By ALLISON HORE
Following a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” in Victoria, a group of NSW parliamentarians are vowing to push similar policy to outlaw the practice in NSW.
During a nine hour sitting on Thursday this week, Victoria’s upper house voted 27 to 9 to pass the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill. The introduction of the bill follows similar reforms in Queensland and the ACT.
Under the Victorian bill, for conduct to be considered a “change or suppression practice”, and be convicted as such, three things must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It must be directed at an individual, occur on the basis of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and have the aim to change or suppress that person’s identity.
People found to have been conducting such practices could face criminal charges, including up to 10 years in jail or a fine of almost $10,000.
Now a cross party group in NSW have committed to reviewing the Victorian legislation to see how similar reforms can be made here. The group, Parliamentary Friends of the LGBTQI+ Community, say these reforms would “protect LGBTQI+ people regardless of their background or upbringing from the trauma and torment of conversion therapy.”
The group is made up of NSW parliamentarians from across the party spectrum. Members include Liberal MLC Shayne Mallard, Labor MLC Penny Sharpe, Greens MP Jenny Leong and Independent MP Alex Greenwich.
While NSW does not currently have a ban on conversion “therapy”, against any health practitioner who provides services in an unethical or misleading manner could be disciplined by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC).
Given there is no reliable research to back up the claim medical and psychological treatment can change a person’s orientation, any therapy which claims to be able to do so could be classed as misleading and therefore unethical. Unregistered individuals claiming to provide healthcare or counselling services can also be disciplined.
Call for people to share their experiences
Despite this, conversion therapy still takes place in NSW and the Parliamentary Friends of the LGBTQI+ Community group is looking for people who have experienced these harmful practices in the state to reach out and share their stories.
“While there are shocking accounts of attempts to convert LGBTQI+ people, most stories go untold because they occur behind closed doors and are associated with feelings of shame and rejection,” they wrote in a statement.
“Members want those in the community who have been affected to reach out, share their experience in a safe environment and help them outlaw the practice here.”
Penny Sharpe said she was “moved” by the debate in Victoria, especially the stories of survivors and acknowledged “there is work to do in NSW.”
In 2013 Alex Greenwich put forward a motion recognising that “ex-gay therapy” is “harmful and futile”. The motion passed with the support of the Legislative Assembly but little has been done to change the law since then. But the new laws and strong penalties in Victoria pave the way for change in NSW.
Those who wish to share their experiences can contact one of the MP’s involved in the campaign directly or email firstname.lastname@example.org.