On This Gay Day: Louise Pratt delivered her first speech in the WA parliament

Louise Pratt delivered her inaugural speech to the WA parliament

In 2001 Louise Pratt delivered her inaugural speech to the Western Australian parliament, setting out an agenda for gay and lesbian law reform.

The politician was elected to the parliament at the 2001 state election. As the third candidate on the party’s upper house ticket many people didn’t expect the then 29-year-old to be elected, but the landslide election win which saw a change of government saw her scrape through. She became the youngest person to be elected to the WA parliament.

Louise Pratt was well known within Perth’s LGBTIQA+ community, having served as a spokesperson for Gay and Lesbian Equality (GALE), the hard working lobby group fighting to change the state’s antiquated laws relating to sexuality, sexual consent and adoption.

In her inaugural speech Pratt highlighted that despite homosexuality being decriminalised in 1990, the state still had some of the worst laws in the country when it came to LGBT people.

“Western Australia has the worst laws in the nation as far as lesbian and gay rights are concerned. We have no antidiscrimination legislation, and no relationship recognition.

This discrimination disadvantages not only lesbian and gay people, but also their children. Our laws restricting lesbian access to reproductive technology and the discriminatory age of consent for gay men contravene both international and commonwealth law.”

At the time the age of consent for heterosexual sexual activity was 16, but sex for gay men under the age of 21 remained illegal.

Pratt said one of her goals as a newly elected member of parliament was to see those laws changed.

“I hope to be part of a Parliament that will finally begin to bring real equality to lesbian and gay Western Australians.” she said.

A few months later Pratt was appointed to a Parliamentary Committee to review the laws affecting LGBT people. The committee’s recommendations were largely taken into law with the 2002 passage of the Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay Law Reform) Act 2002.

Amongst the reforms included in the act were a complete ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the granting of the right for same-sex couples to adopt children, a lowering of the age of consent from 21 to 16, the right for same-sex couples to inherit from a deceased partner, and the repeal of legislation which had made it an offence to promote homosexuality in schools.

In 2007 Pratt made the switch to federal politics, serving as a Senator for Western Australia. She lost her seat at the 2014 re-run election, but made a triumphant return to the parliament two years later, and was re-elected in 2019.

OIP Staff

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