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.

NSW Government signals reforms to state’s vilification laws to protect all LGBTI people

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby today welcomed the Berejiklian Governments moves to strengthen protections for LGBTI communities in NSW via the passage of the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018.
“The limited coverage offered by previous the NSW anti-vilification framework was in clear need of reform and this Bill presented a strong opportunity for the Government to make it clear that vilification in NSW under no circumstance, is acceptable. This is a reform process NSWGLRL have worked very closely on for many, many years.”
“We are pleased to have worked with the Keep NSW Safe alliance across multi-faith and multi-cultural lines, the then Attorney-General, the member for Vaucluse, the Hon. Gabrielle Upton MP, and Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian, AO, who undertook broad community consultation beginning in November 2016 and to date, with Attorney General Speakman to come to consensus on creating a framework for strengthening social cohesion.” says Lauren Foy of NSWGLRL.
Attorney General Speakman has informed that legislation will create a new offence in the Crimes Act of publicly threatening or inciting violence against people on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics or HIV/AIDS status, including a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a fine of $11,000.
This means that any form of communication (including speaking, writing, displaying notices, playing of recorded material, broadcasting and communicating through social media and other electronic methods) to the public, and any conduct (including actions and gestures and the wearing or display of clothing, signs, flags, emblems and insignia) observable by the public, as well as the distribution or dissemination of any matter to the public will become illegal. Such an act may be a public act even if it occurs on private land.
Significantly, the new offence will be investigated by the NSW Police Force and require the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions to commence a prosecution, making the process of complaint and investigation more stream lined as per the recommendations of Standing Committee on Law and Justice to inquire and report into the serious racial vilification offence in the Anti-Discrimination Act from 2013.
NSWGLRL are encouraged by these new reforms and congratulate the Attorney General on progressing this work. It is certainly a welcomed step in the right direction for many communities in NSW, with legislation now providing protections for bisexual people and people with atypical sex characteristics. Such considerations and the adoption of these legislative change see NSW brought into line with the Commonwealth and other states and territories with respect to these matters.
However, exemptions relating to discriminatory acts that are permitted or necessitated by legislation still continue to remain outstanding in the NSW Anti-Discrimination laws.
As such, NSWGLRL consider LGBTI issues should have been simultaneously addressed in conjunction with reforms to racial vilification, specifically, reform to section 20C and 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) – this was a missed opportunity.
For equal opportunity protections to truly extend to LGBTI people in NSW, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) must be amended.
“NSWGLRL believes that the groundswell of support is moving in the direction of removing the last bastion of remaining discriminations against LGBTI Australians in NSW. We also note the hurtful, vitriolic debate regarding the survey on changes to the Marriage Act (Cth), the contributions of some religious bodies to the “no” debate” and the negative impact that this debate had on LGBTI Australians living in NSW.
NSWGLRL support the proposal to hold all people, including religious bodies, more accountable for their actions and the effect that their actions have on LGBTI people living in NSW. Just as these laws protecting identified groups from threats of violence are important to securing the safety of NSW communities, laws and principles of non-discrimination are also paramount to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to protecting our diverse and vibrant communities for the benefit of all New South Wales residents.” Says Foy

New Committee of Management for NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby

The fight for LGBTI rights has made significant advances in recent years, but there is still much to do – and the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is leading the charge.

At the recent Annual General Meeting the Lobby’s Committee of Management was refreshed, with new members bringing a range of skills and experience.

Members of the Committee include experts in human rights and discrimination law, community development, and mental health marketing.

“It is an honour to work with such a dedicated team, and an exciting time to be involved,” the Co-convenors said.

“We are witnessing a dramatic change in the way LGBTI people are viewed in Australian society, but there remains a tremendous amount of work to do.”

It was noted at the AGM that in 2018 the Lobby will celebrate 30 years of continual advocacy.

“In 2018 the Lobby will celebrate 30 years of advocacy for vital law reforms affecting LGBTI communities – from decriminalisation of homosexuality through to marriage equality,” the Co-convenors said.

“We look forward to sharing a moment with you as we host a range of events, to consider what achieving and maintaining full equality looks like – and of course, to celebrate how far we’ve come!”

NSW GLRL’s Annual Report documents the group’s steps towards legal reform and equality for the state’s LGBTI residents, highlighting:

• The preparation of 11 detailed submissions to Government or Parliamentary Inquiries

• The development of a geo-mapping project to highlight hotspots of vilification across NSW, in partnership with Monash University and ACON

• The landmark national media moment of presenting 12 years’ worth of your Equality hearts on the front lawns of Australian Parliament

• Appreciation to the amazing volunteers who helped the Lobby participate in 10 community based events

• We partnered to host the biggest pro LGBTI rally seen in NSW’s history

• We participated in 104 stakeholder and community meetings

• We provided 347 media interviews and comments nationally and internationally.

According to the report, the organisation’s goals for the year ahead include working on combatting discrimination, especially removing exemptions for religious organisations. Legislation needs to address the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination before the law and corresponding rights to security of the person within the context of a Human Rights Framework, comprehensive state and federal vilification and discrimination protections and safety for young LGBTI people and rainbow families.

Our law reform priorities.


The removal of exemptions for faith based organisations receiving Commonwealth funding

Comprehensive Federal Vilification Protections

A national Surrogacy Framework

Reinvigoration of a Frame Work for Human Rights in Australia

Processing of Asylum seekers, queer and queer friendly services for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, UN humanitarian intake, detention and shifting the conversation within LGBTIQ communities about intersectionality, human rights and equality

Marriage Equality*


The re-introduction of Safe Schools or a similar anti bullying program in NSW

Review of NSW Anti-Discrimination and Vilification legislation

Banning of Conversion/Reparative therapy

A review of the Expungement (conviction for homosexual activity prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality NSW) Scheme to ensure best practice and equitable access

Independent police oversight and scrutiny of Operation Parrabell


Street Light Audit in partnership with the City of Sydney and Local relationships

Development of a Pride Centre in the Inner West


The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) has today called on Federal Parliament to immediately enable debate on marriage equality legislation if the survey result is a majority “YES” on 15 November 2017.

“With nearly 11 million Australians having voted, and the Labor Caucus today backing Dean Smith’s Bill, the nation’s attention now rightly turns to ‘what will Parliament do once the result is announced?’,” Convenor of GLRL, Ms Lauren Foy said.

“The Australian Parliament mustn’t muck around if the Australian people say “YES” on 15 November – parliament must get behind Senator Smith’s Marriage Amendment Bill and pass it as soon as possible.”

The Senate will be sitting on 15 November and could potentially move to immediately debate Senator Smith’s Amendment Bill after the 11:30AM announcement of the survey result.

While equality advocates like GLRL have serious reservations about the Bill favouring religious rights over other rights for marriage celebrants, several conclude it’s the only legitimate Bill to quickly resolve the issue.

“Only one Bill has the legitimacy of being presented to the Australian public in the run-up to and during this unprecedented survey – and that’s Senator Smith’s consensus Bill,” Ms Foy said.

Senator Smith’s Bill has received national coverage in the lead up to, and during, the postal survey period. Major media organisations have provided analysis and coverage of the Bill, and our only nation-wide newspaper, The Australian, even provided its online readership with a full copy of the Bill in the first weeks of the postal survey period.

“We’re prepared to put aside our reservations about Senator Smith’s Bill favouring religious laypeople who are celebrants in order that Australia can have a resolution before Christmas 2017,” Ms Foy said.

“It has Labor’s backing and we know many in Parliament have said they support it – so now we all want to know: does Prime Minister Turnbull’s Cabinet support it?”

“If the nation says YES come 15 November 2017, then there’s no case for any other Bill to pass parliament – and no case for ushering in major new discriminations against LGBTI people under the smokescreen of so-called religious ‘freedoms’,” Ms Foy concluded.

Senator Smith’s Bill is based on the consensus report of the recent Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill. The Select Committee held public hearings and received over 400 submissions from the public, including several religious organisations.

STATEMENT: “Straight Lives Matter” Rally

This weekend a “Straight Lives Matter” rally is planned for a well-known LGBTI area in Sydney.

We urge the community to stay away from this rally.

The goal of this group is not to persuade nor debate. It is to provoke a response and increase media attention.

We note the organisers have a history of provocation and their minds are already made up on marriage equality. We also note these individuals are not approaching us in a respectful, open-minded way to discuss concerns or issues.

The next few months will continue to test our integrity as some seek to delegitimise our calls for equality before the law.

This is another reason why we urge people to stay away from the rally. There is no benefit to you hearing, again, the debunked ‘slippery slope’ claims about LGBTI people and marriage equality promoted by this group.

We also urge any group considering a counter-rally to be mindful.

While we respect the right of community members to register and hold a rally or protest we do not endorse any protest being held near Oxford Street on this issue on the afternoon of Saturday 23 September 2017.

This includes the counter-rally. We note the counter-rally is organised by a collective who aren’t formally part of the YES Campaign group of organisations.

Finally, it should go without saying that no matter what your political views, using violence and physical intimidation is never acceptable.

We must remember what this is about – love, dignity and mutual respect.


Disappointed Nation Steels Itself to Win Unprecedented Civil Rights Survey

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) has called on all Australians to channel their disappointment with today’s High Court outcome into advocating for marriage equality.

“Without doubt today’s decision continues this dark stain on the law-making institutions and traditions of Australia – a nation which likes to think of itself as a strong liberal democracy,” NSWGLRL Convenor Lauren Foy said.

“This is not how we make laws and it should never again be repeated.”

“We must now channel our disappointment into advocacy by talking to friends, neighbours and colleagues about Voting YES – because the only thing worse than this process is losing the survey result,” she said.

Ms Foy also called on the community to report any messages of vilification to NSWGLRL for future representations to Government as well as to Police if they believe an offence has been committed.

“We support both free speech and mutual respect, and messages of vilification have no place in our communities or in this debate.

“If you see a clear example send it to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby via the contact details on our website – and if you think an offence has been committed contact Police or seek legal advice,” Ms Foy said.

NSWGLRL encouraged the community to stay strong amidst the ongoing campaign to delegitimise LGBTI rights, including from national figureheads.

“Most thinking Australians see the actions of these powerful, well-funded individuals for what they are – self-serving, desperate and divisive.”

“A favourable postal survey result won’t stop Tony Abbott or Lyle Shelton from opposing us and trying to delegitimise our clear legal claim for equality before the law.”

“We want everyone in the community to know we won’t stop fighting for equal rights and we will support the community every step of the way on the road to equality,” Ms Foy concluded.


For further comment please contact Lauren Foy, Convenor NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

M: 0421 447 026

E: convenors@glrl.org.au

Marriage Equality Campaign urges communities in NSW to join together and say ‘YES’ to marriage equality

Campaigners for marriage equality have united to urge all NSW residents to check their enrolment details with the Australian Electoral Commission before midnight August 24.

Longstanding LGBTI rights organisations, grassroots campaigners and politicians have combined to support the ‘YES’ campaign and to ensure people have registered to have their say.

“We strongly urge members of the community to make sure you’re enrolled, and that your details are up to date with the Australian Electoral Commission by visiting their website,” Lauren Foy, Convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said.

While universally condemning the idea of using a non-compulsory postal survey, advocates acknowledged that, subject to a successful High Court challenge, the community will need to participate in the postal survey.

“There is momentum behind marriage equality but like with the Brexit vote in the UK, we are strongly urging everyone not to be complacent,”  Ms Foy said.

Ms Foy also urged communities to engage in local events, speak to friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and strangers to advocate for marriage equality.

“LGBTI groups are united in this message – now is the time for Australia to embrace marriage equality” she said.

“Now is not the time to be silent – now is the time to make your voice heard. This is not only about marriage, about love, and equality – it is also about the direction of our nation.

“Do we want a stronger nation that embraces more freedom, respect and tolerance for all Australians? If you do then get involved – don’t sit on the sidelines.”

Ms Foy urged the community to attend a QandA discussion about the campaign and what you can do to be on the bright side of history.

Speakers include:

Alex Greenwich Co-Chair Australian Marriage Equality

Hon. Tanya Plibersek Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women

Jenny Leong MP Member for Newtown

Tiernan Brady Director The Equality Campaign

Lauren Foy Convenor NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby

Sally Rugg Campaign Director GetUp!

RSVP for the Event Here


The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) today welcomed the decision of the Australian Senate to reject – again – the Federal Government’s plebiscite proposal.

But Convenor of the NSWGLRL, Lauren Foy, warned that the path ahead for marriage equality supporters will require even greater energy, passion and persistence than their efforts up to now.

“We unequivocally condemn the idea of using a non-compulsory postal survey vote – a postal ‘plebiscite’ – especially when it has no power to compel MPs to vote according to the result.

“But we acknowledge a postal vote could still become reality, depending on the success of the High Court challenge announced yesterday,” Ms Foy said.

She continued, “we strongly urge members of the community to make sure your enrolment and residential address is up to date with the Australian Electoral Commission by visiting their website – and to do this NOW before the enrolment period closes.”

“You won’t receive your voting form in the mail unless you update your enrolment.”

“We hope that a postal vote doesn’t go ahead but if it does we want to make sure the community is ready. A postal vote campaign will need all of our energy and passion to bring the nation with us on the journey to equality.”


Ms Foy then criticised the remarkable precedent being set by the proposed postal survey, and the failure of politicians to protect the law-making traditions and institutions of Australia.

“The current Government says the 1977 national anthem poll is a precedent for a postal plebiscite – but it’s abundantly clear this proposal is a new low in more than one hundred years of law-making in Australia.

“Subjecting the legal and civil rights of a minority group to a national opinion poll is in no way comparable to changing our national anthem,” she said.

Ms Foy said the careless destruction of the law-making traditions and institutions of Australia represents a clear and present danger to social cohesion in a diverse modern Australia.

“If a government, without blinking, can propose a multimillion dollar plebiscite on the civil rights of the LGBTI community, then what’s to stop us from holding a plebiscite or postal survey on freedom of religious expression? Or on which migrants can enter Australia? Or on the salaries of politicians?

“If this wasn’t about gay rights then have no doubt – there would be more politicians and loud- mouthed commentators speaking out against this idea, especially those who claim they defend our institutions and traditions,” Ms Foy stated.

“A multimillion dollar straw poll on the legal and civil rights of a minority is unprecedented and stomach-turning – and this situation is so twisted that marriage equality advocates are fighting harder to keep our law-making traditions than some outspoken conservatives.

“The High Court ruled the only way this can be resolved is in the Parliament, and that’s where this debate should rightfully be held,” Ms Foy concluded.


NSWGLRL welcomes the release of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) welcomes this Bill and its attempt to find a compromise proposal the current Parliament can support. This reform to the Marriage Act is long overdue and much too important to be delayed any longer.

However, it has been the longstanding position of the NSWGLRL that there should be no religious exemptions in the treatment of LGBTI persons where a service is provided by, or on behalf of, the Australian Government.

The proposed Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 appears to offer current marriage celebrants a legal protection to refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples based solely on a personal religious belief [see: Section 39 DD (2), and Section 47 A]. This new exemption would also apply to straight couples.

NSWGLRL does not support this new encroachment of personal religious beliefs into the provision of services supplied by Government-authorised celebrants who are not Ministers of Religion.

Despite this imperfection the Bill has every chance of succeeding in Parliament if there is a conscience vote – and there should be no excuse for further delay or rejection of this Bill by the current Parliament.

The recent Senate Committee inquiry into marriage equality rose above party politics and showed that political parties can work together to deliver the will of the Australian people.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) is the leading organisation for lesbian and gay rights in NSW. Established in 1988, our mission is to achieve substantive legislative and social equality for lesbians, gay men and their families.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby takes your heart to Canberra

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will create a giant sea of hearts outside Parliament House on Tuesday 8 August 2017, with each heart containing a message of support of same-sex marriage collected over a decade of campaigning.

One of the famous hearts from the annual ‘Sea of Hearts’ display at Mardi Gras Fair Day, Camperdown NSW.

In 2005, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby placed a number of pink cardboard hearts at Victoria Park in Camperdown, NSW, protesting against the then Government’s ban on same-sex marriage which was enacted a year earlier.

The campaign became known as the ‘Sea of Hearts’ and served as one of the most potent symbols of LGBTI activism and equality used by equal rights supporters in Sydney and around the world.

It was the first national campaign in Australia to demand marriage equality.

“Politicians from across the political spectrum have come together every year since then, writing their own messages of love, hope and support for marriage equality.” says Lauren Foy, Convenor of NSWGLRL.

“It’s quite timely that in August over a decade later, NSWGLRL take the 12 years’ worth of messages from our communities, to the lawns of Parliament House to create a mass ‘Sea of Hearts’ – The time for Parliament to act is now and so we stand united with our communities in pushing forward for fairness.”

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is extending a warm invitation to community members to come along and show your support for marriage equality. Place a heart in GLRL’s inaugural Sea of Hearts on Parliament House Lawn, this Tuesday to show your support for marriage equality”.

The sea of hearts will coincide with the Coalition party room in which it is expected the issue of a free vote on marriage equality will be discussed.

“Planting a heart is a symbol of good will and encouragement before the Coalition meets to discuss a way forward for marriage equality, for all Australians.