Do you want the Victorian government to take a strong stand against the Religious Freedom Bill, reform non-discrimination laws or make it easier for the LGBTQI community to access mental health and other services? Now, might be the time to voice your opinion.

The Victorian government has embarked on an ambitious plan to draw up a first of its kind LGBTQI strategy and is asking the community for inputs, including ways to make its services inclusive and build trust in the police. According to the Victorian government, the strategy will give it “a roadmap and direction on LGBTIQ equality for years to come.”

Equal rights advocates are calling upon the community to use the opportunity to turn the spotlight on issues that need redressal.

Advertisement
Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, says that it is imperative that the community put forward its suggestions. “Everyone’s voice matters. I encourage LGBTQI Victorians to participate and have their say about how the government can improve the way they deliver services to meet their needs and address the issues that impact on their daily lives.”

Brown outlines the priorities that Equality Australia hopes will be part of the final strategy plan.

“The discussion paper raises a range of important and compelling issues facing LGBQI people today in Victoria. As an organisation focussed on law reform, the top of our list would be changing laws to protect LGBTQI people from discrimination and harm. This means amending the Equal Opportunity Act to remove carve outs that allow discrimination against our communities in the name of religion and in other areas, and expanding the protected grounds to ensure that trans, gender diverse and intersex people are comprehensively protected from discrimination.”

Another area that is often overlooked in the LGBTQI spectrum reforms are the issues of the intersex communities, according to Brown.

Advertisement
“Reform is urgently needed to ensure intersex people are supported to make informed choices about what happens to their bodies

“Of course laws alone aren’t enough to change attitudes and practice, and I’m very encouraged by the Victorian Government’s focus on programmatic reform, and also their proactive commitment to addressing the diverse needs of different parts of our community including the range of identities, backgrounds and abilities that exist among us,”

Brown points out that the Victorian strategy follows the South Australian Government strategy  2014- 2016 and the ACT Government ‘Capital of Equality’ strategy released last year. “It’s really pleasing to see governments starting to recognise the need for coordinated and sustained action, and long term planning, to address the inequality and disparities in health and other outcomes experienced by LGBTIQ people.”

Advertisement
Ro Allen, Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, is asking the community and community-run organisations to be a part of the public consultation and fill up the survey. “It’s so important that LGBTQI Victorians get to have a say and assist us to co-design the strategy. Ultimately we are talking about their lives.  It is a wonderful opportunity to have your say and let us know what is still to be done.”

The Dan Andrew government pointed out that since it created the Equality Portfolio in 2015 it has introduced a slew of measures. This includes funding community initiatives, birth certificate reforms that allow trans and gender diverse Victorians to change the sex marker without having to undergo surgery, removing historical convictions for same sex relations, providing $25 million in funding for the upcoming Victoria Pride Centre and inclusive practises in the public sector.

The community, however, continues to face discrimination and inequities when it comes to mental health. One of the big areas of concern has been the mistrust in the police, with young people shying away from reporting hate crimes. The discussion paper reveals that 58 % of young LGBTQI people felt Victoria Police didn’t understand their issues, 43 % reported that police treat LGBTQI people worse than other young people and 51 % are not likely to report prejudice-motivated crime police in the future.

“Government will have a strategy that every department and agency can work towards.  Ultimately government is good at follow and implementing a plan and we need to harness all the good will and give people an authorised environment to eliminate discrimination,” said Ro Allen.

The priority areas that the Victorian government has identified are:

  • Improving inclusion in Government and Government-funded services
  • Rural and regional inclusion
  • Improving equality in state laws
  • Addressing family violence in LGBTQI communities
  • Reducing discrimination in the workplace
  • Reducing discrimination and harassment online/in public
  • Improving the mental and physical health of LGBTQI people
  • Improving awareness and inclusion in the justice system
  • Improving inclusion in education settings and health serviceS
  • Improving awareness and understanding of intersectional experiences in Government services, initiatives and legislation

“For equality to be fully realised we need a clear vision – informed by a comprehensive understanding of the needs of LGBTQI Victorians. This consultation is a vital part of making that happen. Victoria’s first LGBTQI Strategy will be developed in close consultation with LGBTQI people, organisations and communities from across the state and will inform the Government’s equality agenda for years to come,” said Minister for Equality Martin Foley.

Make your submissions by email to equality@dpc.vic.gov.au. Or take the survey on the Engage Victoria website at engage.vic.gov.au/LGBTIQstrategy

The last date for making a submission by email or survey is August 3, 2020.

© Star Observer 2020 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.