The Northern Territory looks set to expunge historical convictions for men who were charged with gay sex offences.

Northern Territory Attorney-General Natasha Fyles this week introduced a bill to wipe the convictions.

The Territory legalised sex between men in 1983, and introduced an equal age of consent in 2003.

The new bill would allow people who were charged or convicted of gay sex offences to have their records cleared.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised,” said Lee Carnie of the Human Rights Law Centre.

“This is an important step towards addressing the wrongs of the past.”

LGBTI advocates have welcomed the bill, saying it begins to make amends for the old laws and the impact they had even after their repeal.

“If this bill passes, it would mean closure. It would mean full equality when it comes to laws which criminalised us for who we are,” said Dr Dino Hodge.

“After 30 years, we have finally achieved the justice we had been seeking.

“There were even cases of continuing police persecution after decriminalisation, when community attitudes had changed but police practices had not.

“Gay couples who were harassed and charged by the police, but the charges were dismissed by magistrates, because the police had gone out of their way to harass people for being gay and having consensual sex in private.

“Those men were highly traumatised, they paid a lot of money to get legal representation and sadly they left the Territory afterwards.”

Men who were charged with historical gay sex offences have been required to disclose their criminal history in situations such as employment and international travel.

“These unjust convictions did great and continuing harm,” said Carnie.

“This reform will allow people to clear their names and also remove the barrier that came from having to disclose convictions when wanting to volunteer, drive a taxi, apply for a job or travel overseas.

“It’s great to see the NT government moving forward to ensure equality for all.”

This year has seen a number of advances in LGBTI rights in the top end.

The Northern Territory recently introduced laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, and announced that it would fund the Safe Schools program in more than 150 government schools.

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