27 February 2023 – LGBTIQ+ groups from Australia, Asia and the Pacific say a commitment by the Federal Government to develop a strategy on LGBTIQ+ rights in the region is a historic and significant first step.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Monday announced $3.5 million for the first dedicated Australian fund to support LGBTIQ+ civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Asia and the Pacific.
DFAT will also embark on a consultation process before establishing an LGBTIQ+ human rights engagement strategy which will include bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, development and humanitarian assistance.
“This groundbreaking announcement marks the first time Australia has committed to a long-term strategy and dedicated funding to help LGBTIQ+ people in our region address social stigma and legal discrimination,” said Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown.
“We wholeheartedly welcome the Inclusion and Equality Fund and a comprehensive strategy to support LGBTIQ+ civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Asia and the Pacific.”
The announcement follows the release last week of the international Partnering with Pride report, which was written in partnership with LGBTIQ+ groups from Asia and the Pacific, the Global Philanthropy Project and Equality Australia.
It recommended targeted funding of $15 million per year for LGBTIQ+ community groups and a strategy to guide Australia’s approach in Asia and the Pacific.
“This is a historic and significant first step that demonstrates the Federal Government’s commitment going forward to LGBTIQ+ human rights in our region,” Ms Brown said.
“Further funding is needed to meet the urgent need in the region, and we look forward to seeing the detail of the Government’s plan for a new LGBTIQ+ human rights strategy which must be developed in close and open partnership with our community.”
The historic announcement comes ahead of Sydney WorldPride’s Human Rights Conference when community leaders, politicians, human rights experts and advocates from around the world will discuss the key human rights issues affecting LGBTQIA+ people.
Global Philanthropy Project Director Matthew Hart:
“We welcome the Australia Government’s commitment to support these uniquely under-resourced groups to defend and advance equality in the region.”
“By establishing the Inclusion and Equality Fund, Australia is demonstrating its commitment to joining other donor governments in supporting global LGBTIQ+ human rights and inclusive development.”
“We encourage the Australian Government to work closely with civil society in Asia and the Pacific to develop an impactful funding program that will empower LGBTIQ+ people to make the change they need to be free from discrimination and harm.”
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus Executive Director Ryan Silverio:
“We welcome the Australian government stepping up as a key actor in regional spaces and helping to prevent economic and social marginalisation of LGBTIQ+ people.”
“We look forward to meaningful consultations with various local organisations so that the fund’s use is well-informed by local realities and can lead to greater local impact.”
APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana:
“This is a historic moment for LGBTIQ+ groups across Asia and the Pacific. Countries in this region are home to some of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTIQ+ laws.”
“Seventeen Asia-Pacific nations criminalise consensual same-sex relations, including seven Pacific Island countries, with punishments ranging from caning to up to life in prison and in some cases even death.”
“APCOM together with the coalition of LGBTIQ+ community organisations in Asia and the Pacific involved in the Partnering with Pride report look forward to working closely with the Australian Government to localise this funding for the benefits of LGBTQI people in our region.”
ILGA Asia Executive Director Henry Koh:
“Many of us in Asia are still coping with the pandemic and its aftermath, and LGBTIQ+ people across the continent are experiencing compounded hardship because of political instability, conflict, religious fundamentalism and anti-gender movements.”
“We thank and commend the Australian government’s commitment through this announcement.”
“We hope this funding will contribute to a more inclusive society in which everyone can live without fear of prejudice and violence, enjoying dignity and respect — and provide support for those who are standing up against discrimination and marginalisation in their own communities.”
Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN) CEO Mx Isikeli Vulavou:
“Most Pacific LGBTIQA+ organisations struggle with resource mobilisation as there is no targeted funding for LGBTIQA+ issues.”
“Many countries in the region still criminalise homosexuality due to colonial-era laws. This criminalisation extends to the right to organise which means LGBTIQA+ groups are unable to register, stopping vital programs, projects and initiatives from happening.”
Asia Pacific Transgender Network Executive Director Joe Wong:
“Throughout history, violence has inflicted immense harm on trans communities in Asia and the Pacific.”
“Addressing the various forms of violence against trans individuals requires a collective effort to find solutions based on the lived realities of marginalised trans communities to increase understanding and heal wounds.”
“We commend the Australian Government’s commitment to promoting inclusion and equality through the Inclusion and Equality Fund.”
“APTN and LGBTIQ+ community organisations in Asia and the Pacific are ready to provide our expertise and work closely with the Australian Government.”
Media Contact: Tara Ravens 0408 898 154