The Greek Community of Melbourne have opposed the Australian Government’s plans to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. They join a number of influential community groups who are outspoken in their opposition of the proposed repealing of section 18C. The proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act will see the words “offend, insult and humiliate” removed from the current laws and replace with the word “vilify”.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the community have stated that the laws that celebrate diversity and Australia’s ethnic heritage need to be protected.
“Racial vilification has no place in this country and is at odds with its multicultural foundation,” said Bill Papastergiadis, president of the Greek Community of Melbourne.
“By allowing racial vilification, if anything, we believe it will result in reducing the capacity of people to express themselves freely,” he said in the letter.
The community said one of the benefits of living in Australia is the right to free speech and that Greek Australians have always been involved in robust debate and have therefore enjoyed the benefits of freedom of expression. However, it said it also respects the importance not to defame or incite discrimination when exercising that right.
“Freedom from racial discrimination is just as important as the freedom to express oneself.”
In its submission to the Attorney General’s Department, the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales said that it opposed the amendments that “would encourage those racist elements in the Australian community to voice their prejudices, their hatreds, without any recourse to those who are victims of such prejudices…”
NSW Citizenship Minister Victor Dominello and Victorian Multicultural Affairs Minister Matthew Guy said it was vital that the Federal Government did not “weaken protections in place against racial vilification”.