Displaying Nazi Symbols (Vic)

In Victoria, it is a criminal offence to display a Nazi symbol in public or to perform a Nazi gesture in public. These offences were introduced during 2022 and 2023 in response to a growing number of hate crimes and a rise in antisemitism in Australia. This page outlines what is involved in these offences and the public responses to the changes.

Legislation

In 2022, the Victorian government passed the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Act 2022. The amendment made it an offence to display Nazi symbols.

In 2023, the Summary Offences Act was further amended with the passage of the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Salute Prohibition) Act 2023. This amendment made it an offence to display a Nazi gesture.

Nazi symbols

Nazi symbols are defined as including:

  • a Hakenkreuz (Swastika)
  • any other symbol used by the Nazi Party
  • a symbol that so closely resembles a Hakenkreuz that it could easily be mistaken for one

Nazi gestures

A Nazi gesture includes:

  • the Sieg Heil, also known as the Hitler salute or Nazi salute
  • any other gesture used by the Nazi Party
  • a gesture that so closely resembles a Nazi gesture that it could easily be mistaken for one

Offence

Under section 41K of the Summary Offences Act 1966, a person must not intentionally display a Nazi gesture or symbol if:

  • the person knows or ought reasonably to know that it is a Nazi gesture or symbol; and
  • the display occurs in or within sight of a person in a public place, non-government school or post-secondary educational institution.

This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 120 penalty units, imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

Defence

A person charged with this offence has a defence available to them if the display occurred reasonably and in good faith for:

  • for a genuine academic, artistic, educational or scientific purpose; or
  • in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest.

Jurisdiction

A person charged with displaying a Nazi symbol or gesture will be dealt with by the Magistrates Court.

Other states

Similar legislation has been passed in several other Australian states.

In New South Wales and Tasmania, Nazi symbols have now been banned, with Queensland laws prohibiting hate symbols generally.

The federal government has also introduced legislation to prohibited specific hate symbols including the Swastika and the Islamic State flag.  

Responses to the new laws

While some sectors of the community have welcomed the laws, saying that Nazi symbols have no place in Australia, the new offences have also caused concern and attracted criticism.

Some critics have argued that the laws may have unintended consequences – such as confirming the view held by some extremists that they are persecuted and targeted by governments. In this way, the offences could lead to an increase in the use of these symbols and gestures.

It has also been argued that prohibiting specific symbols is the wrong approach. Many other symbols are also used by extremist groups. Others have pointed out that banning a symbol that is associated with an ideology is an ineffective way of addressing the movement that it represents.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Author

Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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