Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has said Queensland could become the second state in Australia to ban so-called “gay conversion” therapy.
The dangerous and discredited practice was thrown into the spotlight two weeks ago after a Victorian branch of the Liberal party put forward a motion for the party’s upcoming state conference that called for legislation allowing healthcare providers to “offer counselling out of same-sex attraction.” The motion was pulled by state president Michael Kroger after public outrage.
Steven Miles (pictured) said he would write to Queensland’s Office of the Health Ombudsman to ask what powers it had to crack down on the practice.
“The idea that anyone should be running around saying that [gay people] need some kind of therapy to get converted is just disgusting,” he told Sky News.
“I intend to write to the Ombudsman and ask if he has sufficient powers to deal with this particular problem and for his advice about what further powers he might need.
“The problem appears to be with non-health practitioners hanging out a shingle and saying they can offer this service, often under the sponsorship or auspices of a church or church body.”
“Gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapies have been widely condemned as unethical and dangerous by numerous bodies around the world including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society, and peak psychology bodies in the US and the UK.
Fairfax Media reported last month that the practice had disappeared underground in Australia and was “hidden in evangelical churches and ministries, taking the form of exorcisms, prayer groups or counselling disguised as pastoral care.”
Queensland’s health ombudsman currently has limited powers to regulate spiritual services, Sky News reported.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC Radio last week that while he was opposed to “gay conversion” therapy he defended the Victorian Liberal party’s motion as “freedom of speech”.
“It’s not something I support, it’s not federal government policy, it’s not going to be federal government policy and we’re not about to change our position on that,” he said.
“People are entitled to have different views, views that I disagree with.”
Victoria is the only Australian state with specific legislation targeting gay conversion therapy, and Steven Miles called on Mr Hunt to work with states on a national approach to cracking down on the practice.
“Instead of defending the right of advocates of this kind of therapy, saying that they’re entitled to free speech, Greg Hunt should be working with us to outlaw to outlaw this kind of vile behaviour,” he said.
One survivor of such therapy, Chris, has spoken out about the devastating toll it took on him and a petition he started calling for national action has received 35,000 signatures.
“Trying to ‘pray the gay away’ nearly killed me. I’m not the only one,” he said.
“So-called conversion therapy can cause depression, self-loathing and even suicide. I prayed to God asking him to either heal me, or kill me. I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.