Rodney Croome says reparations owed for historic persecution

reparations anti-LGBTIQ laws

Rodney Croome says governments owe reparations to people convicted under Australia’s former anti-LGBTIQ laws.

Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Equality Tasmania and just.equal

It’s time to talk about financial reparations for historic persecution of LGBTIQ+ Australians.

Two issues sparked this conversation: compensation for victims of Australia’s former laws against homosexuality, and redress for survivors of conversion practices.

Earlier this year the Tasmanian Government reviewed its 2017 law which allows expungement of convictions under the state’s former laws against homosexuality and cross-dressing.

While researching the Equality Tasmania submission, I found that not a single application for expungement succeeded in Tasmania. Similarly, far too few applications succeeded in other states.

I asked an elderly man with a conviction from many years ago why he never applied for expungement. He said, “The pain won’t go just because my record will”.

I realised then that we made a mistake championing expungement legislation without including some form of holding the Government to account and repairing the injustice.

Many of the people arrested suffered economic hardship, often through losing their jobs or homes. They, therefore, deserve financial compensation.

But the case for reparation and redress goes deeper than that.

Governments need to know that when they deliberately harm LGBTIQ people there will be a cost. And not only to the victims but to the Government for harm caused by anti-LGBTIQ laws.

Victims need to know society cares enough about the trauma, ostracism, discrimination and indignity they suffered, to make some sacrifice and pay to repair the damage.

Both Equality Tasmania and Civil Liberties Australia made strong cases to the expungement review in support of financial compensation. To our delight, the review supported our recommendation.

Now, we will begin a local campaign to ensure it happens. I urge community representatives in other states to do the same.

Survivors of conversion practices deserve compensation for much the same reason. They experienced a cruel, traumatic, deeply harmful practice that curtailed their life opportunities. It struck at the very core of who they are.

The state did not perpetrate conversion practices. However, it did fail to act against them, even as it knew they were being inflicted.

Existing bans on conversion practices and all future schemes should include some mechanism to allow redress.

Reparations will spark an adverse response from the minority who still see criminalisation and/or conversion as appropriate responses to sexual and gender diversity. But for many Australians, compensation will make sense.

There are obvious parallels with redress for the Stolen Generation and for child sexual abuse.

Reparations for other forms of abuse

Some will ask if other forms of abuse will require reparations?

One possibility is where schools failed in their duty to protect LGBTIQ students from discrimination and bullying.

Another is for service personnel dishonourably discharged from the Australian Defence Force simply because they were gay, lesbian, bi or trans.
Yet another is unnecessary surgery on intersex children.

LGBTIQ Australians experienced many reparable harms over the decades. Governments owe Australians harmed by unjust anti-LGBTIQ laws compensation.

I feel obliged, after speaking to that elderly man, to keep raising reparations as an ethical response to those needless injuries and injustices.

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