A large wooden swastika has been found in a Melbourne backyard in the heart of the city’s Jewish community, prompting outrage from advocates and raising questions about why there have been no repercussions for those involved. The appalled son of a Holocaust survivor came across the disturbing symbol that was on display in a backyard in Caulfield.
The affluent suburb is at the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community, where the demographic represents 41.1 per cent of the population.
The state government announced last year it would ban the public display of the Nazi swastika, but a lack of movement around the issue has meant there are no penalties for those displaying the symbolism.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said there was an “epidemic” of antisemitism in the state and there needed to be quick action to address the issue. “No Jewish person should be confronted with the emblem of evil in their own neighbourhood,” Dr. Abramovich said. “This malicious act, dripping with venomous and dangerous hate, is a punch in the gut of every Holocaust survivor and a spit on the memory of the victims and the Diggers who gave their lives to vanquish (Adolf Hitler).”
The display of Nazi symbolism in public has been on the rise. The watchdog group StopAntisemitism tweeted the incident was “horrific”.
Incidents include a swastika being displayed on a car in Bendigo and on the hat of a train commuter in Melbourne, as well as graffitied to a tree in the CBD, and flags flown in the regional towns of Kyabram and Beulah.
Federal MP Josh Burns, who is Jewish, was also targeted last month by a grotesque antisemitic graffiti attack in his Melbourne electorate.
The government announced a swastika ban late last year amid growing reports of hate speech and behaviour in both regional Victoria and Melbourne. A ban would make it illegal for people to exhibit the propaganda, resulting in potential criminal charges against those involved. “All forms of hate are unacceptable and have no place in Victoria, and this sends a clear message that this vile behaviour will not be tolerated,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said late last year.
“We will make sure we consult widely with the community and impacted groups to get the settings right before making legislative changes.”
But despite the government announcing a commitment to the ban and promising changes would come into effect “in early 2022”, there has been no movement in the space.
It has meant local councils and police officers don’t have the power outright to take down the symbolism or charge offenders.
It’s believed the Caulfield display had been in the yard of a rooming house that had been vacated.
The Glen Eira City Council was able to get rid of the swastika within days due to a rubbish laws loophole.’
Victorian opposition deputy leader David Southwick said he had raised the issue with the Attorney-General but claimed the process had been stalled.
“There is no place for this hateful, offensive symbol and emphasises the need for the Victorian government to immediately bring forward legislation to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika,” he said.
“Melbourne has been the home for more Holocaust survivors than anywhere outside of Israel and the last thing that these survivors would have expected would be to have a Nazi swastika in their backyard.