LAST week, Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson announced a State of the Nation report into issues facing LGBTI Australians as part of a range of initiatives from the commission on LGBTI rights.

The Star Observer spoke to the Human Rights Commission to find out what the report would involve, and other work the commission was doing around LGBTI Australians.

Speaking at the Darwin Outgames human rights forum, Wilson said the report would gather information on services and programs currently supporting LGBTI Australians to identify gaps and overlap across the country. Personal stories collected on a listening tour to be led by Wilson later this year would comprise part of the report.

Wilson told the Star Observer the report would be an overview of the past and present for LGBTI Australians.

“It gives you a snapshot of where we’ve come from, where we’re at at the moment and where the gaps are. And the gaps will be both in terms of where we need to go with federal law reform, but also some of the dissonance between state and federal laws and how that can play out,” he said.

“[It’s about] getting a bit more of a sense of what it is to have that lived experience. So for example, as an 18-year-old Aboriginal brotherboy in Cairns, and what that might be like.”

The commission expects advocacy groups will draw on the report for documents like submissions to policy consultations, and to advocate for change more broadly.

“The primary objective is to assist community in their own advocacy agendas,” Wilson said.

As well as the report serving as a resource for LGBTI organisations to use in furthering community advocacy, the Human Rights Commission plans to build on the report’s findings to develop other resources. This could include resource-sharing platforms for LGBTI advocates.

The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) welcomed the announcement of the report, and acknowledged the significance of the openly-gay Human Rights Commissioner making his first speech on LGBTI issues.

The VGLRL also remained cautiously optimistic about the role the State of the Nation report could play in driving reform in Australia’s current political climate.

“The VGLRL congratulates the Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson on his first LGBTI speech since coming into the role,” VGLRL co-convener Corey Irlam told the Star Observer.

“Mr Wilson’s speech showed signs of his early understandings that there is a patchwork of complexities faced by LGBTI people around the country.

“The Commission’s ‘State of the LGBTI Nation’ report will, for the first time, provide a useful snapshot of legislative and non-legislative barriers faced by LGBTI people. It will written by a somewhat conservative Commissioner, about actions that could be taken by largely conservative Governments across Australia. Hopefully that means it won’t fall on deaf ears.”

As well as the report, Wilson announced the commission’s planned work with Australia’s business community on LGBTI-inclusive workplace practices.

May told the Star Observer this work would sit alongside existing work in other portfolios of the Human Rights Commission. She cited the Male Champions of Change initiative from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick as an example of work in this area, which enlisted high-profile members of the business community to address gender inequality in the workforce.

The Star Observer asked for further detail on Wilson’s announcement about supporting successful LGBTI Australians to become role-models for young people, but May said it was still in the very early stages. She suggested the work could involve the commission supporting organisations like The Pinnacle Foundation who already run mentorship programs for young LGBTI people.

Editor’s note: quote attributions were changed at the request of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

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