The Human Rights Law Centre has released a statement supporting changes to the Australian Labor Party’s national policy on LGBTI conversion therapy.

Labor chose to amend their platform to recognise the harm caused by conversion therapy, and the party will “develop strategies to work with communities to prevent such harm and promote justice for LGBTIQ people affected by them”, rather than criminalise the practice.

“We’re pleased to see the ALP platform aligns with our recommendations not to criminalise LGBT religious conversion practices in Australia, and instead focuses on broader strategies working in partnership with people of faith to achieve cultural change,” said Anna Brown, incoming CEO of Equality Australia and Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.

Brown stressed that legal responses, while part of the solution, should be made in tandem with increased resources to support survivors and intervention in faith communities to educate them as to “the harm caused by the cultural ideas and messaging prevalent within faith communities”.

The ALP’s position reflected recommendations from the report Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia, a joint initiative of La Trobe University, the Human Rights Law Centre, and Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria, which can be read here.

“Civil prohibitions and stronger health regulation are a more proportionate, appropriate and effective legal response to tackling the issue of conversion therapy in Australia,” Brown, a co-author of the report, said.

She highlighted the mainstreaming of conversion ideology within Christian churches since the 1990s, stating, “These increasingly pervasive and less formalised models of conversion activities need to be tackled with a multi-faceted approach combining legal regulation, targeted education, awareness raising within faith based communities, and specialised support for survivors.”

Chris Csabs, co-author of the Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Survivor Statement, agreed.

“It’s fantastic that the ALP has listened to survivors and researchers. Changing their policy to reflect that ‘gay conversion’ is broader than therapeutic practices and acknowledging that the ideology behind ‘gay conversion’ is also harmful, is an important step toward protecting the community,” said Csabs.

“We hope that the ALP will adopt the strategies in both the SOCE Survivor Statement and the Human Rights Law Centre report, including civil penalties for gay conversion delivered in a formal context.”

The co-leader of the Brave Network Melbourne Nathan Despott, an advocacy and support group for LGBTI people of faith and their allies, was similarly enthusiastic.

“We are delighted that the ALP’s new platform recognises that a broad strategy is required to combat the conversion movement, rather than just a limited focus on formal therapeutic activities,” Despott said.

“The Brave Network Melbourne and the authors of the SOCE Survivors Statement have consistently emphasised the role of ideology and religious culture in driving the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement.”

Meanwhile the Australian Christian Lobby, a conservative advocacy organisation that vocally opposed marriage equality and other LGBTI issues, has also welcomed the ALP’s stance, referring to the amendments as “watered down” following their opposition to criminalising conversion therapy, a practice they have defended in the past.

Anna Brown, however, summed it up best when she said, “Support and wellbeing of survivors is, and always should be, at the heart of this issue.”

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