Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Bill 2020: Second Reading Debate

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (15:09): Thank you very much, Acting Speaker Taylor. It is lovely to see you in the chair today. I think it is the first time I have spoken with you in the chair, so well done. You are doing a very good job. I have been watching. It is great.

Like so many of my colleagues and people on our side of the house, I am so proud to support this important legislation that will outlaw damaging LGBTIQ+ conversion practices, the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020.

Change or suppression practices, also known as conversion practices or conversion therapy—it is time for them to go. We need to ban these terrible, terrible practices that have such terrible outcomes for members of our community and for our fellow Victorians. I stand with the LGBTIQ+ community in support of this bill to ban such practices and recognise the decades of struggle, protest and campaigning to end discrimination, to end hate, to end bigotry and to fight for equality.

Like the Minister for Housing I too would like to recognise my dear friend the member for Burwood’s contribution to this legislation today. To share his struggles and his personal story is truly admirable, and I send my absolute heartfelt love to all of the Fowles family. They are such a great family. There is so much love in that family, and I really hope that this journey is one that you feel very supported on, not only by all your friends and family but by the whole community.

This legislation is another step towards destigmatising issues of homosexuality and gender fluidity in Victoria. By introducing this bill, the Andrews Labor government is fulfilling our commitment to govern for all Victorians and to ensure equality for all Victorians.

I believe that this legislation and others will reduce the suicides, family violence, depression, anxiety, relationship breakdowns and social isolation felt by many members of the LGBTIQ+ community by us showing through leadership that all Victorians deserve to be respected and valued for who they are. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be respected and accepted for who they are, be able to be true to themselves and be supported in how they identify.

The notion that someone can be or needs to be cured or fixed from being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer is wrong. I am blessed to have many friends who are LGBTIQ+. I have a dear aunt who is LGBTIQ+. I have taught many students who are LGBTIQ+, and I have worked with many people who are LGBTIQ+. Both our daughters have been baptised in the Catholic Church, and both of their godfathers are gay. Stephen Dawson and David Imber are both wonderful men whom my husband, Mike, and I both admire.

Being LGBTIQ+ is not a disease that needs to be cured, and people who are LGBTIQ+ are not broken and do not need to be fixed. I am supporting this legislation because by banning suppression we will protect people from harm and put an end to extreme practices that can be damaging, dangerous and dehumanising.

I thank the Attorney-General and the Minister for Equality for the work that has gone into this bill and welcome the opportunity for us to have this discussion. They are true champions of equality in this government and in the state alongside our Premier. It said so much when the Premier came into the chamber earlier today to talk about this issue that he says is so significant for our state, holding a mirror up to who we want to be and who we are and coming in and talking about his values and sharing them with us. That was very, very great to see.

We are continuing to put laws in place that will protect vulnerable Victorians and to ensure everyone who lives in our great state can feel safe and supported in our community. And unlike the opposition, we are united on this issue. We do not need to delay the vote. For the Andrews Labor government, equality is not negotiable.

I have listened very hard to a lot of the contributions today from members of the Liberal Party, and I would particularly like to single out the member for Gippsland South for his contribution to this debate. Thank you for sharing Patrick’s story and for your empathy and compassion. I was very moved by your contribution.

It has also been great to hear from the member for Tarneit, who made a great contribution as well, as did the member for Carrum, and thank you to the member for Yan Yean for sharing her story about her son Blake coming out and how he has been loved and supported through his journey as well.

So there is no doubt that the Andrews Labor government is governing for all Victorians, and this can be seen in our strong support for the LGBTIQ+ community.

We created the first equality portfolio, the first Minister for Equality, with a record resourcing of $61 million. We know that equality is not negotiable, and we are living our politics. We are living our values. We appointed the first-ever gender and sexuality commissioner. We created a task force to advise the government on LGBTIQ+ issues. We have rolled out the first-ever LGBTIQ+ community grants program, supporting organisations right across Victoria to do important work.

The Premier delivered a historic state apology to those convicted under prejudiced laws against homosexual acts. We now have adoption equality in Victoria. We are expanding our health system so that trans and gender-diverse Victorians and their families can get the timely support they need, and we certainly heard about this from the member for Burwood. We have passed legislation that allows transgender Victorians to change their birth certificates to reflect who they truly are. And we are investing in our next generation through the first-ever LGBTIQ+ leadership programs. All of this stuff matters. It matters because it says to people, ‘We trust you, we value you, we love you and you are important Victorians’.

I would sincerely like to thank the people of Wendouree who have contacted me to express their views on this legislation, those for and against the bill. I genuinely welcome hearing from constituents on issues and encourage all constituents to engage with me about their viewpoints. I have received correspondence from supporters and opponents of this legislation and have taken the time to consider their arguments, their stories, their concerns and their opinion.

I note that our government has consulted widely on this legislation over many years. The Attorney-General and the Minister for Equality have worked closely with survivors, LGBTIQ organisations and religious organisations on the legislation to make sure that it is effective in stamping out offensive and repugnant change and suppression practices once and for all.

I particularly want to thank the survivors who have shared their stories and their trauma to inform us in developing this legislation. Our government has considered the feedback and has now developed legislation that will ban these practices for good.

So what does this bill do? This bill will denounce and make change or suppression practices a crime by targeting anyone engaged in change or suppression practices which cause injury or serious injury. It will make it a crime to advertise change or suppression practices, and it will be illegal to remove someone from Victoria for the purpose of subjecting them to change or suppression practices which cause injury elsewhere, whether it is interstate or international.

This bill will also establish a civil response scheme within the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to promote understanding and compliance and resolve allegations that fall short of the criminal standard through education.

I also support this bill because it is an issue of human rights. Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 every person in Victoria has the right to enjoy their human rights without discrimination; they are equal before the law, they 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 sexuality and gender identity. So this bill amends the Equal Opportunity Act to update definitions of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ in line with the current usage and add sex characteristics as a protected attribute from discrimination to protect intersex Victorians.

So whilst there has been a lot of scaremongering on this, this bill is not going to ban or affect prayer or religious teachings in schools, homes or religious institutions unless that activity is directed at specific individuals with the intention of changing or suppressing someone’s sexuality.

I genuinely support this bill, and I commend it to the house.


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