Labor led by Mark McGowan cruised to a landslide win in the Western Australia elections. Labor’s unassailable win came despite conservative Christian groups mounting a fear campaign claiming that  the McGowan government would bring in a law to ban gay conversion practices similar to one enacted in Victoria, 

McGowan had promised that WA would ban the unscientific gay conversion practices if Labor was re-elected.

LGBTQI advocacy group Just.Equal on Sunday wrote to McGowan seeking a meeting to discuss a timetable for law reforms.

“It has been 20 years since a WA Labor government addressed comprehensive LGBTQI law reform and over the last two decades we have fallen well behind other states in a range of critical and emerging areas,” Just.equal WA spokesperson, Brian Greig said in a statement.
“This includes issues like banning conversion practices, protecting teachers and school children from discrimination, allowing people who are transgender to arrange appropriate identity documents and legislating against unnecessary surgeries on intersex babies.”
Greig said that WA electorate was ready to support the LGBTQI community pointing to the win of community ally Terry Healy and the loss suffered by Liberal candidate Amanda Sue Markham, who was formerly a member of the ‘Save Marriage Coalition’, an anti-marriage equality Tasmanian group.

Opposed To Gay Conversion Practices

On March 9, in a letter to Just.Equal, McGowan reaffirmed the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of the community. 

“The McGowan Labor Government understands the challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ people and has a strong record in supporting the LGBTIQ+ community in Western Australia. The Government is committed to righting past injustices and continues to seek equality for LGBTIQ+ Western Australians,” said McGowan. 

McGowan confirmed that his government was opposed to gay conversion practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a “cruel and misinformed practice”.

It remains unclear whether WA would follow Victoria by bringing in a tough law that covers health care as well as informal settings, including religious settings. 

In the letter McGowan said that his government would ban gay conversion practices in WA by bringing in a law or rules to implement the national code of conduct for unregulated healthcare workers. 

‘WA Falling Behind IN LGBTQI Reforms’

In the run up to the state elections, a survey had shown huge gaps in meeting the needs of the LGBTQI+ communities in WA. The survey conducted by Rainbow Futures Western Australia in association with Equality Australia found that 51.1% of the respondents said aged care and related services required improvements. Police and legal were the next area of concern for 48.9% of the respondents, while education was the third at 48.5%. 

RFWA spokesperson Paul Benson had said that the survey results were a “clear wake-up call”. 

“Government agencies are struggling to meet the needs of sexual / gender diverse and intersex clientele in the absence of an overall plan. Most worrying is that the services rated as most in need of improvement are ones most likely to be dealing with vulnerable LGBTIQA+ people, or people in crisis,” Benson had said in a statement. 

“We know from bitter experience the way the world works for people like us: if you’re not expressly included, you’re excluded. LGBTIQA+ people are falling through the cracks caused by a disparate and piecemeal approach to our community’s needs,” Benson said. 

“WA has fallen behind other states on a range of LGBTI legal reforms and this election is an opportunity to set things right for equality and inclusion,” Brian Greig WA spokesperson for Just-Equal.

McGowan’s Election Promises

The organisation had asked all political parties to place on record their stand on six key issues affecting the LGBTQI+ community. These included gay conversion practices, stopping faith schools from expelling LGBTQI students and sacking LGBTQI teachers, introducing hate-speech laws, transgender and intersex law reforms and funding the Inclusive Education program. 

Mark McGowan responded to the letter on March 9, just days before the elections. He said that gay conversion practices had “no place in Western Australia” and committed to banning them. 

The Premier pointed to a Law Reform Commission review of the Equal Opportunity Act ordered in 2018 and said it would look into “enrolment and employment practices of religious schools”. The terms of reference for the commission include examining anti-vilification laws to cover sexual orientation. 

Mark McGowan said that his re-elected government would consider the commission’s report “in relation to the recognition of a person’s sex, change of sex or intersex status”. The Premier also pointed to the state’s support for inclusive education programs.  

With his government returning to Parliament stronger than ever, the LGBTQI community will be hoping that the much-needed law reforms will be a priority for McGowan government’s second term.



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