NSW COVID-19 COMMUNITY SURVEY: Findings Report Released

PRESS RELEASE:

  • NSWGLRL surveyed its membership and the NSW community to determine how COVID-19 had impacted them.
  • Co-Convenor, Jack Whitney states that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted LGBTIQ people particularly, and amplified existing issues facing our community.
  • NSWGLRL brought attention key issues in a recent submission to the Select Committee on COVID-19: An Inquiry Into The Federal Government’s Response

Beginning in early May, the NSWGLRL survey asked questions about demographics, employment, mental health, wellbeing, relationships, and healthcare. The results show matters of concern for community and policy makers alike – across economic, health and safety.

Co-convenor, Jack Whitney stated, “the research undertaken by the lobby shows that LGBTIQ people have experienced significant mental health vulnerabilities as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.” Other health issues highlighted by the research included stories where gender affirming surgeries had been disrupted or completely postponed.

Results illustrate the economic impacts of the crisis, where 14% of respondents lost employment during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Co-Convenor, Jack Whitney, reported “the stories of the community and our members show that the majority of job losses are in financial services, community services, travel and tourism, fitness and communications.”

Other economic impacts include LGBTIQ asylum seekers who do not have access to financial assistance, particularly those on temporary protection or bridging visas.

Whitney reported, “Safety was a common issue for our members… there was a story of a young gay man who had to go back to his family home who are not supportive… he has had to stop talking to his boyfriend and friends.”

Domestic and family violence was also reported as an issue where relationships had deteriorated due to social distancing, living indoors, unemployment and other compounding factors.

Data collection of the community is also an ongoing issue, especially as the Australian Government continues to not count LGBTIQ communities in its census.

Whitney states, “data on LGBTIQ people is sorely missing and seldom collected… this is why it is so crucial that we are counted in the Australian Census… if we aren’t counted, how will we ever be able measure community wellbeing and improve outcomes for future generations?”

NSWGLRL brought attention these key issues in a recent submission to the Select Committee on COVID-19: An Inquiry Into The Federal Government’s Response.

Whitney stated, “We are confident that we have presented the issues most pressing and unique to the LGBTIQ people. We hope that the Government takes seriously our submissions, alongside with other civil society partners, like Amnesty International and the Human Rights Law Centre”. 

Read our Findings Report here.

Our submission to the inquiry can be found here.

ENDS

For further comment, contact Jack Whitney Co-Convenor on 0411387913.

If this article brings on mental health presentations, or you just want someone to talk to, please contact: Lifeline 13 11 14, QLife (LGBTI+, 3pm to 12am) 1800 184 527, Headspace – 1800 650 890

Press Release: Mark Latham’s Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill is flawed

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (‘the GLRL’) recently produced a submission to the Inquiry on the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Complaint Handling) Bill 2020 (‘the Bill’) as part of the NSW Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No.5 Legal Affairs Inquiry. The GLRL, like many other community groups, have identified issues with the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (‘the Act’), especially where it fails to adequately protect LGBTIQ people from discrimination. The GLRL also acknowledged that there are legitimate problems with the way complaints made under the Act are handled.

Jack Whitney, Convenor of The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby argued that the inquiry is not the best avenue, “The issues are best addressed by a full review of the Act in partnership with the community, rather than through piecemeal amendments to individual elements of the legislation”.

“The lobby has full knowledge of the context in which The Hon. Mark Latham MLC has drafted the Bill. We also understand that The Hon. Mark Latham MLC and others genuinely believe themselves to have been subject to vexatious complaints. However, we ask that the issues of complaint handling be considered in full by an expert body, such as Anti-Discrimination NSW themselves or the Law Reform Commission, as one element of a broader review into the Act, rather than via this Bill.”

Recommendations accompanying the submission are informed by the lobby’s consultation with Members of Parliament, key organisation and community consultation. It was in this consultation that firmed our position that a full review of the Act represents a better process than this Bill, and that there are clear concerns how the Bill has been drafted.

“In considering these proposed amendments, it is critical to remember that there is no requirement for complainants to Anti-Discrimination NSW to have legal representation. This means that the impact of this Bill would be felt most acutely by unrepresented victims of discrimination trying to navigate a complex legal system.”

Other concerns include; stopping victims from accessing justice in more than one jurisdiction, stopping victims from accessing justice where the discrimination occurred over more than 12 months, stopping victims from accessing justice because some part of the complaint lacks substance, adding unnecessary complexity by requiring victims and respondents to provide details of cognitive function.

“The Bill as drafted is flawed, would limit access to justice and unnecessarily complicates a system which must be capable of navigation by unrepresented victims of discrimination. This Bill should be rejected and a full review of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, including complaint handling, be pursued by an external body such as the Anti-Discrimination NSW or the Law Reform Commission in partnership with thecommunity.”

Read the submission here

ENDS

For further comment, contact Jack Whitney Convenor, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby on 0411387913

 

Press release: NSW government blood donation restrictions

 

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is pleased by news that the NSW government is set to ease restrictions preventing men who have had sex with men from donating blood. This follows the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) acceptance of Lifeblood’s submission to lower the blood donation deferral period for men who have had sex with men to three months, originally set at 12 months.

The Lobby has joined calls for the NSW Government to act swiftly to implement the decision of the TGA and work with the federal, state and territory governments to see this change come into effect as soon as possible given the current health crisis.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Convenor, Jack Whitney stated “During the current public health crisis, it is especially critical that Australians continue to donate blood. Now that the NSW Government has indicated it will move ahead, it should act swiftly to implement the decision of the TGA and lower the deferral period for men who have had sex with men.”

Advocates have long called for restrictions on the donation of blood from men who have sex with men to be eased. For men that are sexually active however this round of  changes will likely make little difference.

The Lobby encourages the ongoing review of evidence by authorities to work towards a future where all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are able to donate blood.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Convenor, Jack Whitney stated “We encourage all relevant authorities to continue to review evidence and work towards a future where all people are able to donate blood.”

We also note the concerns raised by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations regarding the exclusion of PrEP users and ask that these questions being promptly addressed by Lifeblood, TGA and government.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Convenor, Jack Whitney stated “Overall, this is good news. However, it is not good enough and there are areas for improvement. We want to see all individuals whose sexual activity is safe, and meet the other requirements, to be able to donate regardless of time period. Three months will mean very little to too many in the community.  The lobby recommends removing the existing deferral period altogether. There should be routine unsafe sex screening for all people and all sexual preferences. The risk of passing on infections through blood donation is created by unsafe sex – not because of individual markers of sexual preference and gender.”

For further contact Jack Whitney 0411387913 or convenors@glrl.org.au

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Media Release: Submission to the Gay and Transgender Hate Crimes Between 1970 and 2010 in the 57th Parliament

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Submission to the Gay and Transgender Hate Crimes Between 1970 and 2010 in the 57th Parliament

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has made its submission to the inquiry into the Gay and Transgender Hate Crimes Between 1970 and 2010 in the 57th Parliament.

Lobby Convenor, Jack Whitney stated : “… murder has always been a crime in NSW. Hate crime is a crime in NSW. A fair and decent civil society should not only actively try to strike down these crimes and hate where it occurs, but it should also acknowledge past wrongs when it fails to intervene.”

“As this inquiry has seen – this hate LGBTIQ Australians have experienced, solely for being LGBTIQ, is vast and wide. Therefore, in making this submission the NSWGLRL seeks to highlight our position that an apology is overdue, that NSW Police has a responsibility to change its culture and provide training so that it can effectively serve the public, and that the services and community organisations that provide care to LGBTIQ Australians be funded so they can continue their important work”, Lobby Convenor, Jack Whitney stated.

You can read our full submission here.

NSW GLRL statement on Religious Freedom Bill

There is no such thing as “equality – but with exceptions”. Following consultation on the second exposure draft, the NSW GLRL (the Lobby) will now oppose any Religious Discrimination Bill as long as Scott Morrison and Christian Porter remain in power.

Convenor of the Lobby, Jack Whitney, stated today “This second draft is a slap in the face. This Coalition Government cannot be trusted to introduce fair, measured and equal laws that protect LGBTI people, women, people with disability, and faith-based communities.”

Whitney further stated that, “The lobby and the LGBTI community extended the olive branch to Scott Morrison during the first round of consultations. We were engaged in the process, genuinely and wholeheartedly… we want to bring communities together, not divide them”.

The Lobby in its consultation reached the view that this second draft is inconsistent, lacks compatibility with state laws, and is significantly more complex. Whitney, who is concerned about the day-to-day reality for LGBTI communities if the Bill is to pass, stated, “It is almost impossible to contemplate such a Bill being applied with our current modern anti-discrimination laws… not to mention completely denigrates the consultation process and signifies that the Coalition Government does not take seriously our concerns”.

The Lobby has consulted with members of parliament, both in the Coalition Government and the Opposition, and it has become clear that there is disagreement within the Coalition, and the Opposition cannot formulate a position from this second draft. Whitney stated Scott Morrison and Christian Porter, “lack the leadership and clarity to bring together the parliament, the LGBTI community, and the faith-based communities on this issue”.

The NSWGLRL believes that rather than further watering down the current legal protections of LGBTI people with this Bill, we need stronger laws that provide further protections for LGBTI people.

The reason for this can be seen most recently in the Newtown Police case of homophobic discrimination brought by four former police employees. Despite offering substantial evidence of homophobic incidents over many years, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that common usage of insults like “faggots”, “lezzos” and even “gay cunts” didn’t of itself constitute bullying or harassment. If it was, however, a one-off serious comment of a sexual nature, it would likely be considered sexual harassment. This inconsistency must end. Improvements to legal protections should come from both NSW and federal parliaments in partnership with one another, guided by the LGBTI community.

Jack Whitney 
Convenor – New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
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Australia said YES to LGBTI equality in 2017 – it’s time for NSW’s anti-discrimination laws to catch up.

Thursday 11 October 2018

The New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has called on NSW Parliament to overhaul its dated Anti-Discrimination Act to reflect modern community sentiment.

Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said the outdated NSW laws were now among the worst in the nation.

“As we’ve all been reminded this week by many, including the Prime Minister, this state has some of the broadest exemptions and loopholes in favour of religious discrimination in Australia today,” Foy said.

“These laws do not belong in the 21st Century. They are prejudiced, and they are archaic. Kids shouldn’t be allowed under law to be kicked out of school just for being gay, lesbian, or transgender.

“After the overwhelming public victory for equality in the 2017 national marriage survey, it’s high time for NSW anti-discrimination law to be brought into line with modern community sentiment,” Foy said.

Ms Foy noted the 2010 decision of the Court of Appeal, allowing Wesley Mission to discriminate on religious grounds against a male same-sex couple who had applied to be foster carers to children in need.

“NSW law leaves major loopholes, largely for religious organisations, to discriminate against LGBTI people in a wide variety of circumstances in their everyday life.

“From schooling, to healthcare, to adoption – NSW law leaves LGBTI people exposed to extraordinary discrimination that’s long been out of step with community sentiment,” Foy stated.

NSW was the first Australian jurisdiction to introduce anti-discrimination laws covering homosexuality in 1982. However, in the 35 years since, these laws have gone from ‘first to worst’ – they do not cover bisexuality or sex characteristics, according to Co-Convenor James Bolster.

“The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act doesn’t provide protections for bisexuals, and needs a major overhaul of definitions and application for transgender, non-binary and intersex people,” Mr Bolster said.

“Our state parliament has shown great leadership by updating vilification law this year – and we have every hope they can do so again,” Mr Bolster concluded.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will continue to work with all NSW parliamentarians to ensure the modernisation of anti-discrimination law in NSW.

Religious Freedoms Report signals social cohesion and the rights of Australian Kids now at risk from Canberra

After media leaks today from the ‘Religious Freedoms’ Report, both major federal political parties must immediately rule out legislating discrimination against LGBTI Australians, warned the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby today.
“This is about our children and the type of country we all want to live in,” Lobby Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said.
“Do we want to live in a country where thousands of young LGBTI kids are being taught their innate sexuality, their gender, or their choice of relationship is wrong or immoral or unnatural?”
After the revealing health and wellbeing impacts of the marriage survey on LGBTI Australians twelve months ago, GLRL has warned of the impacts of further government-endorsed discrimination.
“Twelve months ago, we saw demand for mental health services spike because of the Government’s marriage survey which put the innate rights of LGBTI Australians up for public debate,” Foy said.
“It feels like we are back here again. Can you imagine the mental health impacts on young Australians if the Federal Government legislates to support religious schools teaching our children that their sexuality – that who they are – is wrong?”
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Co-Convenor James Bolster called on leaders to remember the enormity of the 2017 vote for equality for LGBTI Australians.
“After the unprecedented scale of the last year’s victory for equality for LGBTI Australians, it is on all parliamentarians to respect the will of the people, and to back in the rights of young LGBTI kids at religious schools.”
“Our Parliamentarians should remember that Australians did not support further discrimination against LGBTI people – they supported equality. The same message should be heeded by anyone wanting to be a parliamentarian, including candidates in Wentworth.”
Wentworth recorded an 81% result in favour of equal marriage rights for LGBTI couples in 2017.
“Unless our representatives rule out this proposal, it puts so much at risk – it risks our social cohesion by pitting religious communities against other minorities; it risks the rights of Australian kids to be raised in supportive environments free from harm.”
Today, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day.
ENDS

Rights Lobby welcomes Inquiry, warns Police they must do more to earn community’s confidence

19 September 2018

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW) welcomes today’s announcement of a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into gay and transgender hate crimes and the current criminal justice culture relating to such crimes. The Lobby has been involved in the collection of evidence around LGBTI hate crimes for nearly 30 years – a number of which were looked into through the Operation Parrabell report.

“This inquiry is overdue. For the heartbroken friends and family members of these individuals, who were targeted and murdered, it has been a decades long journey for justice and redress. And that journey is not over,” Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said.

The Lobby warned, however, that after years of goodwill the final release of the Operation Parrabell report was deeply disheartening and only added to the call for an Inquiry.

“The NSW Police spent pages and pages of its Parrabell report attempting to frame these violent murders as somehow ‘a part of the times’. They also ducked any obligation they had to assess the role of Police bias in the often woeful response to these crimes due to widespread social prejudice against LGBTI people.

“Murder has always been considered a crime in NSW. Social prejudice has never been an excuse for murder. This shows just how far is left to go for NSW Police in 2018,” Foy said.

The Lobby also believes there is mounting evidence NSW Police has failed to properly address its internal culture relating to LGBTI people and crimes affecting them.

“In the past year we’ve seen shocking revelations about an alleged culture of institutional homophobia within NSW Police, including bullying of employees at Newtown Local Area Command, and a failure to take cases of domestic violence seriously when reported by LGBTI people,” Foy said.

“Unfortunately this goes to the highest levels of NSW Police, with the current Commissioner involved in attempts to internally resolve the Newtown homophobia case.

“If it wasn’t for the bravery of these individuals and the work of Dowson Turco Lawyers, NSW Police would still be turning a blind eye to homophobia within its ranks,” Foy said.

While welcoming the Inquiry, the Lobby highlighted there are practical steps NSW Police can take today to improve the situation – if it has the appetite for real change.

“NSW Police doesn’t have to wait for an Inquiry to take action. We want to see ongoing education modules relating to LGBTI people as a standard of employment for every employee of NSW Police – from the Commissioner down. It is no longer good enough to have a handful of ‘trained’ GLLOs.*”

“An individual living in any corner of this state should be able to deal with any NSW Police employee with confidence, knowing they will be treated equally and respectfully.

Until that becomes a reality, NSW Police have not done enough to earn the community’s confidence and NSW Parliament, sadly, must act to make it a reality for LGBTI people.”

The Lobby acknowledges the long-running advocacy of Shayne Mallard and Penny Sharpe among many parliamentarians who supported establishing this Inquiry, as well as the vital importance of ACON’s report In Pursuit of Truth and Justice released this year.

*Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, NSW Police.