RMIT students concerned over staff appearance at ACL forum

Students at Victoria’s RMIT University have raised concerns over the inclusion of a faculty member on the lineup of a conversion therapy forum organised by the Australian Christian Lobby.

The ACL’s upcoming Gay Conversion Therapy Forum aims to “explore the major concerns” surrounding Victoria’s proposed ban on conversion therapy practices. The lobby’s website claims that more than 5,300 submissions have been made by ACL supporters against the ban.

The forum’s panel includes Mentone Baptist Church Reverend Murray Campbell, University of Western Sydney’s Professor John Whitehall and RMIT School of Global, Urban and Social Studies lecturer Dr Caroline Norma.

RMIT University Student Union (RUSU) have released a statement condemning Dr Norma’s inclusion on the pro-conversion therapy panel.

“This online event poses a very serious risk to the wellbeing of the LGBTQIA+ students and staff across Victoria. This event states that it is an online forum that will explore major concerns around the proposed ban of gay conversion therapy, and will discuss actions that can be taken now,” the RUSU statement reads.

“Accordingly, this online event appears, in essence, to be promoting the practice of gay conversion therapy that is unethical, unscientific, and dangerous against people who are queer, LGBTQIA+, or ‘suspected’ of being.”

“RMIT carries huge responsibility for the well-being and safety of everyone across campus, especially staff and students that identity as LGBTQIA+, queer or questioning. RMIT should also hold accountable the actions of students and staff that are representing the university. The participation of Dr Caroline Norma in this panel as a representative of RMIT University directly contradicts the RMIT’s Diverse Genders, Sexes, and Sexualities Action Plan.”

“RUSU Queer urges RMIT to step in and take action to support LGBTQIA+ staff and students and to investigate whether Dr. Caroline Norma’s participation is in keeping with RMIT’s obligation to foster the wellbeing of students and staff, as required in the university Intellectual Freedom Policy.”

Speaking to pedestrian.tv, a spokesperson for RMIT says the university is “currently looking into the matter.”

The Australian Christian Lobby website does state that Dr Norma will be “speaking on her own behalf and in no way representing the views of RMIT.”

Dr Norma is set to be joined by Professor John Whitehall, a recurring voice in The Australian‘s reporting on trans and gender diverse issues.

Professor Whitehall notably led the charge for a parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of transgender healthcare, which was ultimately denied by Health Minister Greg Hunt following advice from the Australasian College of Physicians.

Earlier this week, the Australian Medical Students Association joined the Australian Psychological society, LGBTIQ+ advocates and conversion therapy survivors in calling for the end of conversion therapy practices in Australia.

Leigh Andrew Hill


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