Tasmanians convicted under old anti-gay laws may get compensation


taspride festival gay convictions expungement government
Photo: TasPride Festival

Tasmanians convicted of historical homosexuality or crossdressing offences under repealed state laws should get compensation, a legislative review has recommended.

Tasmania was the final Australian state or territory to decriminalise consensual homosexual acts in 1997. The state repealed laws against crossdressing in 2001.

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State legislation allowing expungement of historical criminal records for gay sex and cross-dressing came into effect in 2018.

An independent review of the expungement legislation said 10 people had applied since the law came into effect. However, no eligible convictions have been expunged so far.

Before 1984, Tasmanian courts convicted around 96 people of the historical offences, according to the review, and ten are still alive.

If their convictions are expunged, they should receive compensation, the review recommends.

“The independent reviewers recommend the government introduce a one-off ex-gratia payment of a fixed amount as acknowledgment and redress,” the review stated.

The review also recommended the govenrment widen the eligibility to also include charges of resisting or obstructing police enforcing the repealed laws.

Application forms for expungement of a conviction are also too difficult to access, the review found.

Trauma of unjust convictions ‘demands recompense’

Equality Tasmania welcomed the recommendation of compensation payments, and called on the state government to fast-track their implementation.

The group called for such payments in their original submission on the expungement legislation. Spokesperson Rodney Croome said not including them originally was a mistake.

He said the historical convictions caused victims “trauma, indignity and disadvantage”.

“The injustice suffered demands more than acknowledgement and expungement, it demands recompense,” Croome said.

“We call on the Government to act quickly on the review’s recommendations, given the advanced age of many of the men convicted under our former laws.”

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Tasmanian Attorney-General Elise Archer said the government would consider and respond to the recommendations “in due course”.

“The recommendations put forward in the review largely focus on fine-tuning and promotion of the scheme,” she said.

Tasmanian Premier apologised for ‘unjust and unfair’ convictions in 2017

In 2017, then Premier Will Hodgman apologised to the Tasmanians convicted under the “unfair and unjust” laws.

“Tasmanians suffered as a result of these laws. We apologise to those directly affected, and to their families and loved ones,” he said.

“Despite the repeal of homosexual offences, some men continue to have criminal records that affect aspects of their lives including work, volunteering and travelling.

“It’s something they have to live with every day.

“We can’t change the past, nor can we undo that harm. We can apologise for it and we do so.”

Read more: Rodney Croome’s lessons from the Rainbow Isle on LGBTIQ advocacy

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