Wipe Northern Territorians’ Historic Gay Sex Convictions, MP Says


Openly gay Northern Territory politician Chansey Paech has said he will lobby his government to wipe the historic criminal records of NT men unjustly convicted for consensual gay sex.

Mr Paech (pictured) told Triple J’s Hack program this week that wiping the convictions in the Territory would be more complex than in other jurisdictions, because until 1978 the NT was under the control of the Federal Government.

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The NT went on to decriminalise consensual homosexual activity in 1983.

Mr Paech, the first openly gay Indigenous man elected to the NT’s parliament, told Hack he intends to lobby the NT Labor government to expunge historic convictions for consensual gay sex, and he intends to raise the subject with the Territory’s Attorney-General “very soon”.

“A lot of those charges are pre-1978, so it’s working through how we deal with that because there’s a potential we need to deal with federal bodies to look at overturning those particular cases,” he said.

“Changing this sends a message to our young people that people had to fight for those in our community now to have basic rights, and this is a demonstration of how people were treated and how their rights were not seen as equal.

“We talk about gay marriage and we talk about same sex adoption and we advocate and we lobby, I think that making sure these charges are wiped is just as important because we need to fix and reconcile some things of our past.”

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Advocacy Director Anna Brown, who has advocated for the wiping of similar convictions in other Australian states, said the convictions still have significant impacts on a person’s employment and ability to travel overseas.

“It’s also an incredible burden for people to live with the shame and stigma of a criminal conviction, often for decades,” Ms Brown said.

“It has a profound psychological and emotional impact, especially when that conviction is around conduct which is now lawful today and for many people an integral part of their identity.”

The NT government said in a statement it’s seeking advice on historical convictions for consensual adult homosexual sex.

“Every Territorian has a right to dignity and respect,” a spokesperson said.

“Any process to quash such convictions may be a complex one, involving constitutional issues, and is likely to involve the commonwealth as the Northern Territory didn’t gain self-government until 1978.”

Legislation was introduced in Victoria in 2014 to wipe similar convictions, and last May Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews apologised to men unjustly convicted of homosexuality.

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In November, the Queensland government released draft legislation to parliament to expunge similar convictions held by Queensland men.

UK laws came into effect at the start of this month allowing men to apply to have historic gay sex convictions pardoned.

New Zealand’s Justice Minister apologised earlier this month to men convicted of gay sex, and announced plans to implement a similar scheme.