After almost three years with the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, I am saying farewell.
Working as the Senior Policy Advisor at the GLRL over the last few years has been characterised by a mix of emotions: excitement, frustration, joy and even a little sadness. While no column could highlight all the amazing experiences I have had at the GLRL, adoption reform in NSW will always remain the highlight of my work.
In 2010, after a decade of campaigning, submission writing and political lobbying, NSW eliminated the last piece of direct legislative discrimination against same-sex couples by enabling them to adopt children.
For over two weeks in September I sat in NSW Parliament watching “consciences” unfold and continued to lobby MPs to recognise that sexual orientation or gender has no bearing on capacity to parent. The legislation passed the NSW House of Assembly with a margin of a single vote.
Following adoption and surrogacy reforms in NSW, it has been both an exciting and exhausting challenge to work on the consolidation of the Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws and marriage equality. As the campaign for full relationship recognition reaches its climax, I am hopeful that our MPs will see the need to treat all Australians equally, regardless of the gender of whom they love.
With the considerable public attention paid to marriage, we must not forget about the long overdue introduction of comprehensive sex, sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination protections.
My work at the GLRL would not have been possible without the guidance of many people. While I do not have the space to name each person, I would especially like to thank the convenors I have had the pleasure of working alongside: Ben Keats, Kellie McDonald, Rathana Chea, Justin Koonin and Lainie Arnold. I have also been supported by a dedicated GLRL Committee of Management and fellow staff members Natasha Nair and Steven Kennedy.
My time with the organisation has allowed me the opportunity to pursue my interests in a range of social justice campaigns for LGBTI people here in Australia. I will now embark upon a Churchill Fellowship to conduct some international research into sexual orientation and gender identity based asylum claims. As part of my fellowship, I will be travelling to the US and UK to learn how we can improve LGBTI refugee advocacy and casework in Australia.
Even though I am leaving the GLRL, my activism in relation to LGBTI human rights will not cease. I will continue to serve as the NSW President of Amnesty International Australia and as a director of ACON.
Farewells like this one are bittersweet. However, I am confident that I am leaving the organisation in the capable hands of our volunteers and staff. It has been a privilege to be a part of the GLRL and I wish it all the best as it continues to work to advance social justice and substantive equality in our communities.
By SENTHORUN RAJ
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
Applications for the policy and project officer position at the GLRL close at 5pm on Friday 20th July. For more information go HERE