Greens Senator Janet Rice has addressed parliament to call on the government to eradicate the practice of so-called conversion therapy used against LGBTI people.

Rice shared the story of Chris, a survivor of a church-based conversion program, to illustrate the damage done by the practices.

“Looking back, Chris can now say that he knew he was gay when he was around 10 years old,” said Rice.

“Some years later, he came out to a church leader who wanted him to be cured.

“Chris began sessions with a counsellor aimed at changing his sexuality. He was only 16 when his conversion therapy began.

“The reason I’m telling Chris’s story is because it’s not unique. Gay conversion therapy is not as rare as you might think.

“Chris’s story highlights how destructive, how damaging, this so-called therapy is, and why we need to stamp out this harmful practice once and for all.”

Rice shared that aged just 17, Chris had joined an anti-gay program run by church group Living Waters Australia.

“He believed there were demons inside him and was desperate to be healed,” said Rice, who said she was “sickened” by the story.

“Can you imagine the fear he must have felt? He prayed to God, asking him to either heal him or kill him. Heal him or kill him.

“As you can imagine, the trauma associated with attempted gay conversion still affects Chris today. How could it not?”

Rice said that research shows anti-gay conversion therapy is not going away in Australia, merely being pushed underground.

“Organisations are changing their names and their public profiles, but they’re still doing the same insidious and harmful work,” she said.

“We need to eradicate all reparative sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapies.

“The Greens are calling on the federal government to take action now. This is a national issue, and people are being hurt.

“Prime Minister Turnbull and Health Minister Hunt urgently need to lead the conversation, to work with the states and territories, to engage with experts, to hear survivors and to stamp out this harmful practice once and for all.”

Chris launched an online petition earlier this year calling on government to outlaw anti-gay ‘therapy’ such as what he endured. It has gathered more than 40,000 signatures so far.

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