Victoria Becomes First Australian State to Ban Public Display of Nazi Swastikas

A wooden swastika is seen in the backyard of a home in the Caulfield suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

June 23, 2022

The Australian state of Victoria — where Melbourne, home to Australia’s largest Jewish community, is located — passed legislation on Tuesday banning the public display of Nazi swastikas.

The new law — taking effect in six months to allow for time for a public education campaign — institutes penalties of up to a year in prison or a $15,000 fine for offenders who intentionally exhibit the swastika and refuse to take it down.

Victoria is the first Australian state or territory to pass such legislation.

“Nobody has the right to spread racism, hate or antisemitism,” Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said.

Australia has seen disturbing rises in far-right extremism and antisemitic hate crimes in recent years.

In February 2020, Australia’s intelligence chief, Mike Burgess, described neo-Nazis as a “real threat” to national security.

More recently, a study published by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) found there was a 35% increase in antisemitic incidents in Australia in 2021 from the previous year — 447 compared to 331 in 2020.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes commented, “It’s a proud moment to see these important laws pass – it sends the strongest possible message that this vile behaviour wont be tolerated.”

Dr. Dvir Abramovich — chair of Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC), called the passage of the law a “triumphant moment.”

“As our nation confronts the deep stain of a resurgent white supremacist movement that peddles a dangerous and dehumanizing agenda, this parliament has declared that the symbol of Nazism will never find a safe harbor in our state,” he said.

Three other Australian states — Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales — are expected to soon follow Victoria’s lead in banning the display of Nazi swastikas.

The Victoria law contains several exceptions for educational and religious purposes, recognizing “the continued importance of the swastika as an ancient and auspicious symbol of purity, love, peace, and good fortune in Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other religions.”