In 2017, we did an amazing thing.
Our community joined together for the Yes campaign and millions of Australians stood up for equality and fairness for LGBTIQ+ people.
LGBTIQ+ people continue to suffer because of who they love or who they are. You only need to look at the string of vicious assaults at Mardi Gras this year as a reminder of the daily discrimination and harassment we face.
That is why we’ve established Equality Australia to be Australia’s first national legal advocacy and campaigning organisation dedicated to achieving equality for LGBTIQ+ people.
Formed from the Equality Campaign with support from the Human Rights Law Centre, we will work with LGBTIQ+ people to build the power, voices and influence of our communities through partnerships, advocacy and mobilisation.
We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of the discrimination our communities face, and the continued threats to our hard won rights.
Conservative religious forces continue to lobby to extract their “price” for marriage equality.
We’ve seen our opponents emerge from defeat more sophisticated and well-resourced than ever before.
The Marriage Alliance has re-branded as Binary Australia to focus their energies on attacking trans and gender diverse people.
We have a Pentecostal Prime Minister who doesn’t see gay conversion therapy as an issue in Australia and cynically targets trans young people in a culture war designed to fan the flames of division rather than bring our country together.
I’ve been working at the Human Rights Law Centre with the amazing Lee Carnie for a number of years to improve the lives of LGBTIQ people across the country – through the Courts, in Parliament and at the UN.
As Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign, I oversaw the unprecedented campaign and community infrastructure brought together in the face of the threat of a plebiscite.
After marriage equality was finally achieved, we asked the question what, if anything, we should do with the resources, structures and learnings from the campaign.
We spoke with supporters, LGBTIQ+ groups and campaign partners, and the choice was clear.
We need to harness the momentum from the successful marriage equality campaign to ensure that the fight continues for LGBTIQ+ communities, particularly those who bore the brunt of the No side’s deliberate lies and viscous rhetoric.
Equality Australia will harness the momentum achieved during the Yes campaign and our expertise to achieve positive legal, policy and social change and ensure that the voices of LGBTIQ+ people are publicly heard on the issues that affect us.
Lee and I have been joined by Aram Hosie, a skilled and effective LGBTIQ+ advocate who has worked for over a decade to promote the visibility of trans people and their issues.
We are a small team but we will campaign in partnership with existing organisations to punch above our weight and tackle the law reform needed to achieve equality for LGBTIQ+ people.
We will use our legal skills and campaigning capability to support and amplify the voices of local LGBTIQ communities – from trans people in NSW to gay dads in WA to intersex folk in the ACT and more.
We still have a long way to go until LGBTIQ+ communities are equal.
We surveyed Equality Campaign supporters last year and discrimination against students and teachers by religious schools and other faith based organisations was the number one issue and will be a key focus of our work.
We will also be ensuring that all trans and gender diverse people have access to ID documents that reflect who they are as.
We will be working with survivors to tackle religious conversion “therapy” and the insidious ideology that tells lesbian, gay, bi and trans people they are sick and broken.
We will work with intersex-led organisations to end medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children.
We will be a people-powered movement for change. Our supporters will be at the heart of our campaigns.
As well as direction from individual supporters, we will continue to work in close and respectful partnership with affected communities to ensure your voices are heard by decision makers.
Over the coming months, the Equality Australia team – myself, Director of Engagement Aram Hosie and Director of Legal Advocacy Lee Carnie – will be travelling across Australia to meet LGBTIQ+ advocates in every state and territory.
We will be having conversations with LGBTIQ communities about priority national issues in the context of the Federal Election and building connections within local communities.
We also want to hear from local groups about how we can work together and build the organisation to make best use of our limited resources.
We will also be partnering with the National LGBTI Health Alliance and Intersex Human Rights Australia to hold a virtual Town Hall meeting on April 23 so that LGBTIQ+ people from across the nation can participate in asking questions of the major parties on key policy issues impacting on LGBTIQ+ people.
Community members are invited to register to participate online using Zoom.
We need to show politicians that our community is a force to be reckoned with and take the fight for equality to the highest levels of government.
Together, we know we have the power to change laws and change lives.
Not only is Australia strong enough to handle a world where we are all equal, but equality will make us even stronger.
We stand together because we believe we are all equal. And because, through standing, speaking and working together, one day we all will be.