Until 2018, Labor Party policy called for the appointment of a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission. But it appears, in the face of unrelenting right-wing demonisation of the LGBTIQA+ communities, Labor’s feet became a little chilly in the years since.
In September, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus described federal LGBTIQA+ human rights work as ‘led by’ Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.
However, Commissioner Jenkins recently confirmed the axing of her specialist LGBTIQA+ adviser.
During a Senate Estimates Hearing, Greens Senator David Shoebridge asked Commissioner Jenkins about the commission’s workload.
“It’s almost as though there should be a stand-alone LGBTIQA+ Commissioner, isn’t it? Because you can’t do it all, can you?”
Commissioner Jenkins said the commission would require increased resources to perform the work properly,
“At the moment we are not resourced for it… there’s no project work ongoing.”
Senator Shoebridge then asked Australian Human Rights Commission President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, if she found it troubling that there is not a single identified staff member for this community at the commission.
“We’d love to have the capacity to be able to give more focus to work that is of such importance across the whole spectrum… We would dearly like to be able to put such a specialist role back in, because it is an area of great concern to us. It does cross the whole range of portfolios.”
The Human Rights Commission confirmed that it had not undertaken an LGBTIQA+ project in over a year. Its website reveals it has no current LGBTIQA+ projects and has issued no relevant news items since before the election of the Labor Government.
Just.Equal Australia again called for the appointment of a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Commissioner to the commission
Spokesperson Brian Greig said this is the first time in years there has been no one at the commission with a focus on LGBTIQA+ human rights.
“Just.Equal has written to Mr Dreyfus explaining that the Australian Human Rights Commission has virtually no capacity to deal with LGBTIQA+ human rights. We have urged him to appoint a dedicated LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner immediately.
“The AHRC has commissioners for Sex, Race, Disability, Age, Children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.
“Yet despite the increasing attacks on LGBTIQA+ people across a range of fronts, the AHRC has no LGBTIQA+ Commissioner and has now revealed almost no capacity to deal with these issues at all.
“This is an embarrassing and untenable situation in a country that sees itself as a champion of human rights internationally.
“It means LGBTIQA+ Australians who suffer human rights abuses do not have the ally they should in the AHRC.”
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.