IN 2017, through determination and adversity, Australia’s LGBTI community lead the way in affirming our national values of fairness and equality for all.
Significant progress was made in the courts, communities everywhere, and at all levels of government.
Many will remember this year as the one where we finally achieved marriage equality. Following an inspiring campaign to win the national vote that turned everyday Australians in expert advocates, politicians were unequivocally told that Australians love their LGBTI brothers and sisters and believe everyone should be given a fair go.
Almost immediately it was the gay and lesbian members of our parliament that got the legislation through without hostile amendments. This was ablely lead by Dean Smith and Penny Wong in the senate, along with Louise Pratt and Janet Rice, and in the House of Representatives by Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson.
Vital allies like Warren Entsch, Bill Shorten, and Sarah Hanson-Young also played key roles in ushering through this historic reform. Thanks to the hard work of so many, this fraught political year ended with our parliament coming together to do something good and make people happy.
There where also many other advances this year. Laws to allow same-sex adoption in South Australia came into effect in February and in the Northern Territory a commitment has also been made to progress same-sex adoption. In Queensland and Tasmania laws passed to remove historical homosexual convictions, with similar moves and an important apology to the gay community made in Western Australia. In Victoria, the Andrews Government has made a significant investment in supporting the mental health of LGBTI Victorians as well as outreach to multicultural communities.
We also had a significant court victory for the trans community, with the family court handing down a decision that means trans teens will no longer need to go through lengthy court processes to access hormone treatment. The ‘Kelvin’ case, also showed the important role community legal centre and advocacy groups play, with the Inner City Legal Centre and Human Rights Law Centre leading the charge for this significant victory, which will save not only time and money, but also much heartache and unnecessary and inhumane hurdles for vulnerable trans teens.
Australia’s intersex advocates also achieved major success in the United Nations with the UN Human Rights Committee delivering a number of significant findings on the rights of bodily integrity. Importantly, it found that medically unnecessary surgeries on children with intersex variations, that take place without consent, can be classified as human rights violations. The clear directive here is the need for Australia to end irreversible medical treatment that is not absolutely medically necessary.
In NSW, we saw the importance of never giving up in the pursuit of justice. The family of Scott Johnson has been fighting for years to prove his tragic death was a gay hate crime and not a suicide. It took a remarkable three coronial inquests to deliver the truth. This would not have happened without the determination of Scott’s brother Steve and the support of people like former NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher who could clearly see the historic injustice that had occurred.
The ACT continued to earn its title as the Rainbow Territory. Under the government of Andrew Barr (Australia’s first gay leader of a state or territory), the nation’s capital continues to do all that it can to support the LGBTI community. In 2017, the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Meegan Fitzharris, announced significant funding and support for a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) trial, the breakthrough proven method of HIV prevention. This important move followed detailed consultation with health and community organisations.
At the local government level councils big and small threw their support around their LGBTI constituents. From rainbow flags being flown at local council chambers across the country to the City of Sydney’s significant contribution to the YES Campaign, local government continued to play a leading role in creating safe and supportive environments for all citizens.
Importantly all these gains did not just improve the lives of LGBTI Australians, but of all Australians.
The work done to right passed wrongs and celebrate new rights, shows that when we work together to focus on what unites us, rather than divides us, great things can happens.
Let’s enter 2018 with the energy and determination to continue to improve the lives of every Australian, support our society’s most vulnerable, and celebrate continually working to make our nation a fairer and more equal place for all.
Alex Greenwich was the Co-chair of the successful YES marriage equality campaign and is the Independent Member for Sydney in the NSW Parliament.