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Nazi symbol prohibition in Victoria – Crime



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The public display of Nazi symbols is now an offence in
Victoria. There has been a recent increase in the public display of
Nazi symbols in Victoria and the legislation was introduced to
‘assist in combating racism, vilification and far-right
extremism in our community’.1

Amendments were made to the Summary Offences Act 1966
in June 2022 to introduce new Division 4C (sections 41I to 41M)
which contains an introductory statement, definitions and the
offences. These offences will come into effect from January 2023 to
allow time for compliance with the new laws.

Meaning of ‘Nazi Symbol’

The introductory statement in the legislation distinguishes
between the swastika used as ‘an ancient and auspicious symbol
of purity, love, peace and good fortune in Buddhist, Hindu, Jain
and other religions’ and the distorted version of the swastika
used by Nazi groups known as the Hakenkreuz (meaning twisted or
hooked cross in German).

The legislation explains that ‘the Hakenkreuz became a
symbol of the Third Reich, under which heinous crimes were
perpetrated against humanity, particularly the Jewish people. The
Hakenkreuz is a symbol of antisemitism and hatred and of an
ideology fundamentally incompatible with Victoria’s
multicultural, multiethnic and democratic
society’.2

The Act defines a Nazi symbol as either being the swastika
version known as the Hakenkreuz, being a symbol of the cross with
the arms bent at right angles in a clockwise direction OR a symbol
that so nearly resembles it that it might be mistaken for that
symbol.3

It is now a criminal offence to display a Nazi symbol or refuse
to remove a Nazi symbol.

41K – Public Display of Nazi Symbols

Under s 41K4, it is an offence to
intentionally display a Nazi symbol if the Police
can prove that you know (or should
reasonably know
) that the symbol is associated with Nazi
ideology and this display is in a public place or
is within sight of a person who is in a public
place. The penalty for this offence is 120 penalty units or 12
months
imprisonment
(or both).

There are a number of exceptions to the offence. So long as you
are acting in good faith, these include:

  • for a genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific
    purpose; or

  • for a genuine cultural or educational purpose; or

  • in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event
    or matter of public interest; or

  • in opposition to fascism, Nazism, neo-Nazism or other related
    ideologies.

Further, it is not an offence if a Nazi symbol is displayed on
your body by means of tattoo or other process.

Under s 41L – Direction to Remove Nazi Symbol From Public
Display

The Police may direct that you remove a Nazi symbol if they
believe you are committing an offence against s 41K.5 This direction
can be given orally or in writing and must include the compliance
period. If the direction cannot be given in-person, the Police can
leave a notice at the property where the Nazi symbol is displayed
or leave a notice on a vehicle where the symbol is displayed. You
can be fined 10 penalty units for not complying with a valid
request for removal of a Nazi symbol.

Conclusion

It is now an offence to display a Nazi symbol in public unless
you have a legitimate cultural, artistic or religious purpose. A
Nazi symbol is specifically the swastika version known as the
Hakenkreuz (meaning twisted or hooked cross in German). If you
should reasonably know what this looks like and purposefully
display it in public, you may be charged. You can display the
symbol also if you are protesting against Nazism (for example
displaying the Hakenkreuz with a line or a cross through it). You
will not be charged for having a Nazi symbol tattooed on your body.
If the Police ask you to take down a Nazi symbol, you must comply
or you can be fined for refusal.

Footnotes

1 Explanatory Memorandum, Summary Offences
Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022
(Vic)

2 s 41I, Summary Offences Act (Vic)

3 Definitions, s 41J, Summary Offences Act
(Vic)

4 s 41K, Summary Offences Act (Vic)

5 s 41L, Summary Offences Act (Vic)

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