Gunditjmara Elder Charmaine Clarke began fighting to change Victoria's racial vilification laws after being told no action could be taken against the people who verbally attacked her.
Ms Clarke was racially vilified after responding to a neighbouring table's conversation while having lunch at a Warrnambool restaurant.
As part of the stolen generation and having faced racism all her life, Ms Clark tried to pursue the matter with Warrnambool police but she was told she could not as the case did not meet the requirements of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.
The 53-year-old gave evidence via videolink at the Victorian hearings into reforming hate speech recently and recounted her experience.
"I was alone," she said.
"I felt fear, humiliation, I was shaking, embarrassed and deeply shamed."
A proud proactive and university educated Gunditjmara woman, reduced to just being 'a stupid Abo'.Charmaine Clarke
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service is backing five amendments to the state act to encompass more minority groups, update the act's requirements, introduce new protections for intolerable behavior, give stronger powers to equality bodies and incidents happening through technology.
The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 prohibits behaviour that incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group of people because of their race and/or religion.
In it's 19 year history, only two cases have passed.
In her own case, Ms Clarke found the high threshold of the inciting component too difficult to prove.
"If you don't have the incitement, you fail the test," she said.
"This act is then not useful for you, it does not protect you.This is the only act written around this particular behaviour, yet it's so difficult to meet the threshold. It's supposed to address hate crimes but it makes it really difficult for anyone to apply it to their experiences.
"It's not working, it's too hard and too stringent."
Ms Clarke worked with Warrnambool police for four months before being told in March her case would not be pursued as it did not meet the threshold.
"I felt like I'd been vilified all over again," she said.
"I now walk the streets of my hometown even more wary and vigilant because the people who choose to practice racism are walking those streets too and when I tried to something about it, they got away with it again."
Ms Clarke is pushing for the five recommendations of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and more education around racism and has been invited to join to Australian Hate Crime network to aid developing priorities and outcomes addressing hate incidents.
"Australia is a country with a long history of indifference towards Indigenous Australians," she said.
"We've leaned too much on having a piece of legislation as the only way to teach the masses about racism. I think we've failed in a lot of ways on educating people about what racial vilification actually is.
We need to educate not just the police but schools and other institutions around racial vilification in a prominent sense and integrating it into their practices.Charmaine Clarke
"There's brilliant campaigns for family violence, I'd like to see a similar drive and awareness around this act.
"Racism and racial vilification is illegal and won't be tolerated."
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