Sexuality researchers have claimed access to government ministers is the key to progressing same-sex reforms more than traditional advocacy or university research, and whole-of-government approaches, like the NSW Anti-Homophobia Interagency, were too often powerless because nobody is held responsible.
Lynne Hillier and Anne Mitchell from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University said getting anti-homophobia material into the Victorian school curriculum didn’t happen after their groundbreaking Writing Themselves In report of 1998, but followed a recommendation by the Ministerial Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Health.
They formulated an action plan for what should happen in schools, had it signed off and launched by the Health Minister. They had absolutely no power to do that, but they did it, Mitchell said at the NSW interagency’s education conference.
They suddenly brought this discourse into the mainstream that we cannot say is the result of our research or existing advocacy, whereas the Government’s response [to our first report] was absolute silence.
Research as the only tool towards reforms was also a problem because grants were rarely given to gay and lesbian projects unless they were tied to HIV, Hillier claimed, which made it harder to research girls.
Since 2000, Victoria has been the only state to establish ministerial advisory councils on gay and lesbian health and legal issues.
In NSW it seems this interagency is working really well to push the agenda. But we found in Victoria, whenever you hold a whole of government committee, you lose power because suddenly nobody’s responsible, Mitchell said.
Having our ministerial advisory councils has been much more helpful because we’ve got a direct line to the minister.
The council advising the Victorian Attorney-General made the recommendation to introduce the state’s new police-led campaign against homophobic violence. Neither the NSW Government nor its Anti-Homophobia Interagency has responded to calls by Clover Moore and ACON to revive a similar campaign last seen in NSW 10 years ago.
Last month’s announcement of long-awaited reforms to lesbian parenting laws in NSW was claimed as a lobby win by the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby in an email to members, but was also brought about by who-you-know connections in Parliament and pressure from Sydney Star Observer in the form of Freedom of Information requests.
Two years after the Law Reform Commission recommended changes to the Government, inner-city Labor MPs Verity Firth and Carmel Tebbutt approached Premier Morris Iemma.
This is good news for our local community and lesbian de facto parents living in Marrickville, Teb-butt said after the announcement.