In a significant breakthrough for LGBTIQ+ rights in Australia, the Victorian government introduced legislation on Wednesday to outlaw conversion “therapy” seeking to change or suppress someone’s sexuality or gender identity.
The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 will empower the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate and respond to reports of conversion practices, protecting Victorians from serious damage and trauma caused by these deceptive and harmful practices.
Under the law, responses to reports will be survivor-led and trauma-informed, focussing on community education and facilitation. This will ensure that any response meets the needs and wishes of the affected person.
The Bill also puts in place strong criminal sanctions for people who subject others to change or suppression practices that cause injury or serious injury, imposing fines of close to $10,000 or up to 10 years in jail
Those who try to get around the new laws by subjecting people to change or suppression practices which cause injury outside of Victoria could face a jail term of up to two years, while advertising these practices will incur a criminal sanction and a maximum fine of close to $10,000.
A civil response scheme would also be established within the commission to support survivors and address the harm they endure.
“We’re sending a clear message: no one is ‘broken’ because of their sexuality or gender identity,” Victoria’s attorney general, Jill Hennessy said. “These views won’t be tolerated in Victoria and neither will these abhorrent practices.”
In August, Queensland became the first state to criminalise gay conversion therapy, with the ACT following suit a week later.
Victoria’s legislation to put an end to change or suppression practices comes in response to a report from the Health Complaints Commissioner, taking into consideration consultations with hundreds of members of the public as well as key figures such as survivors of conversion therapy, LGBTQ+ advocates and religious organisations.
Despite being well overdue, it’s unlikely the legislation in Victoria will pass until 2021 due to the limited remaining sitting weeks in 2020.
“LGBTIQ+ Victorians are to be celebrated and valued – just as we are,” Victorian commissioner for LGBTIQ+ communities Ro Allen said.
“We’re not broken and we don’t need fixing. The importance of this reform for our LGBTIQ+ communities cannot be overstated – it will save lives.”
For more information, visit the Premier’s website.
LGBTIQ+ Australians seeking support with mental health can contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or visitqlife.org.au.