Victorian multicultural policy is underpinned by the Multicultural Victoria Act 2011, Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. This legislation is in addition to Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination law. For further information, refer to Equal Opportunity — Employees.

Multicultural Victoria Act 2011

The principles of multiculturalism are enshrined in the Multicultural Victoria Act 2011 including:

  • all Victorians are entitled to mutual respect and understanding regardless of their cultural, religious, racial and linguistic backgrounds
  • all individuals and institutions in Victoria should promote and preserve diversity and cultural heritage within the context of shared laws, values, aspirations and responsibilities
  • all individuals in Victoria (regardless of background) should work together to build a positive and progressive future and this co‐operation is to be encouraged so as to enhance Victoria as a great place in which to live, work, invest and raise a family,
  • all individuals in Victoria are equally entitled to access opportunities and participate in and contribute to the social, cultural, economic and political life of this State,
  • all Victorians have a responsibility to abide by the State’s laws and respect the democratic processes under which those laws are made

Department, managers, principals, school councils, employees and students are required to act in accordance with the principles of the Multicultural Victoria Act 2011 including the amendments made in 2008.

Act also specifies reporting requirements for all departments in relation to multicultural affairs.

Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 promotes equal participation in an open and multicultural democracy and prohibits the vilification of persons on the ground of race or religious belief or activity. The Act provides a means of redress for the victims of racial or religious vilification and gives powers to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to help people resolve complaints.

Act covers people’s actions and behaviours not their beliefs. The Act describes ‘vilification’ as conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, a person's racial or religious background. The Act also deals with ‘serious vilification’ which includes threatening, or inciting others to threaten or physically harm people or their property.

Act recognises the consequences of vilification on the individual and the community including diminishing an individual’s sense of self‐worth, dignity and belonging to the community. Racial and religious vilification can also reduce an individual’s ability to contribute to and participate in the social, political, economic and cultural life of our society. This has the effect of reducing the benefit that diversity brings to the community.

Act covers public behaviour (including use of the internet and email) which has the effect of inciting hatred, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of people's racial or religious backgrounds and practices. For instance, the Act makes it illegal to:

  • write racist graffiti in public places
  • make racist speeches at a public rally
  • display racist posters or stickers in a public place
  • engage in racist or religious vilifying abuse in a public place
  • make offensive racist comments in a publication including internet and email

The legislation has been drafted to maintain freedom of speech while protecting the rights of all people in our society to participate as equals. The Act includes exceptions for conduct or discussion which is engaged in reasonably and in good faith in relation to:

  • an artistic work or performance
  • a statement, publication, discussion or debate in any genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purpose or which may be considered in the public interest
  • a fair or accurate report on a matter of public interest
  • private conduct

An important aspect of the Act is the responsibility of all employers to maintain workplaces free of racial and religious vilification. Vicarious liability provisions apply (Section 17 and 18).

Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 identifies 20 human rights that reflect 4 basic principles of freedom, respect, equality and dignity. All departmental staff must respect and promote the rights set out in the Charter by making decisions and providing advice consistent with human rights. Consideration of human rights is a public sector value in the Public Administration Act 2004.

For further information, go to the Human Rights Charter. Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities *OPSE do you want the link to the legislation here or link to the topic? Assuming link to topic?

Legislation for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the Workplace

Reviewed 30 March 2020

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