Rodney Croome looks back on 2023 and forward to 2024


Rodney Croome stands in front of a sandstone building wearing a grey suit
Rodney Croome is concerned about exemptions in federal law that allow religious discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people

2023 was a year of government procrastination and pinkwashing on LGBTIQA+ equality.

WORDS Rodney Croome

A national inquiry into prohibiting discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people in faith-based schools should have reported in 2023 but was delayed until 2024.

A final commitment to LGBTIQA+ inclusion in the Census was delayed by further consultation despite the Government’s prior commitment to it.

There was no progress on the appointment of an LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner despite the obvious need for one.

The NSW, WA and SA state governments delayed discrimination, conversion and trans law reform until 2024.

Pinkwashing

To cover their tracks, governments appeared to be taking action without doing much at all.

During World Pride the Federal Government announced funding for overseas LGBTIQA+ advocacy but the amount was a fraction of what other western governments spend.

It also announced funding for a national LGBTIQA+ strategy, but all the funding went into consultation and none to overstretched front-line services.
Anthony Albanese marched across the Harbour Bridge with crowds of LGBTIQA+ people, but he still maintains a stubborn silence in the face of growing anti-trans hate.

The were some important milestones in 2023. The ACT passed Australia’s first law protecting intersex children from unnecessary medical interventions.

Queensland finally passed landmark trans birth certificate reforms, as well as including non-binary and intersex people in anti-discrimination legislation. Tasmania became the first state to officially recognise asexual, aromantic and agender people.

Right at the end of 2023 the Red Cross Lifeblood Service announced in-principle support for lifting the current gay, bi and trans blood ban, and assessing all donors for their individual risk.

Dark moments

But there were dark moments too. Alex Antic’s bill trying to rob young trans and gender diverse people of gender affirming health care was another malign manifestation of the anti-trans hate percolating through Australian society.

The long-awaited conversion bill unveiled by the Tasmanian Government also illustrated the resurgence of anti-LGBTIQA+ hate. It is so full of holes, it will do more to encourage conversion practices than stop them.

If there is a single element uniting the disparate elements of 2023 it is the power of grassroots activism.

Grassroots advocates were critical to all the changes I’ve mentioned including the passage of the ACT’s legislation, the defeat of the Antic bill and Lifeblood’s change of heart.

Meanwhile, the growing class of well-paid rainbow managers and lobbyists, without direct accountability to our community, did too little to fight against government indifference and happily endorsed the pink washing.

The challenges ahead in 2024

2024 must be the year we demand better than delays and obfuscation.

The report on LGBTIQA+ discrimination in faith-based schools will be released but there is a danger the Government will only support weak and narrow protections, for example, by leaving out teachers, or by excluding protections at enrolment and recruitment.

We must be ready, not to excuse but condemn any attempts to allow continued discrimination.

2024 must be the year we demand stronger official recognition from the Federal Government.

We need an LGBTIQA+ Commissioner to advocate for us. We also need government advisory committees in areas like health and education that are appointed by a transparent process and not filled with people hand-picked to tell the Government what it wants to hear.

I’m hopeful anti-trans hate will wane in the coming years as more Australians learn about the reality of trans lives, but as shown by the landmark “Fuelling Hate” report from the Trans Justice Project, trans folk can’t wait.

In 2024, we must pressure government to be more vocal and active in challenging this hate.

A new deal

In 2016, Irish marriage equality advocate, Tiernan Brady, counselled resignation to the Australian marriage plebiscite by saying “we don’t get to pick the cards we’re dealt. What we do have to do is make sure that we win them”.

I’m frustrated by that kind of resignation. It says we are weaker than we really are. In contrast, 2023 showed grassroots advocates can make real change by demanding a new deal.

That demand should be our motto in 2024.

-Rodney Croome AM is a spokesperson for Just.Equal Australia and Equality Tasmania

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Rodney Croome

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