The NSW government has no plans to expunge the criminal records of people convicted under sodomy laws active in the state till the mid-80s following calls for law reform.
The United Kingdom announced earlier this year it would allow people to have sodomy convictions removed form their records.
The Australian Democrats last week called for NSW and other state and territory governments in Australia to follow the UK’s lead in removing criminal convictions, which can prevent people from obtaining work in certain industries and can affect visa applications to other countries.
“The stigma of a criminal conviction continues to hang over the lives of these citizens, many of whom are now quite elderly,” Democrats’ national campaign director Darren Churchill said.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Attorney General Greg Smith said the NSW government had yet to receive any requests for reform from people with convictions and was not considering making any changes at present.
“The NSW government has had no representations on this issue and has no plans to revisit previous convictions,” she told the Star Observer.
South Australia was the first state to decriminalise homosexual sex in 1972 and was gradually followed by other states, with Tasmania being the last to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997.
In NSW it was illegal to engage in homosexual sex until 1984.
In Victoria last week, associate professor in human rights law Paula Gerber also called on state governments to act on removing convictions in a piece she wrote for The Conversation.
“Most of the current media relating to gay rights focuses on marriage equality. But for some older gay men, another issue is even more important,” Gerber wrote.
“But the legacy of those laws still haunts many men, for they continue to carry the stigma of a criminal conviction.”
Churchill said the Democrats were pursuing the issue as a human rights matter.
“Australian states and territories have an obligation to further redeem the past wrongs imposed by bad laws and enforced by bigots by enacting new spent conviction legislation that erases the criminal record of gay men prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual conduct,” he said.
“We are all diminished by forcing many hundreds of gay men to carry this criminal record burden for activities that are now properly accepted as legal by society.”