1 November 2023

The Australian Services Union (NSW & ACT Branch) has written a letter to NSW Premier Chris Minns, calling for the Government to  support legislation to improve equality in NSW.

The Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTQIA+) Bill 2023 and Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill 2023 were introduced into NSW Parliament by Independent MP Alex Greenwich. Many of our members and the organisations for which they work participated in the development of these Bills, contributing their experience and expertise to develop draft legislation that would properly reflect not only the lived experience of discrimination, but the hopes and aspirations for something better from the clients and communities with whom they work.

It is a shameful fact that after more than a decade of conservative governments in NSW, members of LGBTIQ+ communities and their families must live with some of Australia’s most outdated, irrelevant and least effective discrimination laws.

Bringing NSW into line with other jurisdictions

At the last state election, the people of NSW made it very clear that they wanted something better, so that everyone has the same rights and protections from discrimination. The legislation proposed by Alex Greenwich specifically addresses discrimination against members of LGBTIQ+ communities when they are required to provide information to government and non-government agencies, when they are enrolled in private schools and training organisations, and when receiving support, including housing from faith-based providers. The protections included in the proposed Bill do not privilege any person or group. Instead, they address the outstanding issues in the current NSW legislation and would bring NSW legislation into line with other states, territories and the Commonwealth.
The proposed Equality Legislation Amendment Bill addresses a shameful situation in NSW where conservative governments and dangerous individuals have harnessed dog whistle politics for their own purposes, reinforcing discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ+ people, their families and communities in a number of areas, including laws on sentencing, body searches, and other laws that stigmatise people with HIV and sex workers.

Access to ID that matches identity

NSW is currently the only Australian jurisdiction requiring trans people to undertake surgery on their reproductive organs to access a birth certificate that reflects who they are. The proposed Equality Legislation Amendment Bill would remove cruel and unnecessary barriers preventing trans and gender diverse people from accessing state-issued identity documents that matches their gender identity.

Protecting LGBTIQA+ people from violence

There is no doubt about the prevalence and impact of family and domestic violence across all communities, including LGBTIQ+ communities. The confronting evidence is that members of LGBTIQ+ communities are at higher risk of family and personal violence than other communities. The proposed Equality Legislation Amendment Bill addresses the unique forms of risk experienced by members of LGBTIQA+ communities, people with HIV and sex workers, providing protection from having their personal information made public.

Access to healthcare without discrimination

The proposed Bill provides for laws on medical consent to apply to all children and young people equally. If passed, this Bill would recognise trans and gender diverse young people as having the right to consent to gender affirming healthcare in the same way as their peers, without the need for humiliating court authorisation, unless there is a dispute or special medical treatment required.
Ending LGBTQA+ conversion practices
The proposed Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill would ban practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including in religious settings. This is a bill that emphasises preventing of harm over punishment.

Better recognition of families

While maintaining the requirement for altruistic surrogacy in NSW, the proposed Equality Legislation Amendment Bill would prevent the criminalisation of parents who have lawfully undertaken commercial surrogacy overseas. Further, the Bill would ensure that children born through surrogacy are not disadvantaged because of the circumstances of their conception, providing a pathway for those children to have their families recognised if it is in their best interests, ensuring they have the same legal rights and protections as other children. It is frankly shocking to us that so many children and their parents are being stigmatised and punished in this way.

Surely the highest priority for any government is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. Having a new government with enlightened leadership provides an opportunity for bi partisan support for important reforms that would see NSW brought into the modern era, no longer the jurisdiction with the worst legislation on these issues in Australia.

I love being a member of the ASU because as a collective we make a difference in the lives of all of the workers across the community sector
Josephine ASU member