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Protest calls for WA government to take action on law reform

Protesters took to the streets of Northbridge on Sunday to draw attention to the WA government’s ongoing delays relating reform of the state’s equal opportunity laws and the failure to abolish the Gender Reassignment Board.

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A small crowd gathered in the Perth Cultural Centre where several speakers shared their thoughts about the lack of action, among them former Western Australian senator and long standing LGBTIQA+ rights activist Brian Greig.

Greig noted that Queer Liberation Boorloo appeared to be the only LGBTIQA+ rights group in Perth who were raising concern about the lack of action from the state government.

“From what I can see you’re the only queer rights group in the state who is actually protesting on these issues against the government and how incredibly bad they’ve been for their broken promises and their betrayal.” Greig said.

“Labor has been promising wholesale reform in principle for 20 years, and in practice for the last six most especially discrimination in faith schools, conversion practices, abolishing the gender reassignment board, and allowing sound self-identification for trans and gender diverse people. They have delivered on none.

Brian Greig said it was alarming that the state government had trotted out a long list of excuses on why it had not been able to take any action over many years, describing none of the reasons being provided as valid.

“Every LGBTIQA+ reform in WA has come about through protest, by forcing the government to act, by shaming MPs into actually doing something.” he told the crowd. ”

 

Greig said it was concerning that some groups recently had a behind-closed-doors meeting with Premier Roger Cook, but little detail had been shared about what had been promised in the discussions. The veteran activist highlighted that when former Labor Attorney-General pushed for law reform almost a quarter of a century ago he often had open meetings with community members to discuss the issues.

“No group in the LGBTIQA+ community has a mandate to be having any meetings with the Premier and then not telling our community what was discussed.

“This is worrying because in the current political environment, there will be pressure from the government for our community to be silent, to not criticize the government, to meekly accept that they will do very little, offer watered-down real change. We must not fall for this. We must aim high. We must demand best practice law reform because our state has fallen far behind others.” Greig said.

Education worker Lexi gave a personal perspective on how the Gender Recognition Board process affects people’s lives.

Sharing that they experienced homelessness as a young transgender teenager, Lexi said that going through the process of putting in an application to a board seemed daunting and unachievable.

“I came to Perth, and I was here on my own. I was navigating all the things that a 16-year-old navigates, as well as homelessness, trying to transition, trying to study or trying to figure out a way to study, losing a family. I was scared, I was young, and I was alone. I was going through enough. The idea of going through another bureaucratic process on top of all the psychologists and the doctors, and all the other things I needed just to get through was incredibly daunting.” Lexi said.

“So, I didn’t – and I never did. I never went to the Gender Board, I never even tried. It was so incredibly overwhelming that I just left it.” Lexi said, noting that the process in other states who have updated their laws is much simpler.

Kate Sallinger, a spokesperson for PFLAG – the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said the state government was failing the community on many levels.

“The McGowan government made many promises, and the Cook government is running out of time to enact them.” Sallinger said.

Sallinger said it was ridiculous that the Gender Recognition Board continued to be part of the state’s bureaucracy when the Labor party had promised to abolish it prior to their election in 2017, the Law Reform Commission had recommended its removal, and even the board itself notes it’s completely outdated in their annual reports.

The Barnett Liberal government put forward a proposal to remove the board and transfer its processes to the State Administrative Tribunal as far back as 2015.

Union organiser and Greens member Alex Walace said the WA government had shown it could make reforms quickly when it was in their interest, noting that it only took 202 days to announce changes to the state’s election laws, order a report, access the report and pass the relevant legislation.

“It’s been double that just for the government to have the report into the Equal Opportunity Act.” Wallace said. “Meanwhile, Labour committed to self-ID for gender diverse people and abolishing the Gender Reassignment Board for at least six and a half years, since the 2017 party platform. And all we’ve been given in that time is empty promises and no action.”

Wallace shared their own experience of applying to change their gender in Victoria, where it was a simple process. By comparison people in Western Australia have to collect a large amount of documentation and wait for a long and drawn-out process via the Gender Recognition Board.

“It takes months of collecting documents and a dehumanising process through the board, and it’s not good enough. These are urgent bills for our community’s needs.” Wallace said.

Queer Liberation Boorloo spokesperson Nova Sobieralski said it had become clear the state government was “kicking the can down the road” when it came to Equal Opportunity law reform and meeting their commitment on improving the lives of people who are transgender.

As the crowd marches through Northbridge to Yagan Square they shouted chants directed at the state’s Premier Roger Cook and Attorney-General John Quigley.

They shouted classic protests chants including “Out of the bars and into the streets.” and “What do we want, law reform, when do we want it? Now!”

The protesters also chanted a message for Premier Roger Cook. Shouting “Listen Cook, hear our cry, when we’re screwed -we multiply.”

The organisers of the rally announced they will be holding another protest on the steps of parliament house in early November.

OIP Staff


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