LEADING community and advocacy groups have welcomed today’s announcement by State Government to introduce a private members bill to expunge historical consensual gay sex convictions in NSW.

Spearheaded by Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith, the bill would establish a process enabling people convicted of consensual homosexual intercourse, prior to its decriminalisation in 1984, to have their records expunged.

The bill will also enable people convicted under unequal age of consent laws, which were in place until 2003, to have their convictions removed.

The announcement follows similar moves in the State of Victoria, and comes just months before NSW marks 30 years since it decriminalised homosexual activities.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, ACON and the Inner City Legal Centre have welcomed the moves. 

In a joint statement from the three organisations, NSW GLRL convenor Justin Koonin said: “Prior to 1984, homosexual intercourse was criminalised in NSW and until 2003, under the state’s unequal age of consent laws, a 17 year-old gay or bisexual male who had consensual sexual intercourse with another male aged 16 years, was still liable for prosecution, conviction and a maximum jail term of 25 years.”

ICLC director Dan Stubbs added: “In many cases where people were charged as a result of acts no longer considered criminal offences, the effects on their lives have been profound, sometimes resulting in incarceration, social alienation, the inability to apply for specific jobs, and, in many instances, the inability to travel freely overseas, as other Australians do.“

ACON chief executive Nic Parkhill echoed these sentiments: “We commend the NSW Government for embarking on this process and call on politicians from all sides to support it, as a matter of equality and justice.”

The three groups have also indicated their desire to work in partnership, including with members of the community directly affected by these convictions, to establish a workable process moving forward.

“People who have been directly affected, and who wish to share their experiences in support of this process, are strongly encouraged to speak to the Inner City Legal Centre, by phoning or the NSW,” they stated.

Meanwhile, Sydney independent state MP Alex Greenwich also welcomed the announcement: “I have recently meet with those who marched in the first Mardi Gras, the 78ers, and know that such legislation will have a real and meaningful impact on many older gay men and lesbian women.”

NSW Parliament is also in the process of repealing so-called “gay panic” defence laws from the Crime Act.

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