IN an Australian first, men with historical convictions of consensual homosexual acts in Tasmania will receive an official apology from the government and have their convictions expunged.

The Tasmanian Government announced today it would expunge the criminal records for people who were convicted under the following offences: sexual intercourse against the order of nature, consensual sexual intercourse between males and indecent practices between males..

[showads ad=MREC] Those offences were repealed from the Tasmanian Criminal Code in 1997 after homosexuality was decriminalised in Tasmania — the last state in Australia to do so — but the criminal records of those convicted still existed.

The legislation will ensure that any individual prosecuted under these offences will no longer suffer distress or be disadvantaged by a criminal record in relation to travel, employment, and volunteering.

The official apology will be made to the men, including families and loved ones of those who are deceased, when the legislation is introduced in in Tasmanian Parliament 2016.

A state government spokesperson said: “Saying sorry can be a vital step in the process of overcoming hurt and we want to help the healing process for those who have suffered distress or disadvantage because of these historical convictions.”

Victoria, NSW, and the ACT have already passed expungement legislation, with South Australia having a similar scheme in place, but only Tasmania has declared it would apologise to those convicted.

It is understood the Victorian Government is also planning to apologise to men convicted of consensual homosexual sexual activity.

The Tasmania Gay and Rights Lobby — who spent spent 10 years campaigning to repeal the laws, with the help of the UN Human Rights Committee, the Federal Government, the High Court and Amnesty International — welcomed the announcement.

“For those men who were prosecuted in Tasmania for simply being in same-sex relationships it will be a great relief to be rid of the disadvantage and stigma that comes with an unfair criminal record,” lobby spokesperson Rodney Croome said.

“I am proud that Tasmania will be the first state to apologise to those arrested and their families because it will lift a burden from their shoulders and send the strongest message yet that Tasmania is a progressive and inclusive society.”

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson also welcomed the apology and expungement, but said the “consensual sexual activity between two people of the same gender should never have been a crime”.

“The expungement regime undoes the legal legacy of the crime, but not the pain it caused,” he said.

“An apology isn’t a cure all, but it’s a demonstration of a basic recognition of the harm caused when government seeks to penalise people for being who they are.

“Offering an apology is a fundamentally decent act.”

Human Rights Law Centre advocacy director Anna Brown, who was heavily involved in the campaign to have Victorian Parliament introduce and pass expungement legislation, said the announcement by the Tasmanian Government was “fantastic” and should have a wide reaching impact.

“The proposed legislation and formal apology will start to repair the harm caused by the unjust, discriminatory laws of the past,” she said.

“An apology would also benefit the broader LGBTI community who suffered, and continue to suffer, from the stigma and marginalisation that was fostered by the criminalisation of homosexuality.

“With the Victorian Government set to formally apologise in 2016 and movement underway towards reform in Queensland, the momentum for change will hopefully continue across the nation to Western Australia and the Northern Territory.”

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Chris Pycroft said: “We welcome the apology from the Tasmanian government with the introduction of the expungement bill, as it acknowledges the ongoing harm these convictions have caused.”

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