THE Victorian Government has today announced a new LGBTI Taskforce aimed at supporting equality for sexual and gender diverse people across the state.

The taskforce arrives as part of a pre-election commitment made by the Andrews Labor government, and will be co-chaired by Equality Minister Martin Foley and trans* activist Brenda Appleton.

[showads ad=MREC]It will consist of two working groups: one for justice and another for health and human services, and both will play a role in advising on current and emerging LGBTI issues.

With this new initiative, Foley hopes new light will be shed on previously unaddressed issues.

“I want to make sure that the views of the community are recognised and supported for all their worth first,” he told the Star Observer.

“It shouldn’t be a question of politicians imposing their views.”

Foley believes Appleton co-chairing the taskforce will help highlight the importance of trans* issues in the community.

“Brenda co-chairing not only reflects her substantial status and capacity as an individual, but also a recognition that trans* issues are central to the equality story,” he said.

“I like to think it sends a message that the trans* story is the direction we’re heading in.”

As a long-time advocate for the trans* and gender diverse communities, Appleton believes the taskforce will continue removing the discrimination they face.

“There has been a lot of progress in the last few years, but there’s still a lot to go, particularly in the bi, trans* and intersex communities… they have a lot further to go than the gay and lesbian communities,” she told the Star Observer.

“The role of the taskforce is to pay close attention to the needs of the LGBTI community and ensure that we pick up on as many issues and concerns as possible.

“Because this is a whole of government task force, we’re hoping it will enable us to follow up with various ministers if the issue falls outside of health or justice.”

The announcement comes as part of a string of recent equality initiatives established by the Victorian Government.

These include a plan to provide $1.2 million in funding for LGBTI projects, as well as appointment of Rowena Allen as the first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner.

The LGBTI Taskforce will work closely with Allen to develop a work plan, and she told the Star Observer she was ready to begin.

“There’s some real thought power in this group of people, I’m keen to work with all the people that put their hands up, not just the ones that made the force,” she said.

“It’s the idea that many hands make light work, making sure we don’t leave any rock unturned.

“It should increase the pressure on removing discrimination and move things faster, keeping the spotlight on equality in Victoria.”

The Health and Human Services working group will be co-chaired by the University of Melbourne’s Department of General Practice Ruth McNair and Macedon state Labor MP Mary-Anne Thomas.

Meanwhile, the Justice working group will be co-chaired by Human Rights Law Centre advocacy director Anna Brown and upper house state Labor MP Harriet Shing.

Brown believes the taskforce is an opportunity to bring a variety of people together to achieve the common goal of ending LGBTI discrimination.

“I look forward to harnessing the expertise of our group to tackle issues such as birth certificate reform, medical treatment of intersex people and reducing harassment and violence against LGBTI people,” she told the Star Observer.

“I’m delighted to be working with such talented, passionate people to ensure the needs of LGBTI people are addressed across every area of government.”

Whole of Government LGBTI Taskforce:

Co-chairs: Brenda Appleton and Martin Foley

Members: Anna Brown, Jamie Gardiner, Ruth McNair and senior representatives from the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Justice and Regulation, and Health and Human Services

Justice Working Group

Co-chairs: Anna Brown and Harriet Shing

Members: Sally Goldner, Liana Buchanan, Paul Kidd, Felicity Marlowe, Margot Fink, Tony Briffa and Paula Gerber

Health and Human Services Working Group

Co-chairs: Ruth McNair and Mary-Anne Thomas

Members: Brent Allan, Jeremy Wiggins, Beng Eu, Liam Leonard, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Rebecca Dominguez, Jacqueline Tomlins, Damien Stevens, Tim Christodoulou and Simon Ruth

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