BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGE REGISTRATION AMENDMENT 2019 – SECOND READING DEBATE

You can watch the video here

 

ACTING SPEAKER: The Member for Wendouree.

 

Ms ADDISON: Thank you Acting Chair. I wish to thank the Attorney-General and the Minister for Equality for the work that has gone into this bill, and I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2019 as it is another step to providing a fairer and more inclusive Victoria. The amendment bill is about giving trans, gender-diverse and non-binary Victorians a birth certificate which reflects who they truly are. By introducing this bill the Andrews Labor government is fulfilling our election commitment to govern for and to ensure equality for all Victorians. While the Liberal-Nationals continue to put their politics of ideology and divisiveness ahead of what is right, as demonstrated in this place during this debate, we are removing unfair barriers and making sure Victorians feel safe and supported in our community.

The changes are important because they will allow applicants to self-nominate the sex listed in their birth registration as male, female or any other gender-diverse or non-binary descriptor of their own choice. We believe this best reflects the preferences of those who are impacted by this and seek this change. Currently trans and gender-diverse Victorians are forced to out themselves whenever a birth certificate is requested when applying for a bank account, a passport or even a job. This can cause embarrassment and raise privacy, safety and discrimination concerns. This needs to change. It is a matter of respect and dignity for all Victorians.

The amendment to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 will remove the need for applicants to have to undergo sex affirmation surgery before being able to apply for a new birth certificate that reflects who they are. This bill amends the act to remove the requirement for the applicant seeking to alter the sex record in their Victorian birth registration to have undergone sex affirmation surgery. Currently, the situation that we have that we must change is that a person wanting to alter the sex recorded in their birth registration must have undergone the surgery. But sex affirmation surgery is a serious medical procedure that involves an alteration of a person’s reproductive organs. It is important to understand that in Australia gender reassignment surgery is not covered by Medicare, and it can cost a patient from $16 000 to up to $100 000. For many this is cost prohibitive, a financial barrier for many to access surgery. For some people who identify as a sex that is different from that recorded in their birth registration, such surgery is not an option because they may have a medical condition or a disability that prevents surgery from being undertaken or because the surgery is unaffordable, not easily accessible or even available where the person lives.

Further, some people who identify as a sex different from that recorded on their birth registration do not wish to undergo surgery. Currently the surgery requirements apply regardless of other ways in which a person may live or affirm their gender identity. Instead this law will allow an adult to apply to the Victorian registrar of births, deaths and marriages to alter the sex recorded on their birth registration by way of a statutory declaration that the person believes their sex is as nominated in the application accompanied by a supporting statement from an adult who has known the applicant for at least 12 months. The applicant must nominate the description of the sex to be used on their birth record, which may be ‘male’, ‘female’ or any other gender-diverse or non-binary descriptor nominated. This means that people will be able to describe their sex in a way that reflects their identity.

I also support this bill because it is a human rights issue. Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 every person in Victoria has the right to enjoy human rights without discrimination. They are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination, and they have the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination. This includes freedom from discrimination based on gender identity. Passports allow non-binary gender, as do Medicare cards and drivers licences. Other states have already done this, and it is only birth certificates which are not keeping up. This bill is about inclusion, fairness and equality. It is time we made this change in Victoria. I am so proud to be part of a government that is building an inclusive state where people can be true to themselves and be accepted and welcomed.

Prior to entering this place I worked as a teacher, and at my school we adopted an open and accepting approach to trans and gender-diverse students. I was so proud of my school community’s response when a student sought to identify and be known as their true gender. At the start of the school year the student commenced term 1 with a new name and a different uniform. From my perspective and observations as a member of the teaching staff, classmates and students from across the school accepted the student’s new name and sex identity change. They continued to have many friends and be active in all aspects of school life, house activities and the performing arts. I am also pleased that another young trans woman whom I previously taught is being supported by their friends and family as they publicly embrace their gender identity. I admire you and I wish you well for the future.

I wish to thank the constituents who have contacted me to voice their viewpoints on this bill. I have received correspondence from supporters and opponents of this legislation and have taken time to consider their arguments, stories, concerns and opinions. I genuinely welcome hearing from members of the community on issues and encourage all constituents to engage with me about their viewpoints. To the parents who have contacted me to advocate on behalf of your children, I thank you. One parent explained to me that she supports changes because her son is transgender and currently doing the Victorian certificate of education, but surgical options have been postponed till after high school is finished. In her words she explained:

He desperately wants his name to be the same on his official documents including his VCE Certificate. If legislation doesn’t pass, he will be stuck with his dead name until he has surgery sometime in the future when it is affordable. This will cause him considerable anguish and constantly explanations and outings of himself for his adult life. It is truly vital for our family, and my son’s mental and emotional health, that these reforms pass.

 

Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I wish your son every success in his VCE and I hope this Parliament will make the changes that will support him and your family.

I wish to quote from a local teacher who contacted me to urge me to support this bill on behalf of trans students. She wrote:

… I have seen the personal struggle young trans people experience, and the hideous discrimination and misunderstanding they encounter. Surely the government’s role is to protect the rights of the vulnerable, rather than reinforce the prejudices of ill-informed or bigoted groups. Offering rights to trans, or gay, or any other minority group in no way impinges on the rights of conservative religious people. It simply allows recognition of individuals for who they are, rather than judging them because of who they are not.

Changing the law will make a huge difference to the daily life and mental health and wellbeing of trans and gender Victorians, and no difference to anyone else’s.

 

I would like to thank Isabelle Langley, who is in the gallery—how lovely to meet you earlier today— for sending through her video last night. It came through while I was still here and I watched it immediately. Well done. I felt like a school teacher once again. It was a very mature presentation and your arguments were compelling—A+. I hope this bill will be successful in passing this change in legislation for you and thousands of other trans and gender-diverse Victorians.

I am proud to live in a state that values equality and supports this bill to remove discrimination against trans, gender-diverse, non-binary and intersex Victorians by removing barriers to acknowledging a person’s sex on their birth record. This is what we said we would do if we were elected. We would govern for all Victorians. We would live our values. These are our values: to make Victoria fairer, more decent and more inclusive. I could not be more proud of this government.