LGBTIQ advocates including new lobby group Equality Australia have welcomed the Victorian government’s pledge to tackle harmful “gay conversion therapy” in the state.
Speaking at the Midsumma Pride March on Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the practices were “bigoted quackery” and consultation would begin on legislation to prohibit the discredited and harmful practices. The government also gave in-principle support to funding counselling and support services for survivors.
Anna Brown, Equality Australia CEO and co-author of a 2018 report into the practices, said the group were very pleased to see the Government respond to the report’s key recommendations, in particular the need for “careful consideration of specific legislation” to target the practices.
“The Andrews Government has recognised the lasting harm from this insidious practice and taken positive steps to help survivors,” Brown said.
“The conversion movement’s activities are proven to be ineffective and harmful. Telling someone they are broken or sick because of who they are is profoundly psychologically damaging.
“Once again the Andrews Government is leading the nation advancing LGBTIQ equality and keeping our communities safe.”
Nathan Despott, co-leader of support and advocacy group Brave Network, welcomed a report from Victoria’s Health Complaints Commissioner on the issue that confirmed those exposed to the practices experienced long-term psychological harm and distress.
“We are so pleased that the Victorian Government has chosen to adopt a broad response to this insidious movement that has operated undercover in Victoria’s religious communities for decades,” he said.
“The Victorian Government and Health Complaints Commissioner have listened to survivors and taken time to learn about the complexity involved with the ideology and operations of this harmful movement.”
Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome said the group were calling on the Tasmanian government give in-principle support to banning the “barbaric” practices as well.
“I call on the State Government to give in-principle support to legislation banning ‘conversion therapy’ and fund a Tasmanian Law Reform Institute inquiry into the best way to do it,” Croome said.
“‘Conversion therapy’ is a cruel and barbaric practice that destroys the self worth of those who undergo it, not least by holding out false hope they can be ‘cured’ of something that is perfectly natural.
“International evidence shows the best response to ‘conversion therapy’ is a mix of criminal and civil sanctions, plus better regulation and education.”
La Trobe University senior lecturer Tim Jones, who co-authored the 2018 conversion therapy report, said a “multi-faceted approach” in partnership with health professionals, religious institutions and communities was needed to address the issue.
“Stronger laws and support for survivors are incredibly welcome steps, but we also need education and research about the harm caused by the cultural ideas and messaging prevalent within faith communities, to drive change from within,” he said.
(Photo courtesy of Equality Australia)