The Labor Party has been praised by advocates for committing to tackle homophobic and transphobic ‘conversion therapy’ if elected, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has drawn ire for his attitude to the subject.
National advocacy organisation Equality Australia said the activities that take place within the conversion therapy movement in Australia have been proven to be ineffective and harmful.
“The ‘conversion movement’ is fuelled by an unregulated counselling industry, sloppy definitions of ‘pastoral care’, and a culture of shame and secrecy.”
Advocates and survivors have been recommending a multi-faceted response to the issue that includes regulatory and legal responses, greater support for survivors, and efforts to raise public awareness of the issue and refute the messages behind the conversion therapy movement.
Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia and co-author of the landmark Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice report released in 2018, said: “It’s fantastic to see Federal Labor commit to playing a leadership role in tackling the lasting harm caused by these insidious practices in faith communities across the nation.
“We are pleased to see that their response incorporates the key recommendations in our report, and in particular the need to specifically prohibit these damaging practices.
“There is a role for both the federal and state governments to play in developing legislation, policies and programs to end the harm caused by anti-LGBT conversion therapy.”
Conversion therapy survivor and advocate Chris Csabs also welcomed the announcement.
“Labor’s commitment to a strategy to combat LGBTQ conversion practices is fantastic news for all LGBTQ people, particularly those of faith, and the promise to work with survivors of conversion practices is extremely encouraging,” said Csabs.
Csabs, whose petition to outlaw conversion therapy has gained more than 57,000 signatures, said the Labor Party’s announcement means a lot to him as a survivor.
“It means that, after a long time of not having our stories taken seriously, one of our major political parties is not only committing to action, but to work with us to develop strategies to stop further harm to LGBTIQ people,” he told Star Observer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed calls to outlaw gay conversion, saying it is a state government issue, according to the Newcastle Herald.
“I don’t support gay conversion therapy, don’t recommend it, never have but it’s ultimately a matter for the states,” Morrison said.
Csabs was unimpressed by the Prime Minister’s response, calling it “weak”.
“Because this is an issue that affects our community nationally, it is appropriate for our federal government to work with the states and territories to ensure an effective response nationwide,” he said.
“The ALP has committed to that today, and I find it sad that our current Prime Minister, a Christian himself, has been unable to provide any leadership on this issue which largely affects LGBTIQ people of faith across Australia.”
The Liberal Party has been in hot water over conversion therapy before, with MP Kevin Andrews last week called on by activist group GetUp to publicly denounce the practice after allegedly supporting it in the past.
The Victorian Liberals last year preferenced independent candidate Dianne Colbert, a conservative Christian who is openly anti-LGBTI and promotes conversion therapy.
Csabs and Despott both said that they looked forward to working with a Labor government, if elected, to deliver on the commitments announced today.