Calls for WA government to promote historical convictions scheme

EXCLUSIVE

Local community groups have called on the WA government to be more proactive it promoting its scheme that allows people to have historical homosexual convictions removed from their record.

The McGowan and Cook governments have regularly cited the apology for historical homosexual convictions delivered by Premier Mark McGowan and the launch of the scheme as one of their achievements in LGBTIQA+ law reform, but an investigation by OUTinPerth revealed that the scheme has only ever received two applications and only one was approved.

David Gibson, the chair of GRAI (GLBTI Rights in Ageing Inc), said the need for the government to recognise that the scheme may evoke traumatic memories for individuals with historical convictions which may be a significant factor in the low responses.

“Many older LGBTI people may not feel comfortable navigating the same bureaucracy that may have ‘outed them’ all those years ago. ” Gibson said.

To address these challenges and enhance engagement, GRAI suggests that the Government funds a dedicated advocacy officer for the scheme within GRAI. This role would serve as a crucial intermediary, assisting individuals in navigating the complexities of the scheme. They argue that such support becomes especially vital for those who may reside outside Western Australia, or those who may be hesitant to engage with the process directly due to health or other issues.

GRAI’s proposal aligns with the broader call for improvements in the application process, simplification of bureaucratic procedures, and the establishment of compensation or financial redress for victims.

“We encourage the Government to engage in ongoing dialogue and collaboration between the LGBTI community and affected individuals to ensure that the scheme fulfills its intended purpose of acknowledging past injustices and providing meaningful redress to those affected.” Gibson said.

LGBTIQA+ rights advocacy group Rainbow Futures has also voiced their support for a more community led approach.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the expungement scheme, touted as a milestone for LGBTIQA+ rights in Western Australia, has only seen one successful application in four years. The government’s continued reference to this scheme as a success loses credibility when it’s under utilised.” a spokesperson for the group told OUTinPerth.

“Mere promotion of this scheme is insufficient; it is imperative that the WA Government makes a genuine commitment to addressing the barriers preventing applications, including community engagement with older people in the community through organisations such as GRAI.

“The LGBTIQA+ community deserves more than symbolic gestures; they deserve a tangible and accessible avenue for justice and redress.” Rainbow Futures representative said.

The calls for more action from community groups follows a call from Just.Equal Australia for the government to offer financial compensation for those affected by historical convictions. A review of similar legislation in Tasmania recently made a recommendation for compensation to be considered.

Brian Greig from Just.Equal said it was clear the scheme needed to be reviewed.

“An independent review of expungement laws in Tasmania in 2020 made all three of these recommendations, among ten others, and the Cook Government can learn from this. The Tasmanian parliament is currently debating the merits of a redress scheme and is the first state to do so. The amount of compensation would be determined by a parliamentary committee.

“Redress schemes have been adopted in most of Europe, including Germany and Austria, with France currently debating them.” Greig said.

Attorney General John Quigley (pictured) told OUTinPerth that the feedback he had received previously is that the LGBTIQA+ communities in Western Australia saw the scheme as one of “high value”.

“It was never anticipated that the number of applicants would be significantly high, however it was considered to be an important symbolic step in righting the wrongs of the past. Prior to the enactment of the scheme, WA lagged behind other Australian jurisdictions that had moved to expunge these records.” Attorney General John Quigley told OUTinPerth.

“Regardless of a lower than expected number of applications, not just in WA but in other states and territories, the Commissioner for Victims of Crime advises me that the scheme continues to hold high value in the LGBTQIA+ community.” he said.

The Attorney General said the Department of Justice had reviewed the scheme in 2020 had attended events incuding the Pride Festival to promote it.

Graeme Watson 


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