FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT AS PRESENTED AT THE AGM, 14 Nov 2002:
FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT AS PRESENTED AT THE AGM, 14 Nov 2002:
It has been an important year of consolidation and building for the Lobby.
Having achieved law reform to recognise same sex relationships in 2001 - our community's nominated #l priority - the Lobby has embarked on a community education campaign about the meaning of the new laws (see separate article in this annual report) and pursued long-standing and second-tier priorities, including reform to those areas of the law which still discriminate against lesbians and gay men.
The Lobby continues to play a leading role on the Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues. This was the committee that provided feedback and input into the drafting of the Relationships Bill. Its priority for the last year has been reform of regulations governing access to adoption and assisted reproductive technology. In keeping with their promise prior to the last State election, the Bracks Government has referred these issues to the Law Reform Commission, and the Advisory Committee has assisted in the drafting of the terms of reference for this referral.
The next 12 months will almost certainly require our community to lobby parliamentarians just as hard as we lobbied for relationships reform. Key Liberal spokespeople have pre-empted both the recommendations of the Commission and any significant internal party debate by signalling their opposition to any reform making adoption and ART available to single women and lesbians. New Liberal leader Robert Doyle has characterised the proposal to broaden access as a "social experiment". He may need help to understand and acknowledge that this experiment has been working just fine in NSW, the ACT and Western Australia.
Breaking up is hard to do
Unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples who separate currently have property disputes settled in the State Supreme Court. This is a costly, adversarial and time consuming. The cheaper, more conciliation-based and user-friendly Federal Family Court settles such disputes between married (heterosexual) couples. Commonwealth Attorney General Darryll Williams has proposed a referral of powers from the states to the Commonwealth so that that unmarried heterosexual (but not homosexual) couples' disputes may also be handled by the Family Court. This selective referral would re-instate unequal treatment under the law between heterosexual and homosexual couples, a discriminatory arrangement that may now be illegal under Victorian Law.
Williams has been unable or unwilling to describe why there should be two different standards for relationships law, and his proposal has been met by the unanimous call by the various State AG's that such a referral should only occur if it is inclusive of all unnzawied couples. Victorian AG Rob Hulls has been at the forefront of this stand. The Lobby will need to work with State Liberal parliamentarians to ensure that discrimination against same sex couples is not mistakenly re-instated as a byproduct of making things better for heterosexual unmarried couples.
Warm inner GLLOs
The Lobby continues to work with the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Victoria Police to improve the force's ability to serve both gay and lesbian citizens and its own gay and lesbian employees.
Achievements this year include the bedding down of the plan to employ five regional Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLOs) and a State Coordinating GLLO. While delayed by administrative and procedural issues far longer than the Lobby would have liked, we are hopeful (verging on optimistic) that all six positions will be gazetted (advertised) and perhaps even filled by Midsumma 2003.
The GLLO network should create significantly better gay and lesbian community policing and crime prevention initiatives, especially significant this year because of the alarming resurgence in hate motivated crimes against gay men in public and the gradual revelation of domestic violence as a significant issue for lesbian and gay couples. Sensitive and culturally appropriate policing and crime prevention programs are a necessary part of any solution to these violent situations.
Also this year a "Sex in Public Places" policing policy was consulted and adopted by the Police with considerable input from the Working Group. When implemented (a task that will involve education across the Police force - a key role for the incoming GLLOs), this policy should see a vast reduction, even elimination, of entrapment of gay men by Police officers in plain clothes at beats. Public complaints of "indecent behaviour" will (we hope) only now be investigated by uniformed officers on patrol.
Joy FM, 3CR, Bent TV and the gay and lesbian street press MCV, Bnews and the Melbourrze Star have all regularly carried messages and analysis on legal, policing and other social issues of importance to our community. In a world where the mainstream media tend only to cover gay and lesbian issues from certain (often sensationalist) angles, it cannot be over-estimated how important this community media is to education and mobilisation of our community.
The Lobby has been privileged to be able to use such media to engage in dialogue with our community on issues as diverse as legal and policing issues, legal education, marriage and human rights through to community building, economics and culture. We have also supplied mainstream journalists who are interested in delving below the obvious and stereotypical image of gay and lesbian life with contacts, background briefing and case studies for news and feature stories on everything from police relations, homophobia, youth issues, religion, culture and queers in film and TV.
With two publicly listed mobile phone numbers, the Lobby is gradually building a media reputation as an informed and representative source of commentary, analysis, and information on gay and lesbian human rights and culture as well as a quick and useful network point for referral to other "story" sources.
Representing our communityo n matters to do with justice and equality is a responsibility the Lobby takes very seriously, and we aim to preserve and build our reputation and profile with all media in the year ahead.
Jesus was a homophobe
With religious fundamentalism and extremism in the news more and more globally, it has been with some sense of urgency that the Lobby responded this year to a case of violence and harassment against a gay student at a Christian school by approaching the major church organisations to publicly condemn homophobic violence. The Uniting Church, under Alistair MacRae, was a standout, writing letters and clearly stating that discrimination and harassment are not Christian values. Other churches (eg the Anglicans) were more equivocal, condemning the violence but reserving judgment on acceptance and respect for "the homosexual lifestyle". The Catholic Church didn't return our calls, emails or letters.
Funny about that.
We hope to develop dialogue with the churches and other communities of faith to protect the human rights and dignity of their gay and lesbian members, and to assist in the development of a broader understanding of the contemporary meanings of compassion, inclusion and respect that most codes of faith publicly aspire to. We hope the networks and contacts we have begun to develop this year will help with this work
Celebration time, come on!
Midsumma 2002 saw the Lobby's last Mass Debate (in its old format). A massive amount of work went into the event at Melbourne Town Hall that sadly made a small loss. Our Politics in the Pub forum, by contrast, attracted a capacity crowd to hear a debate on the topic: "That Equality is Not Justice" and, despite the Commonwealth Government's refusal of a visa to keynote speaker Peter Tatchell, Lobby Committee member and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Jamie Gardiner, Lobby co-founder Janet Jukes, and openly gay Liberal member of Parliament Andrew Olexander, led a lively, informed and in depth discussion.
Learning from this year, the Lobby is planning smaller, more specifically targeted and designed events for Midsumma 2003: another "Politics" forum (Politics in the Afternoon at Chapel off Chapel), this time definitely featuring Peter Tatchell (who has finally been granted a visa) and at Federation Square a sing-a-long screening of the Wizard of Oz with choir performance and multi-media launch of our up-dated and improved legal education website http://over-the-rainbow.org (editor's note: it is now www.overtherainbow.org.au).
At Midsumma this year, the Lobby will maintain a presence at Carnival, Street Party, Pride March and Daylesford's Chill-Out - all great ways to party on down, meet and interact with members of our community.
"What are you doing about...?" is not such a bad way to start a discussion!
The gay and lesbian equivalent of the Logies - this year's Pride Awards - saw the Lobby pick up a bottle of French liqueur and a round of applause for "Most Outstanding Community Achievement" by a group.
Accepting the award, outgoing Co-convenor Chris Gill cracked yet another duck joke much to the horror of the current Co-convenor Catherine Roberts and all at the Lobby's table.
The Lobby has also this year been nominated for a Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Human Rights Award in the Community category. The award may recognise our work towards human rights law reform and community education.
We'll find out in December whether we've got a framed certificate and another round of applause.
Chris Gill & Catherine Roberts
COMMITTEE FROM 2001 AGM:
Allison Kenwood (to July 2002)
David Gray (to March 2002)
Maria Bamford (to June 2002)
Miranda Stewart (to March 2002)
Sally Goldner (to March 2002)
Female Coconvenor: Miranda Stewart (to March 2002)
Female Coconvenor: Catherine Roberts (from May 2002)
Male Coconvenor: Chris Gill
Secretary: Ian Gould (to Sept 2002)
Secretary: Craig McCallum (from Sept 2002)
Treasurer: David Gray (to June 2002)
Treasurer: Ian Gould (from June 2002)
COMMITTEE MEMBERS CO-OPTED DURING THE 01-02 YEAR
Catherine Roberts and Kara Dunn (May 2002), Bryan Andy (June 2002) and Craig McCallum (Aug 2002).
WORKING GROUPS DURING THE 01-02 YEAR
Community Education, Legal Research and Analysis, Media, Events and Fund Raising and Administration.
OUTCOMES OF 2002 AGM:
COMMITTEE FROM 2002 AGM:
OFFICER POSITIONS FROM 2002 AGM:
Female Coconvenor: Catherine Roberts
Male Coconvenor: Chris Gill
Secretary: Craig McCallum
Treasurer: Ian Gould
Find a full copy of the 2002 Annual Report
In December 2002, the Fertility Access Rights (FAR) lobby formally became a working group of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and has since broadened the working groups roles to include:
Advocacy for law reform to open access to donor insemination and adoption for lesbian, gay and single people
Community building to create connection between queer people creating families
Community education about queer family formation and support
FAR was was established in 1999 to raise awareness of the discrimination and health risks inherent in the restriction of access to assisted reproductive technology specified by the Victorian Infertility Treatment Act (1995).