Calls for Mental Health Minister to tackle conversion practices

Stephen Dawson mental health

LGBTIQA+ rights organisation just.equal says Western Australia’s Mental Health Minister Stephen Dawson has provided a response to their concerns about conversion and suppression practices, but advocates say his answer is “vague”.

The Minister has responded to a letter from just.equal sent in May, which asked for greater detail about what the McGowan government was doing about conversion practices.

just.equal wanted to know if the government would follow the Victorian Model to criminalise conversion practices, highlighting that parliamentary secretary Alanna Clohesy had indicated in September last year that similar laws were a possibility.

In his response Minister Dawson said the re-elected McGowan government was working with multiple government agencies to progress their action towards prohibiting conversion therapy in Western Australia, and he was familiar with the legislation introduced in Victoria.

The minister said he acknowledged “that these practices go against the basic human rights principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect. All people have the right to be treated fairly and be able to have the freedom to make choices in their lives.”

Minister Dawson said the McGowan government had identified through the Mental Health Commission that LGBTIQA+ young people were a target group requiring appropriate mental health and alcohol and other drug services and support.

Spokesperson for just.equal, Brian Greig, said the Minister’s response was “vague”, and he had not addressed the question.

“It is not enough to ban conversion practices in professional counselling sessions. More than 90 per cent of conversion practices take place in informal religious settings.

“Trying to ban conversion practices but excluding religious groups, is like trying to ban the sale of alcohol but excluding bottle shops,” Greig said.

just.equal said the Minister had to make clear exactly what the government’s plans were – would it ban religious conversion practices or not?

Greig said he was also concerned that the government appeared to be moving ahead with banning conversion practices by “progressing action through relevant government agencies” but had not consulted with the LGBTIQA+ community on how best to do this.

Brian Greig called on Minister Dawson to source WA-specific data on conversion practices which had recently been compiled by collaboration between La Trobe and Macquarie Universities.

“The latest study of ‘Writing Themselves In (4)’ by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, looked at the prevalence of conversion practices in each state, and what percentage of LGBTI people had been exposed to them.

“The study finds that conversion practices increases mental health problems, suicidal ideation and homelessness in LGBTI people, with results broken down for each state.

“Four states have requested and paid for this information, but WA is not one of them.”

“just.equal has written back to the Minister asking that he acquire this report and use it in the formation of a comprehensive government response to conversion practices.

“We also reiterate our request for the McGowan Government to establish an LGBTI reference group, so there can be liaison between the government and our community on these and other issues which impact and concern us.”

“This is especially true of conversion practice survivor groups, whose insight is invaluable.”

OIP Staff

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