A message from our CEO, Anna Brown OAM
As suspected, 2023 is shaping up to be a huge year – and it’s only May!
Alongside some great joy and major wins, you have witnessed and helped us respond to some horrifying attacks, particularly on our trans and gender diverse community.
Earlier this year, we knew that Sydney WorldPride would provide the platform to bring about the policy change that would make a real difference to LGBTIQ+ people in Australia and in our region. Working alongside our community partners, we curated a truly unforgettable Human Rights Conference that delivered strong commitments from governments across Australia. As always, none of this would have been possible without your crucial support.
While there’s much to celebrate, there’s still so much to do. Watching anti-trans campaigners, zealots and Nazis attack our community in Melbourne and Sydney was a stark reminder of the work ahead. From stopping religious discrimination in our schools and banning harmful conversion practices, to ensuring our LGBTIQ+ community is counted in the Census, we will move through these dark moments, and continue to progress toward equality.
We remain determined to achieve equality for all of us. And together, we have shown that we are a compassionate community that won’t be torn apart by hate.
Read on for more about the wins our community has secured over the past few months.
And as always, thank you for your support.
Sydney WorldPride and leadership in Asia Pacific
The eyes of the world turned to Australia in March this year, as Sydney hosted the first ever WorldPride in the Southern Hemisphere. Amidst the glitter and glam of pride celebrations, lay a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about change that would make real differences in the lives of LGBTIQ+ people.
Even before the party started, our community succeeded in securing a multipartisan commitment to ending LGBTQ+ conversion practices in NSW, no matter who won the NSW election.
But the power of the moment was fully realised at the Human Rights Conference, which Equality Australia delivered with Sydney WorldPride and our community partners. Over 3000 attendees from over 60 countries gathered in person and online.
In the lead-up to the conference, thousands of us came together to support the Yes! What’s Next? campaign, calling on governments to act urgently to ensure all LGBTIQ+ people, in Australia and across Asia and the Pacific, can live free from discrimination and harm. Equality Australia released a major report calling on the Federal Government to step up its leadership on LGBTIQ+ rights and providing a roadmap for how.
On day one of the conference, governments from across Australia delivered commitments to our community, including:
- Foreign Minister Penny Wong who announced that Australia would establish a long-term strategy and dedicated funding to help LGBTIQ+ people in our region address social stigma and legal discrimination.
- Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Ged Kearney MP who announced a national LGBTIQ+ health action plan with $26 million for health and medical research.
- ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr who confirmed that the ACT would become the first place in Australia to introduce legislation protecting intersex people from unnecessary medical treatments without their consent.
The Sydney World Pride Human Rights Conference was the largest LGBTIQ+ human rights conference the world has ever seen. It’s no surprise that this event, and the work that went into it, has set a world-class standard to deliver tangible positive change for LGBTIQ+ people across the globe. It’s an incredible legacy. One that all of us can be proud of. You can catch some of the conference sessions on YouTube.
ACT legislation and Intersex reform
On 22 March, The ACT Government introduced Australia’s first laws to end unnecessary medical procedures on intersex people without their consent.
These laws will ensure more intersex people can decide what happens to their own bodies, so they are not left with the physical and psychological scars of decisions made about their bodies without their say. This is a huge achievement for the intersex movement in Australia, and our team was delighted to join with intersex advocates in Canberra on this historic day.
Since 2021, Equality Australia has worked on a legal framework to protect intersex people from medical procedures without their consent. This important legal policy work, alongside continued advice to government, campaigning and the tireless work of intersex advocates, led to this moment.
It’s now time for all other states and territories in Australia to follow the ACT’s lead and protect the rights of all intersex people in medical settings.
You can listen to our Legal Director, Ghassan, along with members of the intersex community, Mimi and Sian, speaking to the need for reform in January this year here.
Ending LGBTQ+ discrimination in religious schools and organisations
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect no matter where they work, study, or access services. Yet carve-outs in laws across Australia still allow religious schools and organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people.
In 2022, we defeated the Morrison Government’s flawed Religious Discrimination Bill. With the election of a new federal government last year, we have the best opportunity yet to remove legal carve-outs that allow discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people in religious schools and organisations.
While some religious institutions were advocating that gay students should be denied leadership opportunities, we were busy making strong representations to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) on how to stop discrimination against LGBTIQ+ staff and students in religious schools. Our submission told the stories of several people we’ve helped who’ve lost their jobs or been discriminated against in religious schools, as well as the best pathway to reform.
In the latest setback, the ALRC inquiry has been delayed by eight months to 31 December, meaning we will have to work harder than ever to make up for lost time. With your support, we will continue to build momentum for change and ensure much-awaited reforms are finally delivered.
Recognising trans and gender diverse people
Everyone deserves to be recognised for who they are. Yet in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, trans and gender diverse people still face cruel barriers to obtaining ID documents that reflect their gender, including the need for undertake surgery or medical treatment.
Late last year, the Queensland Government introduced a bill to update its laws on gender recognition, and Western Australia also committed to reform.
Now, working with Queensland advocates and many of you, we’re one step closer to reform after we were successful in convincing a Queensland parliamentary committee to recommend that the Queensland bill be passed.
Our recent advocacy with the federal government also supported Australia to join with 27 other countries at the UN Human Rights Council in supporting laws and policies that allow trans and gender diverse people to have their gender recognised based on self-identification rather than invasive requirements such as surgery.
Your support means that we will likely see reforms in Queensland pass soon, and hopefully a bill introduced in Western Australia soon.
Changing hearts and minds through media
Ensuring our community’s voice is represented fairly in the media means that we can change hearts and minds to counter the attacks on our communities and build broad support for change.
Equality Australia’s media team works tirelessly behind-the-scenes to support and empower individuals within our communities to tell their stories on their own terms in order to combat discrimination, raise awareness and make the case for change.
For example, wonderful and brave people like Mimi and her family, who shared their experiences with our support, helped to ensure the voices of intersex people were centered in the push for intersex reform in the ACT. You can watch Mimi’s incredible piece on The Project here. This year so far, Equality Australia has been referenced in over 450 stories, while the Human Rights Conference received nearly 2,000 mentions across both domestic and international press.