Righting the wrongs of Tasmania’s homophobic past: unjust gay convictions to be cleared

Righting the wrongs of Tasmania’s homophobic past: unjust gay convictions to be cleared

Tasmanian Parliament is providing a way for people convicted under unjust laws against homosexual acts to have these charges removed from their criminal records.

Lee Carnie, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said the acknowledgement of the injustice of Tasmania’s old laws, together with the new scheme, would have a practical impact on the lives of many people.

“This scheme will help repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and send a clear message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that they are valued members of the community.”

Tasmania was the last Australian state to carry out the death penalty for sodomy in 1867. In the subsequent hundred years Tasmania had the highest rate of imprisonment for private consenting male sex anywhere in the world.

Until 1997, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were charged and convicted of offences ranging from sodomy and gross indecency to cross dressing.

“We shouldn't underestimate the human toll of these laws. Convictions for homosexual offences have restricted employment, volunteering and travel opportunities for decades. More fundamentally, these convictions have been a source of ongoing grief and deep personal shame for the individuals affected. The opportunity to have their criminal records cleared will be welcome,” said Lee Carnie.

The Human Rights Law Centre provides legal assistance to those who have been unfairly burdened by criminal records imposed when the law criminalised homosexual sexual relations and has successfully advocated for similar schemes and apologies in a number of Australian jurisdictions.

“You can't undo the actions of the past, but for those convicted, this scheme in Tasmania may be a step towards healing old wounds,” said Lee Carnie.

Click here for the Expungement of Historical Offences page.

For free and confidential legal support and advice please contact the Human Rights Law Centre’s Expungement Legal Service on (03) 8636 4458 or expungement@hrlc.org.au.

For further comments or information please contact:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519