Xamon: it’s not enough to oppose conversion therapy, you have to take action

Alison Xamon MLC, the Greens’ spokesperson for Sexuality and Gender Identity, has criticised the WA Labor Government for its failure to commit to banning harmful LGBTIQ conversion practices, including in religious and informal settings.

In parliament on Thursday Xamon again questioned the government about its intentions for banning conversion practices which attempt to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

She said while the Government indicated in 2018 that it would outlaw conversion practices, it last night made it clear that it is not currently considering legislation that would target churches and other religious organisations.

“To exclude churches, religious schools and other informal settings where we know conversion practices are more likely to take place is quite frankly appalling,” Xamon said.

“Real harm is taking place within these organisations, leaving participants psychologically damaged – to exclude religious settings from any upcoming regulation absolutely misses the point.”

The Greens MLC pointed to legislation recently passed in Queensland to ban these practices, saying the legislation had been widely criticised by LGBTIQ advocates for failing to actually address the problem.

She said Western Australia needed to do much better, but it was now clear the WA Government had no intention of adequately protecting members of the LGBTIQ community, including children, from these harmful practices.

“To fail to commit to including religious settings in a state-wide ban on conversion practices sends the message that children in fundamentalist churches, for example, are still fair game,” Xamon said.

“It is simply not enough for the Government to indicate it opposes ‘gay conversion therapy’ – it must actually act to stop this terrible practice”.

What the government said in parliament

Labor’s Alanna Clohesy responded to the call for legislation against conversion therapy saying the government was in favour of brining in more legislation to ensure all counsellors were adequately regulated, and argued that the McGowan government has also made big funding commitments to mental health services.

“The government is opposed to, and does not support, the use of gay conversion therapy.” Clohesy said in parliament, listing the prominent medical groups that oppose the practice. The Labor MLC said people should be encouraged to report unprofessional behaviour.

“Psychiatrists or psychologists who engage in practices that attempt to change sexual orientation may be in breach of their professional code of conduct and ethics, and individuals who have experienced this should consider reporting them to either the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office or the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.”

The government also acknowledged that more legislation is needed to protect people from counsellors who currently do not need any formal training or registration to practice.

“It is acknowledged that counselling sectors are currently unregulated in WA. The WA government supports the introduction of the national code of conduct for unregulated healthcare workers. This legislation is being drafted and, once implemented, will protect the public by setting minimum standards of conduct and practice for public and private healthcare workers.” Clohesy said.

Clohesy said the government would only consider legislation, similar to that which has been suggested in Victoria, if the proposed national code on counsellors ended up being ineffective. It was highlighted that the government has funded over $2million worth of mental health services that support the LGBTI community.

Graeme Watson

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