Some of Victoria’s key LGBTI organisations have called for a national figurehead to tackle discrimination for Australia’s same-sex attracted and gender/sex diverse communities.
The call for a national LGBTI discrimination commissioner comes from the recent Senate inquiry on the draft bill of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012.
The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Transgender Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre have recommended the government amend the bill to allow for an LGBTI commissioner. There are already commissioners for race, sex, disability, age and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. A national children’s commissioner is yet to be appointed.
The VAC/GMHC recommended the federal government appoint a commissioner among its nine recommendations. In their submission, the rights lobby said it was only fair such a role was created.
“While the VGLRL acknowledges the resource and other constraints the Commission is operating within, this omission creates an unfortunate hierarchy of attributes and entrenches inequality between the attributes. The Commission has a time honoured history of sharing portfolios. We think it only fair and appropriate that a LGBTI Commissioner be created,” it said.
Alternatively, they said the responsibility should rest with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s president.
Transgender Victoria said the community deserved its own portfolio because of the ‘huge’ levels of discrimination still faced. “We believe the huge levels of discrimination still faced on the grounds of gender identity (and sexual orientation and intersex) warrant the appointment of a separate commissioner to ensure proactive investigation of discrimination in this area,” the submission said.
Australia’s states and territories already have anti-discrimination legislation for LGBTI people, offering varying degrees of protection, by their respective equal opportunity commissioner. Many state groups have backed the government’s decision to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people among the other protected attributes such as race, age and sex. But some have protested over the Labor government’s effort to wind back religious exemptions.
The bill as it is would only repeal the faith-based exemptions for religious, government-funded aged care providers.
Living Positive Victoria and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria welcomed the government’s inclusion of LGBTI people into anti-discrimination legislation. The Matrix Guild of Victoria, a support and advocacy group for older lesbians, supported the bill but said tax-payer funded organisations should not receive exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.