HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.45 pm]: I rise because I want to make some comments about my concerns about the way in which we approach the issue of hate crime in Western Australia. I spoke about this issue last year. At that point, I raised concerns about the lack of not only a comprehensive definition, but also, specifically, data systems, resulting in a lack of action to protect vulnerable populations.
We know that hate crime is generally understood as crime and abuse that is motivated or shaped by a particular prejudice or group hatred. It tends to include prejudice on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disability. Hate crimes are often also referred to as targeted crime, biased crime or prejudice-related crime. When a hate crime is committed, the impact of the crime is far greater than simply having a terrible impact on an individual. It impacts an entire community and leaves vulnerable populations feeling at risk of being victimised and feeling unprotected.
I remain very concerned that there is still no comprehensive targeted approach to address this type of crime within Western Australia. The first thing I will point out is that in order to stop crime that has been motivated by prejudice, we have to start tracking it and recording it. If we do not understand the extent of the problem, we will run the risk of underestimating its nature and scale and that means that measures to address any problems and support victims of hate crime are likely to fall short.
In response to my questions last year and the questions I have asked again today, unfortunately, we have confirmation that this sort of crime is still not being tracked. My question today was specifically about tracking LGBTIQ hate crimes in Western Australia. The answer I got from the Minister for Police indicated that the data is still not being collected. The answer missed the point entirely about why it is very important that we have an understanding of the incidence of hate crimes. We know that this type of crime tends to be shockingly under-reported. It is important that we look at some of the research around hate crimes in similar jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, only one in five LGBTIQ people who have been subject to hate crimes even bother reporting it to the police. In Australia, Victorian research shows that young LGBTIQ people are the least likely of all people to report crimes to police and that more than half have indicated they would not even bother trying to report a hate crime. Unfortunately, under-reporting reflects an ongoing lack of trust between the LGBTIQ community and the police. It is partly due to the historical criminalisation of homosexuality, but unfortunately it is also the result of the poor handling of complaints lodged in the past. The results from jurisdictions that track reporting of hate crimes reveal that, unfortunately, particularly LGBTIQ hate crimes are on the increase. Around England and Wales, the rate of reported LGBTIQ hate crimes per capita rose by a whopping 144 per cent between 2013 and 2018. Transphobic attacks have also soared, trebling from 550 reports to over 1 650 reports over that same period. Almost half of these crimes were violent offences, ranging from common assault to grievous bodily harm. Although some of the increase is due to people being more willing to report, we know that there has also been a significant increase in crime.
The most recent data released in October by the FBI shows that 14 491 recorded crimes were committed against people in the United States because of their sexual orientation and a further 2 333 offences against transgender people simply because of their gender identity. Although we do not have any comparative police data in Australia, because it is not kept, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission, up to 61 per cent of LGBTIQ young people have reported experiencing some form of homophobic abuse. One of the largest Australian studies found that 72 per cent of LGBTIQ people had experienced verbal abuse, 41 per cent had experienced threats of physical violence and 23 per cent had experienced physical assault. For transgender participants the figures are even worse. It is reported 92 per cent of trans women and 55 per cent of trans men had experienced verbal abuse, and 46 per cent of trans women and 36 per cent of trans men had experienced physical assault.
The answers to questions I got back last week included a partially redacted draft briefing paper written almost exactly two years ago today and a summary of responses to an LGBTIQ community crime and safety survey questionnaire that asked how satisfied people were with police services in general. Unfortunately, 27 of the 153 people who responded to the survey said that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Although very little information was provided—that document is all that was provided—it is clear that there is need for improvement. The police briefing paper is particularly telling because it notes that the lack of police data on hate crimes was identified as an issue as far back as 2009. We are talking about over a decade ago. Even then, WA Police recognised that it was lagging behind other states that capture and record hate, bias or prejudice related incidents. That is what the report says. The briefing paper also acknowledged an understanding that the key risk lies in an inability to accurately identify trends or emerging issues, or to provide appropriate responses to incidents.
Two years have gone by since this paper was drafted and nothing has been done—nothing! WA continues to lag behind other jurisdictions not only in our failure to adequately ensure that we are tracking these crimes, but also in our broader response—or should I say our lack of broader response—to hate crimes in general. In comparison, the United Kingdom is recording, analysing and publishing its data on hate crimes. It is investing in community engagement and public education, and has enacted a whole range of hate crime laws. Some really positive initiatives have been occurring in other jurisdictions. They have looked at expanding hate crime legislation. They have specialist hate crime police units. They have police outreach and engagement with communities that may experience hate crimes. They are making sure that they are providing specialist training for police, lawyers and victim support service workers. They are supplying assessment tools to support police so that they can help to determine whether a hate crime has even occurred. There is also investment in third party reporting systems so that victims who might be quite reluctant to go to police can still report safely. Also, they have done work on diversion and restorative justice techniques.
Certainly, although I acknowledge that legislation in and of itself is not enough to build everything we need to ensure that people are appropriately protected, having clear legislation about hate crimes sends a very strong message to the community. It makes it quite clear to victims, communities and the wider society that certain behaviour will not be tolerated, particularly when it is negative behaviour based on simply who a person happens to be. I think this is something we should be considering in Western Australia. The current situation is absolutely appalling. I am profoundly unimpressed that WA is lagging in this important work to address hate crimes. We are not even doing the basics of making sure that we are recording when hate crimes are occurring. What needs to happen has been clearly outlined within the police service, and I think it is appalling that that has not been acted on. People should not be living in fear of physical or verbal abuse just because of who they are. We need to start paying some attention to this area, and I am particularly concerned they have not acted.