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Cook Government to abolish Gender Reassignment Board

The Western Australian Government have announced today that they will be introducing a Bill to abolish the long-criticised Gender Reassignment Board.

The Births, Deaths, Marriages Registration Amendment (Sex or Gender Changes) Bill 2024 will repeal the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 and introduce a new administrative process for sex and gender recognition.

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This includes the removal of the requirement for Western Australians to present to the Gender Reassignment Board to justify their need for legal gender affirmation and recognition. The Board has been criticised as an unnecessary barrier for LGBTQIA+ people in Western Australia, with the Board’s current head, former Pride WA President Curtis Ward, sharing his support for its abolition upon his appointment.

Curtis Ward (President, Gender Reassignment Board)

WA Labor committed to abolishing the Board at their state conference in 2017. The impending changes were also recommended by the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia in 2018, to bring our state in line with other jurisdictions around the nation. Most recently, the government reiterated their commitment to getting rid of the Board in December of last year.

The reforms will also allow for non-binary and intersex or indeterminate descriptors for gender and sex respectively on legal documents in WA.

The new laws will still enforce restrictions for people under 18, including parental consent or permission from the Family Court of Western Australia in some circumstances. The changes will not affect existing procedures that relate to the registration of sex on a birth certificate at birth.

Cook: Bill is “first tranche” of legislative reform

WA Premier Roger Cook

Premier Roger Cook says his government remains committed to a broader reform agenda supporting diversity and inclusion in Western Australia.

“This first tranche of legislative reform strongly supports my Government’s ongoing commitment to equality for all Western Australians,” Premier Cook said.

This follows our recent commitment to developing WA’s first LGBTQIA+ inclusion strategy, which will promote inclusiveness and wellbeing and ensure LGBTQIA+ people experience full social and economic participation.

“Everyone deserves the respect and dignity of being recognised as themselves, to have their legal identity align with their lived identity.”

“These important reforms will mean that trans and gender-diverse members of our community will no longer be required to undergo gender affirming surgery to change their gender on their birth certificate, removing the outdated barriers that deny people identity documents that accurately reflect their gender,” the Premier continued.

“My Government has a significant legislative agenda, and is committed to finalising our second tranche of reforms in close consultation with the community.”

WA Attorney General John Quigley echoed Premier Cook’s commitment to reform, promising to continue engaging with stakeholders to bring forward new equal opportunity legislation.

“Western Australia is the only jurisdiction where a Gender Reassignment Board determines a person’s application to change sex,” the AG said.

“WA and New South Wales are the only Australian jurisdictions that require applicants to have undergone medical or surgical reassignment in order to change the sex on their birth certificate.

“This Bill abolishes the Gender Reassignment Board and introduces a new administrative application process for people seeking to change their sex or gender on their birth certificate.

“Instead, they will be able to apply directly to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages with a statement by a medical practitioner and psychologist, certifying that they have received appropriate clinical treatment in relation to the person’s sex or gender.”

In recent months, local LGBTQIA+ organisations including TransFolk of WA, Rainbow Futures WA and PFLAG+ Perth had been urging the McGowan and Cook Governments to expediate action, following the resignation of the Board President who preceded Curtis Ward.

Labor’s inaction on this issue since making its original promise in 2017, among other equal opportunity reforms, has resulted in protests led by Queer Liberation Boorloo and consistent criticism from advocacy organisations including Just.Equal Australia, represented here in WA by former senator Brian Greig.

TransFolk of WA continue push for best practice

Local transgender and gender diverse support organisation TransFolk of WA have welcomed news of the Gender Reassignment Board’s removal.

“TransFolk will always welcome change that improves the lives and wellbeing of trans people in WA. “

“The current Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1998 and the Gender Reassignment Board impose requirements on our community which have been described by trans and gender diverse West Australians as humiliating and inhumane,” TransFolk said in a statement today.

“For those in our community who will now, because of this reform, avoid this cruel process, we welcome this reform and are grateful that they will be spared from this suffering.”

TransFolk say the removal of the Gender Reassignment Board will allow trans and gender diverse Western Australians to have an improved pathway to align their legal documentation more closely with their gender identity.

“We are pleased that non-binary members of our community will also now have an option to choose a more appropriate gender designator. This will improve the lives of many trans and gender diverse people in Western Australia.”

The organisation has also raised concerns that the proposed reform is “out of step” with other jurisdictions, and pledge to continue making further recommendations to the Government on relevant regulations.

“TransFolk recognises this proposed legislation is not entirely in line with calls from the community and is out of step with the best practice legislation seen in the ACT, or closely met by Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria, nor have the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission report been full adopted as we would have hoped.

“TransFolk strongly encourages the Government to consider best practice and to consult with stakeholders such as TransFolk, and other community organisations. TransFolk will continue our advocacy to secure further policy improvements and legislative reform for our community.”

“But for now, for the members of our community who’s lives will be improved by this reform, we take this opportunity to celebrate the positive impact this will have on your lives.

“We look forward to continuing our advocacy to Government on how best to meet the needs of our community on this and other important reforms.”

We will continue to update this story as it develops. More to come.


Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au

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