Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian was praised by lesbian and transgender activists this week for his renewed commitment to the queer community, following two landmark meetings.
He had shown that he’d done a bit of research in the field and brought himself up to speed on some of the issues, Gender Centre coordinator Elizabeth Riley told Sydney Star Observer.
As a consequence of our interactions with Stepan, the Gender Centre has informed him that we feel much more confident -¦ and we’ve undertaken to rejoin the Sex And Gender Diversity Consultation Group.
The move came following a special meeting to resolve a conflict between the ADB and representatives of the Gender Centre, who announced last month they would boycott the board’s transgender consultation meetings.
The boycott occurred because Kerkyasharian was unable to satisfactorily explain a discrimination exemption granted to charity Mission Australia, according to Riley.
The exemption allowed Mission Australia to refuse services to pre-operative transgender clients in their women’s refuges, following inappropriate behaviour by individual clients.
The meeting did not resolve the issue of the exemption, which included unexpected support for Mission Australia from The Australian WOMAN Network, a lobby group for women with transsexualism.
Riley said the meeting was difficult, but Riley was impressed enough with Kerkyasharian to lift the Gender Centre ban, and will attend the next meeting in March.
At least in that respect it’s been a really positive outcome and I’m pleased we don’t have to be considering trying to work outside of the ADB, because they are a very important organisation to our community, Riley said.
Kerkyasharian also publicly reaffirmed his commitment to the gay and lesbian community at a sexuality consultation meeting last week, which included planning for a forum on ageing for next year’s Mardi Gras festival.
Kerkyasharian told the Star he wanted to rework the notion of consultation at the meetings, to move beyond simply reporting on the ADB’s activities, and towards learning what’s happening in the community.
Somali Cerise attended the gay and lesbian consultation meeting as a representative of the Anti-Violence Project, and told the Star she was pleased with the president’s comments.
I certainly felt like there was a renewed commitment to the gay and lesbian community and taking issues of discrimination in our community seriously, Cerise said.
Cerise also praised the planned forum as a way of promoting the board in an economical way. Massive funding cuts to the ADB in 2003 saw the abolition of the group’s legal branch, diminishing the board’s more active lobbying role.