Tasmania: Calls for more protections to prevent discrimination by coroner

Equality Tasmania says the Government has not gone far enough to protect same-sex partners from discrimination by the state’s coroner.

On Thursday the government introduced a miscellaneous justice amendment bill that responds to the coroner’s failure to recognise the existing next-of-kin rights of bereaved same-sex pattners, most notoriously, Hobart gay man, Ben Jago.

Jago’s partner of five years, Nathan Lunson, died suddenly in January 2015. Despite the two men being legal senior next-of-kin under Tasmanian law, the coroner misapplied the law and recognised Lunson’s estranged mother as his senior next-of-kin.

Jago was refused the right to see his partner’s body and initially refused access to his partner’s funeral.

Subsequently he lodged a discrimination case that was stopped when the Coroner’s Office appealed to the Supreme Court asserting its immunity from the Anti-Discrimination Act. In 2021 the Supreme agreed with the Coroner’s Office that it is immune from the Act. Later it was discovered that there had been other cases of the Coroner’s Office not informing people of their correct rights.

The new bill will ensure the coroner will notify partners and families of their rights, but according to Equality Tasmania, the Government must legislate to ensure the coroner respects the existing legal rights of same-sex partners and that discrimination does not occur again.

Equality Tasmanian President, Rodney Croome, said given the numerous cases of the authority mistreating LGBTIQA+ people tighter legislation was needed.

“The Tasmanian Coroner has repeatedly ignored the legal rights of bereaved same-sex partners despite the law clearly guaranteeing these rights and despite the coroner respecting the rights of different-sex partners.”

“This has caused deep trauma for same-sex partners who are already suffering the pain of losing their loved one.”

“The only effective solution to this problem are amendments to the Coroner’s Act that clearly state what rights bereaved partners have, that prohibit discrimination and that highlight the right of partners to appeal the coroner’s decision.”

“The Government’s amendment is a small step forward, but it is not sufficient to prevent discrimination in the future.”

“Neither is it sufficient to rebuild the LGBTIQA+ community’s confidence in the coroner, which has been shattered by the coroner’s demeaning treatment of same-sex partners.”

“The Government’s proposal is also not sufficient to provide justice to Ben Jago and other bereaved same-sex partners who have suffered trauma at the hands of government agencies that should protect them.”

“We are not asking for new rights, just for the coroner to respect our existing rights and for the Government to protect those rights.” Croome said.

Equality Tasmania also say the government’s bill also fails to respond to the advice from a range of organisations including Equality Tasmania, the Tasmanian Council of Social Services and Intersex Peer Support Australia regarding a reference to intersex people in amendments to the title of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.

The Government’s proposal is to amend the title to refer to “the recognition of trans and gender diverse Tasmanians and those with intersex variations of sex characteristics”. The aforementioned groups recommended “…and those with innate variations of sex characteristics” as a best-practice term.

Tasmanian representative of Intersex Peer Support Australia, Simone-Lisa Anderson, said,

“The intersex community is disappointed that the Government has not decided to use inclusive, best practice terminology when referring to this community in its the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act amendment.”

Attorney General Elise Archer commented on the multiple legal changes contained within the bill saying, “As Attorney-General I remain committed to ensuring that our legislation remains contemporary, is fit for purpose, and in line with community expectations.”

OIP Staff

You can support our work by subscribing to our Patreon
or contributing to our GoFundMe campaign.