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How will LGBTQI+ communities be treated this election?

11 April 2022 at 4:33 pm
Nevena Spirovska
Marriage equality created a template for sector mobilisation to advance LGBTIQA+ rights, but organisations still need to examine how they can be allies as Australia heads to the polls, writes Nevena Spirovska. 

Nevena Spirovska | 11 April 2022 at 4:33 pm


How will LGBTQI+ communities be treated this election?
11 April 2022 at 4:33 pm

Marriage equality created a template for sector mobilisation to advance LGBTIQA+ rights, but organisations still need to examine how they can be allies as Australia heads to the polls, writes Nevena Spirovska. 

It’s on: Australia’s federal election will be held on Saturday 21 May 2022. Would-be voters will be treated to a protracted federal election campaign over the next six weeks – one that seemed to have begun in earnest some time ago.

As social services organisations finesse election strategies by pursuing commitments from candidates and political parties, attempt to lock-in funding, and secure all-important meetings with parliamentarians, it’s important to consider undertaking a holistic and needs-based approach to federal advocacy. Any organisational election priority lists should consider, and be responsive to, the needs of minoritised communities – including LGBTIQA+ communities.

LGBTIQA+ communities are resilient – and demonstrate remarkable tenacity despite continued and sustained political attacks, especially on trans and gender-diverse communities. But, a point bears repeating: almost every health and wellbeing measure reflects that LGBTIQA+ people still fare significantly worse than non-LGBTIQA+ people. They experience disproportionately higher rates of homelessness, and the mental health of LGBTIQA+ people has been at crisis levels for decades, with little sign of improvement.

Many social services sector organisations seek to be active allies to LGBTIQA+ communities. They participate in Mardi Gras and local pride events, display pride flags, celebrate days of significance – such as International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) – and make use of pronouns in signature blocks. The next step in this allyship is to actively advocate on behalf of LGBTIQA+ communities, with involvement and consultation from LGBTIQA+ communities.

Organisations wanting to forge stronger connections to LGBTIQA+ communities, organisations, or pride networks could examine the tireless work of Equality Australia, a national organisation which protects the rights of LGBTIQ+ people. It provides valuable insights. Equality Australia’s  LGBTIQ+ community election survey received nearly 8,000 responses, providing an insight into what matters to LGBTIQ+ people in Australia.

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said of the survey, “Our community wants action on laws that allow religious schools to expel, fire or discriminate against students or staff because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And we want an end to harmful conversion practices that seek to change or suppress who we are.”

For organisations focused on industrial relations, LGBTI advocate and activist Alastair Lawrie puts forward a simple, impactful commitment that could be included in any political party’s election platform, and be readily adopted as policy:

“While discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status are all prohibited under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), only sexual orientation is included as a relevant attribute in the Fair Work Act for the purposes of protections against ‘adverse action’ (section 351(1)), and ‘unlawful termination’ (section 772(1)(f)), as well as in sections covering the contents of awards (section 153) and enterprise agreements (section 195), and the functions of the Fair Work Commission (section 578(c)).”

This means that the ability of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers to bring complaints to the Fair Work Commission is certain. But, significant doubt remains around whether trans, non-binary and intersex employees can do the same. The solution? Amend the Fair Work Act to explicitly protect transgender and intersex workers.

Research and reports show that current service systems don’t work for LGBTIQA+ people. Many LGBTIQA+ people delay seeking needed treatment and support, due to fear of stigma and discrimination. LGBTIQA+ community-controlled services are initiated and operated by and for LGBTIQ+ communities, to provide safe, trusted, culturally appropriate services. Ensuring consumer choice and access to culturally safe, sustainably funded LGBTIQ+ community-controlled services is essential to improving health and wellbeing outcomes for LGBTIQA+. How does your organisation support the work of LGBTIQA+ community-controlled services on a federal level? How do you advocate for them?

Social, political, and legislative change occurs, in large part, through organised collective action. The marriage equality campaign set a national template for how activists, organisations, businesses, social movements, and allies mobilised over decades to push parliamentarians to allow same-sex marriage, with the passing of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. This is just one example of how communities shifted the needle: with plenty more progress needed at the coming federal election, it certainly won’t be the last time we do so. 

We work best when we work together, in a mindful and coordinated fashion, bringing along all members of our communities, raising our voices to create a powerful chorus.

Nevena Spirovska  |  @ProBonoNews

Nevena Spirovska is an LGBTIQA+ activist, campaigner and proud community volunteer. She has dedicated herself to the for-purpose sector and has been highly engaged with grassroots movements and campaigns supporting LGBTIQA+ equality, human rights, and addressing the drivers of structural disadvantage. Twitter: @NevenaSpirovska

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