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‘A normalised culture of antisemitism’: students sue Melbourne school, alleging Jews were bullied

Five former Brighton Secondary College students allege principal endorsed Nazis and called Jewish people ‘subhuman’

Brighton Secondary College sign
Brighton Secondary College was ‘littered’ with swastika graffiti drawn on students’ hands and desks, the students’ barrister Adam Butt has told the federal court. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP
Brighton Secondary College was ‘littered’ with swastika graffiti drawn on students’ hands and desks, the students’ barrister Adam Butt has told the federal court. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

A Melbourne school principal has been accused in court of giving speeches endorsing Nazis, calling Jewish people subhuman and failing to protect his students from racial discrimination.

Five former Brighton Secondary College students are suing the school, alleging they were subjected to years of antisemitic bullying, discrimination and negligence.

The students, who cannot be named, allege they experienced physical and verbal bullying by students and teachers between 2013 and 2020. The principal, Richard Minack, and two teachers are also named in the suit.

The school was “littered” with swastika graffiti drawn on students hands and desks, the students’ barrister Adam Butt told the federal court on Wednesday. Students were subjected to Nazi salutes, he said.

Minack allegedly gave multiple speeches endorsing his father and grandfather who had connections to the German army during the second world war, the court heard.

“He endorsed his Nazi father as a good man and at least once referred to Jews as subhuman, evil, the N-word,” Butt said.

The state of Victoria is also being sued. It is accused of condoning the behaviour.

Two students allege they were held at knifepoint or assaulted by fellow students who were not punished.

One says a teacher wouldn’t allow him to wear a kippah or yarmulke and another alleges he was told to remove his Star of David necklace.

Another said they were not allowed to complete a project on Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Four out of five of my clients had to leave Brighton part way through a school year because the hostile school environment was intolerable,” Butt said. “We’re talking here about a normalised culture of antisemitism.”

The students’ barrister said the school’s failure to protect them contravened the Religious Discrimination Act and violated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“They didn’t feel like they could be openly Jewish at the school,” he said.

Defence barrister Chris Young QC said the school and the rest of the respondents denied all the allegations brought against them.

The trial before justice Debbie Mortimer continues.