Survivors and LGBTQI+ legal advocacy body Equality Australia, have welcomed the recent changes to the ALP’s platform on religious “conversion therapy”, saying the shift away from a focus on criminalisation to broader strategies in partnership with affected communities will provide better long-term outcomes for LGBTQI+ survivors.
“Support and wellbeing of survivors is, and always should be, at the heart of this issue,” said Anna Brown, incoming CEO of Equality Australia and Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.
“It is imperative that there are stronger laws and support for survivors, and also education about the harm caused by the cultural ideas and messaging prevalent within faith communities.
“From the 1990’s we’ve seen conversion ideology mainstreamed within Christian churches and become a broader model of spiritual healing for so-called sexual brokenness.
“These increasingly pervasive and less formalised models of conversion activities need to be tackled with a multi-faceted approach combining legal regulation, targeted education, awareness raising within faith based communities, and specialised support for survivors,” said Ms Brown.
“The Brave Network Melbourne and the authors of the SOCE Survivors Statement have consistently emphasised the role of ideology and religious culture in driving the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement,” added Nathan Despott, co-leader of Brave Network Melbourne.
“We are delighted that the ALP's new platform recognises that a broad strategy is required to combat the conversion movement, rather than just a limited focus on formal therapeutic activities,” said Mr Despott.
“We hope that the ALP will adopt the strategies in both the SOCE Survivor Statement and the Human Rights Law Centre report, including civil penalties for gay conversion delivered in a formal context,” said Chris Csabs, co-author of the SOCE Survivor Statement.
“It’s fantastic that the ALP has listened to survivors and researchers. Changing their policy to reflect that ‘gay conversion’ is broader than therapeutic practices and acknowledging that the ideology behind ‘gay conversion’ is also harmful, is an important step toward protecting the community,” said Mr Csabs.
The changes in the ALP platform reflect a key recommendation of the Human Rights Law Centre and La Trobe University Report Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice. The report suggested that instead of criminalising conversion therapy in Australia, a more effective method would be to strengthen civil law responses including health regulation and enforcement of schemes that require reporting of child abuse.
“We’re pleased to see the ALP platform aligns with our recommendations not to criminalise LGBT religious conversion practices in Australia, and instead focuses on broader strategies working in partnership with people of faith to achieve cultural change,” said Ms Brown.
“Stronger legal responses are part of the solution but must be accompanied research and resources to support tailored interventions in faith communities.
“Civil prohibitions and stronger health regulation are a more proportionate, appropriate and effective legal response to tackling the issue of conversion therapy in Australia.
“We look forward to working with all political parties and faith communities across Australia to tackle the insidious harm caused by conversion practices to the health and well-being of LGBT people of faith,” said Ms Brown.
MEDIA CONTACT: ROSINA RAYNS, 0401 991 792