguards that protect freedom of speech and appropriately balance it with freedom from vilification. Fair comment on public interest matters is completely protected by these safeguards if it is done reasonably and in good faith.

The right to freedom of speech is fundamental to our democracy but it is not absolute. Australian laws place limits on our speech and expression in areas like defamation, false advertising, sexual harassment and threats to kill.

The Australian Government should demonstrate its commitment to the diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious communities that make up the rich fabric of our multicultural nation by ruling out any repeal of the racial vilification provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Australia is obliged under international law to prohibit acts that promote racial hatred. Repealing these provisions will produce a situation in which there are no clear limits for racist hate speech in Australia. Strong and effective protections against racial vilification must be maintained. Any changes to the laws should only be undertaken with extreme caution and involve a comprehensive public consultation process.

More information

The media release and further information is available on the Human Rights Law Centre website. Media coverage included:

NITV: Over 150 groups rally against changes to racial discrimination laws

PM (ABC NEWS): Groups urge Fed Govt to retain race act

SBS World News Australia: Pleas for strong and effective racial vilification laws

The Guardian: George Brandis urged to drop his review of Racial Discrimination Act Goodes against changes to racial laws

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