By Kevin Reader

On April 13, 2017, Premier Will Hodgman became the first Liberal leader to offer an apology for anti-gay criminal laws. Twenty years after the laws that originally criminalised homosexual activity were finally repealed, the Tasmanian Government officially apologised for the pain and suffering caused to the LGBTI community during that period.

Speaking on the day, Premier Hodgman expressed the Government’s apology “to those directly affected in this way, to their family and loved ones”.

Rodney Croome, spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, who was arrested in 1997 under laws that criminalised homosexual activity, congratulated Premier Hodgman’s stance on the long running issue. 

Commenting via his Facebook account, Rodney Croome posted: “Will Hodgman was the first leader of an Australian government to commit to an apology.”

When the official Australian Marriage Law survey results were announced in November 2017, Tasmania recorded a resounding Yes result of 63.6% (191, 948 votes).

Croome noted that the marriage debate might have been worse in Tasmania had it not been, in part, for the preceding years of activism on decriminalising homosexual activity.

“It was not only a vindication of the effort we’d put in during the postal survey period, but of that whole 30-year period, where we’d gone out and told our personal stories to anyone who would listen,” said Croome. 

The process for expunging criminal records of individuals convicted under the repealed “sexual intercourse against the order of nature”, “consensual sexual intercourse between males” and “indecent practices between males” laws were rolled out in 2018 under Premier Hodgman, allowing people to finally move on with their lives.

While it was the last Australian state to decriminalise homosexuality and there was a delay of more than 20 years to address the convictions under these laws.

“There’s a lot of pessimism in the world today about whether social change is possible, whether we can actually change things for the better. And, if there’s one word that proves that we can, that things can get better, that word is ‘Tasmania’,” said Croome.

Will Hodgman announced his intention to resign at a public press conference earlier this month.

Citing the toll on his wife and children as one of the reasons for his resignation, Mr Hodgman stated:

 “It is undeniable that it has an impact on my family, and I thank them for their amazing support for the seventeen and a half years I have been a Member of Parliament – our children’s whole lives.”

“As we approach the halfway mark, with two more years of this term of Government, I believe it is the right time for me to allow for new leadership.”

Will Hodgman leaves behind a distinguished career spanning seventeen and a half years serving as a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, as well as 14 years serving as Liberal Party Leader and six years in the role of Premier. 

Mr Hodgman’s replacement as Premier of Tasmania Peter Gutwein, has just been sworn in.  

In his first press conference as premier, Gutwein placed an emphasis on climate change among other things, stating:

 “Demand in health remains at elevated levels and we need to do more. Demand for housing hasn’t abated and we need to do more; a rapidly changing climate is now the new normal and we must learn from the recent lessons of the mainland bushfires and once again we must do more.”

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