Researchers from La Trobe University will investigate the impact conversion therapy practises have had on LGBTQI Australians.

The research comes at a time the Victorian government is planning to introduce legislation to ban the unscientific and harmful practice of gay conversion therapy. Earlier this week, the Australian Medical Students Association, the apex body representing 17,000 medical students, had called on the government to end the conversion practise movement in the country.

Dr Timothy Jones from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences will lead a team of researchers from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University and Macquarie University. The research is being supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council Linkage and the funding partners are the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council Inc. and Brave Network.

Jones said that the research findings could be crucial in formulating treatment and support for survivors of conversion practices. “Previous research has shown that attempts to change the sexual and gender orientation of LGBTQI people using conversion practices does not work. But little is known about the associated risks, and lasting impact on survivors, which our project aims to change.”

Dr Jennifer Power, senior research fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society findings will have far-reaching impacts. “This research will identify strategies for religious communities to work collaboratively with LGBT communities to progress mutual human rights objectives, resulting in significant social, cultural and health benefits to Australians.”

In 2018, a report on conversion therapy was prepared by La Trobe University, the Human Rights Law Centre and Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria. The report revealed that conversion therapy was pervasive in religious communities in Australia and was causing real and long-term harm to LGBTQI people.

The report had recommended adding provisions to the Health Complaints Act enacted in 2016, that would completely prohibit conversion practises against children whether by health professionals or religious groups and conversion practises against adults by health and other professionals.

“The conversion movement’s activities are proven to be ineffective and harmful. Telling someone they are broken or sick because of who they are is profoundly psychologically damaging. We need to look to a world where lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans people of faith can be embraced as whole and human by the faith communities they love,” Anna Brown, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre had said at the time of the release of the 2018 report.

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