OVER the past four years, it has been a privilege to represent the people of Prahran, Toorak, Windsor, St Kilda, St Kilda East and South Yarra in the Victorian Parliament.
During this time, I have been committed to ensuring that services provided by the Napthine Government take into account the needs of LGBTI people in Victoria.
However, for me, the most significant and personally moving act of the Napthine Government was developing and passing legislation that expunges historic consensual homosexual sex convictions held by gay men.
It was Liberal Premier Rupert Hamer who decriminalised homosexuality in Victoria in 1980. In the Federal Parliament and in almost every other Australian state it was Liberal governments that acted to right a wrong that turned otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals due to their sexual orientation. [Editor’s note: there was bipartisan support in every state when the laws were reformed, and the changes came about after activists lobbied MPs]
Decriminalisation was arguably the most significant step in the fight for acceptance by the gay community (lesbians were never targeted by the Crimes Act). Decriminalisation laid a fundamental base for further advances to be made by the LGBTI community in its quest for equality and freedom from discrimination. However, the move to decriminalisation did not address the issue of those who had already been convicted.
The impact of the stigma associated with a criminal conviction cannot be underestimated, particularly for those gay men who have otherwise lived law-abiding lives. The mental burden of a criminal record for those convicted of homosexuality must be significant.
Noel Tovey is one such person who has lived with a criminal conviction for homosexual sex. One evening in 1951, Tovey was at a party in inner-city Melbourne. The party was raided by the police and he confessed to having participated in a homosexual act. He was charged with the crime of having sex with another man and served three months in Pentridge prison where he was bashed and raped.
It is difficult to believe that this occurred in our society just six decades ago.
The time was right for the Liberal Coalition in Victoria to compliment this significant legacy of Hamer by finishing the job. We needed to show the elderly gay members of our community who were convicted of these “crimes” the respect and acceptance for their sexual orientation that they should always have had by erasing their criminal records for good.
I am so proud that, with the support of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Premier Denis Napthine and the Attorney-General confirmed that Victoria will implement a scheme whereby gay men can apply to expunge their historic criminal records for homosexual sex between consenting adults. This was passed into legislation this year.
It was an important and significant gesture. It was the right thing to do.
The Victorian Coalition supports the rights of all people to be free of unjust discrimination and to be protected from unlawful vilification and harassment.
The Napthine Government is pleased to confirm that, if re-elected, we will maintain the Ministerial Advisory Committee on LGBTI Health and Wellbeing after the election to continue its work and advice to government.
Additionally, a re-elected Napthine Government will also commit to the continuation of the Safe Schools Coalition and will commit to an increased investment of $4.9 million for the prevention of mental health issues faced by same-sex attracted and gender-questioning young people through the HEY Program.
I look forward to delivering the LGBTI Health and Wellbeing Action Plan 2014-2018 as part of the Napthine Government’s commitment to address the health issues faced by LGBTI Victorians and to developing a paper exploring the issues around same-sex adoption.
I am proud to support the diverse people who make up the LGBTI community and was honoured to recently be nominated as a finalist for the Straight Ally of the Year GLOBE award.
In my Maiden Speech to the Victorian Parliament in 2011, I offered my support for same-sex marriage and for the LGBTI community.
In 2014, I stand by this commitment.