Survivors welcome moves to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices in NSW

February 10, 2023 - Equality Australia and survivor advocates have today commended moves by Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices and called for similar commitments from each of the major political parties ahead of the NSW state election. 

Mr Greenwich’s proposed bill would prohibit practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and introduce a civil response scheme addressing serious or systemic instances of conversion practices.  

“NSW is lagging behind other states and territories that have already acted to protect people from the harms caused by LGBTQ+ conversion practices,” said  Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director of National LGBTIQ+ group Equality Australia.   

“Practices seeking to change or suppress a person’s sexuality or gender identity cause real and lasting harm and are not supported by any medical or psychological professional association.” 

After sustained campaigns by survivor advocates across the country, the WA government committed to prohibiting the practices late last year, following legislation passed in Victoria, the ACT and New Zealand prohibiting conversion practices, including in religious settings, and ensuring a civil response scheme is in place to prevent harm from occurring in the first place.  

Tasmania and South Australia are also considering similar reforms, while Queensland has a ban on conversion practices parading as health services. 

“In a matter of weeks NSW will be hosting Sydney WorldPride and the city will be alive with celebrations of LGBTIQ+ communities, families and culture,” Mr Kassisieh said. 

“NSW can still salvage its reputation as a laggard on LGBTIQ+ equality by committing to address the unfinished business of LGBTIQ+ rights in this state, including by ending conversion practices.”  

“With a state election at the end of March, now is time for all politicians in NSW to commit to reforms to end LGBTQ+ conversion practices once and for all.” 

Chris Csabsco-founder of SOGICE(1) Survivors, welcomed the proposed bill. 

“This bill contains all the key components that survivors of LGBTQ+ conversion practices know are needed for legislation to make a difference and to stop the harm. This could potentially become the most protective conversion prohibition legislation in the world,” he said. 

“Conversion practices are based on the idea that LGBTQ+ people are broken or disordered and need to be ‘healed’, ‘treated’ or ‘suppressed’. 

“The National Conversion Ideology and Practices Research Project being led by La Trobe University has already shown that conversion practices are occurring all over the country, including in NSW. 

“This bill gives NSW the chance to protect its LGBTQ+ community from something that we know significantly and profoundly harms them. If we don’t, NSW could become a ‘safe haven’ for these damaging practices to continue,” Mr Csabs concluded. 

Anthony Venn-Brown, CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI), said legislation banning conversion practices was long overdue. 

“I’m very familiar with the serious harms caused by so-called conversion “therapy” as I lived through it myself and have worked with over 4000 survivors,” he said. 

“Half a century ago the American Psychiatric Association found homosexuality was not a mental disorder, illness or perversion and people didn’t need ‘fixing’.” 

“There was a time when ignorance about sexual orientation and gender identity could be excused. That time has passed and the ongoing global and national push to protect vulnerable LGBTQ people sends a clear message – the harm has to stop,” he concluded.

(1) SOGICE stands for “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts”. 

Media contact: Tara Ravens 0408 898 154. tara.ravens@equalityaustralia.org.au