Vilification case studies

Warning: These are real life examples and contain language or content that may offend.

Vilification on the basis of race, religion, sexuality or gender identity is unlawful in Queensland. It is prohibited by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

The vilification case summaries are grouped into two categories: court and tribunal decisions, and conciliated outcomes.

Court and tribunal decisions are made after all the evidence is heard, including details of loss and damage. The full text of court and tribunal decisions is available from:

Conciliated outcomes are where the parties have reached an agreement through conciliation at the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

Court and tribunal decisions

Student racially ridiculed by trainer

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Racial vilification
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $10,500, plus refund of course fees
Year 2013

Summary: An Indian student studying hospitality at a college was called a f***ing Indian , told to go back to your country , and called Rudi (which is insulting in Punjabi) by the head trainer. This occurred in front of other people including other trainers. After calling the student Rudi the head trainer laughed and the other trainers also laughed.

The tribunal was satisfied the insults were public acts , and taking into account that the student was in a disadvantaged and powerless position with respect to the trainers, the mocking and derision amounted to severe ridicule which was extremely distressing for the student. The other trainers were actually incited by the Rudi comment to laugh at the student.

The tribunal also found the student had been racially discriminated against and victimised. He was awarded compensation for his pain, suffering, embarrassment and humiliation of $10,500 ($3,500 each for vilification, discrimination and victimisation) and the college was ordered to refund for fees for the courses of $22,787.

Singh v Shafston Training One Pty Ltd [2013] QCAT 8

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Persistent abuse over CB radio

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Racial vilification and sexual harassment
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $10,000
Year 2012

Summary: The woman in the case below was referred to over the CB radio as a dago , wog , slut , gypsy , and import . The man who made the comments was a friend of the man in the case below and had given evidence for him. This man  also gave out the woman's address as a place to go for sex, and made many comments about f***ing her.

Using these words had the effect of inciting contempt for, or severe ridicule of the woman because of her race.

The tribunal said this case was more serious than the earlier case because it continued for a longer period and was more persistent. The woman was awarded compensation of $10,000 and  the man was ordered not to racially vilify or sexually harass the woman.

Casey v Blume [2012] QCAT 627

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Racial abuse over CB radio

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Racial vilification and sexual harassment
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $5,000
Year 2011

Summary: A woman who speaks with a strong accent (and was from the former Yugoslavia) was called wog , import , dago , truckie slut and whore and told to go home over a CB radio channel. The woman obtained a Peace and Good Behaviour Order against the man who was making the comments. Shortly after the Order the man announced over the CB radio to give the woman as much sh*t as you like . The man also broadcast the woman's address as a place to go for sex, and men did come to her home looking for sex.

The tribunal said that words such as import used on their own may be racial vilification in the context of hostile, aggressive or abusive exchanges. The CB radio culture was highly racially and sexually abusive.

The tribunal found that the man had racially vilified and sexually harassed the woman, and that he had encouraged others to do so too. The woman was awarded $5,000 compensation for the pain and suffering she experienced.

Casey v Flanagan [2011] QCAT 320.

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Abuse and threat of violence to transgender person

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Gender identity vilification and sexual harassment
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $15,000
Year 2011

Summary: A transgender woman was woken late at night by yelling from the footpath outside her home. A group of people, including a neighbour, were calling out abuse such as You f***ing faggot, you have your f***ing dick in a jar .

The neighbour then wrenched a wooden paling from the fence and shouted Has anyone got a box of matches so we can burn the f***ing faggot's place down?

The tribunal found this form of gang-style violence constituted sexual harassment, vilification on the grounds of gender identity, as well as the offence of serious vilification, which is punishable by imprisonment or fine.

The woman was terrified and experienced anxiety and stress, and she continued to feel unsafe around her home.

The tribunal awarded compensation of $10,000 for vilification and $5,000 for sexual harassment.

Brosnahan v Ronoff [2011] QCAT 439 (16 August 2011)

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Public abuse by neighbours

Type of outcome  Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Queensland decision
Contravention Sexuality vilification and sexual harassment
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $21,000
Year 2008

Summary:

A same sex couple experienced ongoing verbal abuse from mother and son neighbours.

The tribunal found that some incidents amounted to sexuality vilification under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 as they were public acts that were clearly designed to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for or severe ridicule of the complainants on the ground of their homosexuality, including:

  • They were called faggots to their faces, to their landlord and in circumstances where neighbours were potentially able to hear it.
  • When Mr Wilson was in his driveway getting help from a mobile battery supplier, Mr Lawson peered over the fence and said Make sure those poofs pay you. They have a habit of not doing that. .

The Tribunal also found that some remarks amounted to sexual harassment as they were made with sexual connotations and with the intent of offending, humiliating or intimidating them, including:

  • Mrs Lawson repeatedly described the complainants as faggots .
  • Mr Lawson referred to Mr Wilson and Mr McCollum repeatedly as princess (accompanied by a wolf whistle), as ladie as girls , and once as poofs

The Tribunal found that the use of the term wanker was not sexual harassment as it did not contain a sexual connotation.

Compensation of $9,500 and $11,500 was awarded to Mr McCollum and Mr Wilson, respectively for sexuality vilification and sexual harassment.

Wilson and McCollum v Lawson and Anor [2008] QADT 27 (6 November 2008)

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Complaint by a relevant entity

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Sexuality vilification
Outcome Complaint upheld
Orders Public apologies; legal costs
Year 2007

Summary: The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex Anti-Violence Committee Inc (GLBTI Committee) made a complaint of sexuality vilification. The GLBTI Committee is entitled under section 134(5) of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (the ADA) to make a complaint of vilification, because its purpose is to promote the welfare and interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

A local newspaper published an edited version of a letter to the editor. It was headed POOFTERS BEWARE!!! and included threat of physical violence to homosexuals at the beaches. The published version of the letter said that three posses of vigilantes were elected at a meeting of local residents and that homosexuals would be warned, told to leave, and they should do so. It also noted that the letter included threats that the editor was not prepared to print.

The complaint was made against the editor of the newspaper and the author of the letter.

Thetribunal found that the publication of the article was a public act that had the capacity to incite the ordinary reasonable person to hate homosexuals.

The tribunal ordered that:

  • each respondent make a published public apology, in words decided by the tribunal, in the Mission Beach Advertiser and another local paper; and
  • the respondents pay the legal costs of the GLBTI Committee.

GLBTI v Wilks and Anor [2007] QADT 27 (30 November 2007)

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Accused of being a paedophile

Type of outcome Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Queensland decision
Contravention Sexuality vilification
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $3,000
Year 2005

Summary: Mr Peters worked as a drag queen, Tamara Tonite, and hosted a well known television show.

A debt collector attended Mr Peters' home. When Mr Peters refused to open his door the debt collector shouted abuse from the front of the home, calling Mr Peters a gutless wonder , a paedophile and saying that he would see him at the Wickham Hotel —  a well known gay hotel in Brisbane. Neighbours in the vicinity were likely to have heard what went on outside Mr Peters' house that morning.

The tribunal was satisfied that paedophilia is a characteristic often wrongly attributed to homosexual men. Together with the reference to the Wickham Hotel, the tribunal was satisfied that the comments were made on the grounds of Mr Peters' sexuality.

The tribunal decided that there was incitement, saying: I bear in mind that an accusation of paedophilia is a very serious accusation and one likely to cause serious damage to the complainant's relations with anyone who overheard it.

$3,000 was awarded to Mr Peters for his distress, after taking into account that Mr Peters had settled a claim with the respondent's employer at the Anti-Discrimination Commission.

Peters v Constance [2005] QADT 9 (23 May 2005)

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Public interest exception

Type of outcome Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Queensland decision
Contravention Religious vilification
Outcome Application dismissed
Year 2001

Summary: A candidate in a federal election distributed a pamphlet that contained some of his opinions, which included views about the content of the Koran, and about people who believe in its teachings. It claimed that believers of the teachings of the Koran are prone to disobey the laws of Australia when they conflict with the teachings of the Koran, to the extent of being prepared to commit murder.

A complaint was lodged by Mr Deen who is a Muslim and the Chairman of the Islamic Council of Queensland. He applied for interim relief to prohibit further publication of the pamphlet.

The tribunal was of the opinion that the candidate had, by distributing the pamphlet (a public act), incited serious contempt for and hatred of Muslims as a whole.

However, the defence in section 124A(2)(c) applied. This defence provides that it is not unlawful to do a public act with the relevant tendency to incite, provided it is done reasonably and in good faith for a purpose in the public interest, including public discussion or debate and exposition of any matter.

The tribunal said :

It is plain that...the legislature did not intend to stifle debate, even acrimonious debate, upon matters of public interest and importance...even acts and publications that do indeed incite hatred, serious contempt and severe ridicule are to be tolerated provided certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is that the person acts in good faith.

The tribunal found that the candidate had produced and distributed the pamphlet in good faith. The pamphlet had been published by him in order to persuade electors, by a disclosure of his opinions, that he deserved their vote. The pamphlet was concise and had been written in moderate language, and there was no suggestion that it had been published or disseminated other than in the electorate.

The tribunal noted that the public has an interest in knowing the opinions of candidates, even when those views are unreasonable, unsupported, one-sided or even plainly wrong .

Deen v Lamb [2001] QADT 20 (8 November 2001)

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