everyone, everywhere, everyday
Protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity in Australia
© 2011 Australian Human Rights Commission
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The Australian Human Rights Commission acknowledges the contributions of several key people:
Consultants: Anna Chapman for drafting the Research Paper and Meredith Turnbull for facilitating the roundtables.
The Australian Human Rights Commission: Commission President Catherine Branson, Bethany Hender, Katerina Lecchi, Jessica Roth, Kate Schuetze and Kate Temby.
The Commission would also like to thank all those people who participated in the consultation.
Design and Layout
Table of Contents
1 Introduction 5
2 The consultation methodology 6
3 A note on terminology 8
4 Human rights and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity 10
5 Stories of discrimination, vilification and harassment 12
6 The potential benefit of federal laws protecting from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity 20
7 Protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation 24
8 Protection from discrimination on the basis of sex and/or gender identity 29
9 Protection from vilification and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity 35
10 Exemptions 36
11 What did the consultation hear about special measures? 39
12 Other actions that could be taken by the Australian Government to protect LGBTI people in Australia 40
13 Conclusion 47
Appendix 1: List of participants 49
Appendix 2: Definitions in state and territory laws 51
In October 2010, the Australian Human Rights Commission commenced a public consultation to canvas the experiences and views of people who may have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or sex and/or gender identity. The task was a listening exercise, and a lot needed to be said.
Equality and freedom from discrimination are fundamental human rights belonging to all people. Yet the voices of those who participated in our consultation revealed that many people continue to be denied equality and freedom from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Participants revealed personal stories of discrimination, vilification and harassment that provide compelling evidence of the need for change. They also presented evidence of the negative impact discrimination has had on their health and wellbeing.
The experiences of discrimination shared during the consultation were nothing new. The Commission has previously reported on the stigmatisation and discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in the Same-Sex: Same Entitlements (2007) and Sex Files: The legal recognition of sex in documents and government records (2009).
Although the work of the Commission in this area was recognised throughout the consultation, many participants expressed disappointment that government has not yet acted upon many of the recommendations made in Sex Files. Many trans and intersex people continue to face substantial difficulties in obtaining legal recognition of their sex. We commend the Australian Government for the initial steps that have been taken to respond to the Commission’s recommendations regarding the process for changing legal sex. Significant further changes are required in this area.
Just as heterosexual people are not a homogenous group, neither are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people. The consultation revealed that different challenges are faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people on the one hand, and trans and intersex people on the other. It is important when addressing discrimination that these different experiences are acknowledged. This report aims to capture the diverse range of views expressed by participants in the consultation.
People of all sexual orientations and gender identities deserve to be treated with respect and equality. Diversity is, after all, what makes a society vibrant. The overwhelming message from this consultation has been that people who experience discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or sex and/or gender identity simply want to enjoy the same rights as others in the community; rights that so many of us take for granted. I hope that this report will inform the on-going process of strengthening human rights protections for everyone in our community, regardless of their sexual orientation or sex and/or gender identity.
The Hon Catherine Branson QC, President, Australian Human Rights Commission