The Safe Schools program is under attack. Again.

A petition with 17,000 signatures has been tabled in the NSW Parliament, asking the government to end the Safe Schools program in all NSW schools.

Conservative attacks on Safe Schools have been based on scare campaigns and misleading information about what the program involves.

Despite the alarmist headlines, we know that there is broad community support for Safe Schools.

“Research tells us that many young people who are victims of homophobic or transphobic abuse or bullying will attempt self-harm, and it is essential that those young people are supported within their school communities” says Co-convenor Lauren Foy.

Help us stand up to the attacks on the Safe Schools program.

Here is a petition we need you to sign, calling for a commitment to maintain Safe Schools in NSW schools.

“We need to collect at least 10,000 signatures in order to table the petition in Parliament”, informs co-convenor, Chris Pycroft.

Download the petition here, print it out and collect as many signatures as you can to show that people in NSW support Safe Schools.

Or contact us by e-mail convenors@glrl.org.au and we will email copies of the petition to you. You can post completed petitions to Po Box 304, Sydney NSW 2037

Read more about Safe Schools at safeschoolscoalition.org.au

Media Release: NSW GLRL welcomes new Federal Parliament, calls for a free vote on marriage equality

This federal election NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) called on all parties to make a commitment to end discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.

We congratulate all Members of Parliament on their appointments and welcome the thirty-nine new sitting members to crucial portfolios across Australia.

“There are a broad range of issues, highlighted in our Rainbow Votes election campaign, that don’t get the attention they deserve. Issues that over the next term of Parliament will affect our communities for many years to come. Issues that we intend to continue open and strong dialogue on in the pursuit for equal rights” informed Co-convenor Chris Pycroft.

NSWGLRL recognises that marriage equality is of key concern not only to our members, but also to those constituents of NSW who have loved ones in committed relationships wishing to get married. We urge all members of the new Parliament to consider voting in favour of any bill that would remove the discriminatory provisions and allow all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to get married.

Co-convenor Lauren Foy highlights “marriage equality is an issue of human rights. Marriage reforms are essential to uphold the human rights of sexual and gender minorities. Australia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that expressly provides for equality before the law and right to non-discrimination. In recent history, marriage reforms, through the lens of non-discrimination, have secured the legitimacy of interracial unions and furthered the agency of women in marital relationships. In the context of evolving norms then, the Marriage Act 1961 should be amended to define marriage as the ‘union of two people’ irrespective of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

NSWGLRL has extended invitations and welcome opportunities to meet with our elected NSW parliamentarians to discuss this, and a range of other policy issues to progress substantive legislative and social equality for LGBTI people.

Announcing the #RainbowVotes Forum: 28 June, 7pm

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s #RainbowVotes Federal Election Forum

With electoral rolls now closed and the countdown to the longest election campaign in our history rolls on, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) are moving into the next phase of the #RainbowVotes campaign.

In the lead up to the Federal election NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) is calling on all parties to make a commitment to end discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.

“We will be holding a panel discussion with MP’s and candidates based on our scorecard which has been sent to all major and selected micro parties.” says Co- convenor Chris Pycroft https://glrl.org.au/rainbowvotes/

Co-convenor Lauren Foy highlights “that the forum will provide an opportunity for candidates to put forward their policy positions on number of issues of importance to the many LGBTI voters. These issues include LGBTI youth, discrimination, ageing, foreign affairs, gender diversity and intersectionality”.

Participants of the forum are:

  • Federal Member for North Sydney, The Hon Trent Zimmerman (LNP)
  • Liberal Candidate for Sydney, Geoffrey Winters (TBC)
  • Greens Candidate for Sydney, Sylvie Ellsmore
  • Greens Candidate for Wentworth, Dejay Toborek
  • Federal Member for Sydney, The Hon Tanya Plibersek (ALP)
  • Labor Candidate for Wentworth, Evan Hughes

The format of the evening will consist of a list of pre-prepared questions which will be provided to all candidates. The format will also include an audience Q and A session, seeking questions from members of the public in attendance.

“In recent months we’ve seen young same-sex attracted and gender diverse kids used as political pawns through orchestrated attacks on programs designed to keep them safe. Attacks that, along with scare campaigns about LGBTI families, are the emerging foundation of a plebiscite “no” campaign”, says Co-convenor Lauren Foy

Co-convenor Chris Pycroft informs, “Yet through all of this, there are a range of other issues that don’t get the attention they deserve. Issues that over the next term of Parliament will affect our communities for many years to come. The #RainbowVotes survey of the political parties standing for the next election will enable our communities to know where the parties asking for their vote, stand the range of issues important to them.”

The event will take place on Tuesday 28th June, 7pm at The Teachers Federation, 22- 28 Mary Street, Surry Hills NSW

We look forward to a frenetic conversation on how these candidates plan on supporting you, in what is set to be an enigmatic and telling conversation between the parties, and our communities.

Parties go head to head for #rainbowvotes in final weeks commitments

The results of a major survey of political parties on LGBTI issues have revealed important differences in the major political parties.

The parties differed significantly on their approach to LGBTI representation and engagement, including on the issues of a party spokesperson and a commissioner for LGBTI affairs.

“We are pleased that a Coalition Attorney General will have responsibility for LGBTI equality, ensuring that our issues are heard at the Cabinet table. However, we are disappointed that Labor has not committed to a party spokesperson for LGBTI affairs. The Greens and the Victorian Labor Party have long had a spokesperson; it’s time federal Labor followed their lead,” said Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) Co-Convenor Rachael Hambleton.

The Greens have put forward a proposal to establish a Commonwealth Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, which would be able to work across Government to provide support for the LGBTI community.

“Whilst the Labor party’s proposal to establish an LGBTI Discrimination Commissioner and the Coalition’s plan to give the new Human Rights Commissioner responsibility for LGBTI affairs are both welcome, we believe the Commissioner should not be stuck at the Human Rights Commission but able to work within Government to advance the rights of LGBTI Australians,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy

Two issues that have dominated the media have been the Safe Schools program and balancing religious freedom with LGBTI equality.

“We welcome the Opposition Leader’s comments in support of Safe Schools, but those words need to be backed by funding. The Coalition needs to explain what they are going to do to when the funding contract for the Safe Schools Coalition programme ends given that they will not extend the funding,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Rachael Hambleton.

“Given that faith leaders such as the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton and the Archbishop of Sydney say they would not use religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTI Australians in critical service delivery, we are disappointed that neither of the major parties would commit to amending the law to end discrimination against LGBTI Australians in service delivery,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy.

Marriage equality and the proposed marriage plebiscite has been another strong focus of the election campaign.

“Upwards of 70% of Australians now support marriage equality. To deny a free vote on marriage equality, to deny the will of the vast majority of Australians, and to deny LGBTI Australians their right to equality, dignity and respect is a statement which says that our love is not equal. We will continue to fight for a free vote in Parliament and for the passage of marriage equality,” said NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) Co-Convenor Lauren Foy.

The parties also made commitments to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people, including improvements to aged care services.

“We are encouraged to see all the major parties make commitments to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people. We are delighted to see parties have highlighted the unique health needs of LGBTI people and provided strategies for addressing them. Across all measures, LGBTI people are more likely to experience poor health outcomes and have greater difficulty accessing care. Whatever party forms government, we will work with our community partners to ensure the parties follow through on their commitments to LGBTI health,” said Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) CEO, Simon Ruth.

“Unfortunately, there were no solid commitments from the two major parties to renew the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy beyond 2017. Older LGBTI Australians need support and we need to continue the reform in aged care towards an inclusive sector. Good strides have been made and need to be continued,” said VAC CEO, Simon Ruth.

There is also increasing awareness of the plight of LGBTI asylum seekers seeking refuge in Australia.

“There is an increasing number of refugees seeking protection in Australia based on their LGBTI status with at least 77 countries worldwide criminalising homosexual behaviour. LGBTI asylum seekers are some of the most vulnerable individuals held in detention around the world and should not be repatriated to their country of origin if it would compromise their safety,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy.

The survey also addressed specific issues facing the transgender, gender diverse and intersex communities, with the parties making commitments to support the health and wellbeing of these communities.

“It is wonderful to see some political parties finally begin to address the stigmatisation and treatment of people born with intersex bodies, in line with concerns stated by the United Nations and other international human rights organisations,” said Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia Co-Chair, Morgan Carpenter.

“We urge all those with an interest on LGBTI issues to carefully examine these responses which we believe cover our communities comprehensively. From the trans and gender diverse perspective, we note in particular the responses regarding critical health and medical issues for trans and gender diverse people of all ages,” said Transgender Victoria (TGV) Executive Director, Sally Goldner.

The survey organisers urge all LGBTI Australians and anyone with an interest in supporting these communities to pay close attention to the results.

“This election is going to be a close one, so it’s more important than ever that voters who care about LGBTI issues know not just where their candidate stands but also what the party policies will be,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy.

The complete survey responses and assessment are available at rainbowvotes.com.au

Media Release: NSW GLRL demands protections for LGBTI asylum seekers

In May 2016, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee released an Interim Report on their inquiry into the Conditions and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees at the regional processing centres (RPCs) in the Republic of Nauru and Papua New Guinea (the Report).

The Report noted that the committee received submissions focused on the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people held in the RPCs. The NSW GLRL (GLRL) contributed a submission outlining some of the issues faced by LGBTI refugees in Australian offshore processing facilities and the ways in which those issues should be addressed as the treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers continues to pose a serious concern.

The Report noted: “The NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby highlighted that ‘LGBTI refugees are some of the most vulnerable individuals held in detention around the world’, and submitted that they were subject to ‘severe discrimination’ in the RPCs and their host countries, as well as in refugee status determination processes.”

The Report noted that the GLRL also “offered a number of recommendations for specific training and education of relevant officials and service providers, as well as improved services, to better address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of LGBTI asylum seekers.” These included recommendations for mandatory Guidelines about the treatment of LGBTI refugees in regional processing centres that address issues of LGBTI identification and intersectional identities and the unique situation of LGBTI refugees (who may be fleeing not only criminal persecution, but also social stigmatisation and persecution); training to increase understanding of diverse sexual orientation and gender diversity; and compulsory responses to violence against members of LGBTI communities in RPCs.

Our submission also recommended that LGBTI asylum seekers should not be repatriated to their country of origin if it would in any way compromise their safety or wellbeing. Further, LGBTI refugees should not be resettled in countries where homosexual behaviour is criminalised, such as Papua New Guinea.

The GLRL drew attention to the increasing number of refugees seeking protection in Australia based on their LGBTI status. At least 77 countries worldwide criminalise homosexual behaviour and many continue to introduce harsher penalties.

Although homosexuality has been decriminalised in Nauru since our submission, the GLRL maintains that the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI asylum seekers in that RPC requires the implementation of our recommendations.

Papua New Guinea continues to criminalise homosexuality. However, just before the committee released the Interim report, on 26 April 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea held that the detention of the asylum seekers at the Manus RPC was ‘unconstitutional and illegal’, and ordered that the Australian and PNG governments ‘forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent’ their continued detention there. We encourage the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments to resolve this in a manner which prioritises the safety and wellbeing of LGBTI asylum seekers on Manus Island.

The committee recommended that, if it were unable to complete its inquiry prior to the federal election in July, the Senate refer the inquiry to the next Parliament.

Further comment is available upon request.

Media Release: Surrogacy matters to our rainbow families

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs tabled a report from their inquiry into the regulatory and legislative aspects of international and domestic surrogacy arrangements on 4 May. The report, titled ‘Surrogacy Matters’, outlines ten recommendations arising from the inquiry.

The NSWGLRL contribution to the inquiry recognised the diverse range of views within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex and queer (‘LGBTIQ’) communities on issues surrounding surrogacy and the appropriate regulatory or legislative scheme.

Co-convenor Lauren Foy said “the GLRL submission presented several ‘key principles’ that we think are critical to the regulatory and legislative aspects of international and domestic surrogacy. These guiding principles elucidate the need for an empirically-based, human rights-aligned and workable response to regulating surrogacy in Australia which prioritises the best interests of children, but also protects the rights of surrogate mothers and intended parents.”

“Reform of the regulation and legislation of surrogacy in Australia needs to progress in line with lesbian and gay rights as well as the expectations of the broader community.”

“We also noted that surrogacy in Australia was marred by an inadequacy of information. Many community members are unsure of their rights and responsibilities when considering a surrogacy arrangement. We suggested that in order to ensure the efficacy of any reform, it would be useful to provide accessible community education for people considering or pursuing surrogacy arrangements (including same-sex couples)” informs Co-convenor Chris Pycroft.

The report acknowledged that many inquiry participants, including the GLRL, “highlighted a number of discriminatory provisions that exist in relation to gender, marital status and sexual orientation.”

The report recommended that Australian governments consider the development of a model national law that facilitates altruistic surrogacy, and that the Australian Law Reform Commission conduct an inquiry into the varied laws in jurisdictions in order to develop the model law. The GLRL welcomes this move towards national consistency.

The report also recommended that the Australian Government develop a website that provides advice and information for Australians considering domestic altruistic surrogacy. This addresses the GLRL’s comments on the inadequacy of information around surrogacy.

However, the report recommended that commercial surrogacy remain illegal in Australia and that a taskforce be developed to report on ways to address the situation of Australians who enter offshore surrogacy arrangements, including an audit of surrogacy destination countries.

The Committee recommended that the Australian Government introduce legislation to amend the Migration Act 1958 such that Australian residents seeking a passport for a young child to return to Australia are subject to screening by Department of Immigration and Border Protection officials to determine whether they have breached Australian or international surrogacy laws while outside Australia, and that, where the Department is satisfied that breaches have occurred, the Minister for Immigration is given the authority to make determinations in the best interests of the child, including in relation to the custody of the child.

This follows recognition, endorsed by the GLRL, that the “evidence is clear that extra-territorial offences for engaging in commercial surrogacy have not worked to deter Australians from travelling overseas to use surrogacy services”. The report found that, without a consistent national ban, credibly enforced, “Australians will continue to use offshore commercial surrogacy services”

“Whilst this conclusion is inescapable, we are concerned about the effects of the recommendations to address it on many members of our communities.” says Foy

Some inquiry participants, including the Australian Christian Lobby, argued that all forms of surrogacy should be prohibited altogether.

Further media comment is available upon request.

#RainbowVotes the most important in recent history

The 2016 Federal Election to be held on Saturday 2 July is one of the most important in recent memory for LGBTI communities.

In the lead up to the Federal election NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) is calling on all parties to make a commitment to end discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said “For the health, wellbeing and safety of our communities, it’s paramount that we ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda this federal election and we make our #rainbowvotes count”.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said that politicians needed to recognise the importance of equality to a large number of Australians. “Now is the chance for us to show federal politicians the increasing number of voters that include equality for LGBTI people in deciding how they vote”, Pycroft said.

As a part of the #RainbowVotes campaign involving 9 organisations including the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, an election questionnaire covering 11 key topics has been sent to major parties, micro parties and key independents. Areas of focus include LGBTI youth, discrimination, ageing, foreign affairs, gender diversity and intersectionality. Responses will be published and distributed widely to voters ahead of the July 2 election.

The NSW GLRL said one of the key election asks will be taking action to reduce violence and harassment against LGBTI students and ensuring that young LGBTI people feel safe at school.

“We’ve seen the attacks on Safe Schools clearly having an impact. NSW LGBTI people ranked mental health and safe schooling as issues of high importance to them in our survey. We are calling for all parties to take steps to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia occurring in schools.”

Foy also said another key ask of the parties will be to increase engagement with the LGBTI community through a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights, a party spokesperson on issues relating to the LGBTI equality, and a whole-of-government LGBTI Ministerial Advisory Group.

“In the current political climate, there is a demonstrable need for a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights.

“We’ve seen the success that LGBTI Friends of Parliament cross party working group can have in the reform process in NSW. We also see the success in Victoria, of the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality who is making strong inroads in helping Government and private organisations to be more inclusive and understanding of the needs of LGBTI people. We believe this is a model the federal parties should consider adopting.”

Pycroft also said that anti-discrimination and vilification laws were also a high priority for NSW LGBTI people.

“It is concerning that despite advances in policing and anti-discrimination protections, LGBTI people in our communities and survey still consider discrimination, harassment and hate speech to be an issue of high importance. We have no federal vilification protections against hate speech and this is a grave concern.

“With many exemptions still in place, this election is an opportunity for political leaders to demonstrate their commitment to equality before the law.”

On health, families and young people, the NSW GLRL said research shows that LGBTI people can have poorer mental health outcomes.

Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said “We’ve seen an increase in people reaching out for mental health support as the conversation on a plebiscite continues, Safe Schools continues to be attacked and LGBTI refugees continue to be persecuted. We need to make sure that there are safety nets in place to ensure that appropriate care, support and access is afforded to all people. We want to see radical hospitality afforded to all members of our community.”

The NSW GLRL will also continue their calls for marriage equality. Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said “Changes to the Marriage Act in 2004 meant increased discrimination and prejudice against our community; it was a statement which said that our love is not equal. We will continue to fight for a free vote in parliament, and for the passage of marriage equality. 70 per cent of LGBTI Australians do not support a national vote on marriage equality. It is unnecessary, costly and potentially harmful to young or vulnerable LGBTI people and their families.”

With the electoral rolls to close on May 23, the NSW GLRL is urging LGBTI communities and ally’s to make sure they #enrolforequality, in particular those who are eligible to vote for the first time.

“By enrolling now and making sure those around you are also enrolled, you can help us show the Government that Australians everywhere believe in fairness and equality for LGBTI people – and will ‘rainbow vote’ for it,” Foy said.

Community members can enrol online at http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol

The full questionnaire (and impending results) can be found at http://www.glrl.org.au/rainbowvotes

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