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The Queensland Government delivers an apology that rights historical wrongs

Alan Raabe and LGBTI advocates will hold a doorstop press conference after the apology takes place in parliament in the courtyard in front of Parliament House.

Time: Immediately after the apology in parliament (approximately 3.00 pm-3.15 pm)
Date: Thursday, 11 May 2017
Location: Parliament House, 2A George St, Brisbane

MEDIA RELEASE: For immediate release: Thursday 11 May 2017

Rights groups including the LGBTI Legal Service, the Queensland AIDS Council and the Human Rights Law Centre have applauded the Queensland Government for today’s apology to people convicted under unjust laws against homosexual acts.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, welcomed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s speech and said the apology recognises the harm that these discriminatory laws have caused.

“These laws have left a legacy of shame and stigma on our community for too long. It’s well and truly time for this legacy to be completely erased from the criminal histories of persecuted gays and lesbians. We welcome this historic moment which brings us one important step closer to equality,” said Mr McPhee.

The Government has also honoured its commitment to introduce a bill to erase criminal records for those convicted of homosexual offences in the past when consensual homosexual conduct was a crime. In Queensland, homosexuality was criminalised until 1990. Until then, men (and women) who engaged in consensual homosexual activity could be charged with any number of offences, ranging from indecency to ‘unnatural offences’ and sodomy.

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, has successfully advocated for similar legislation and state apologies in other states and territories and welcomed the progress in Queensland.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised. This apology from the Queensland Government is a powerful symbolic act that helps to repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and affirm the value of gay, lesbian and bisexual people’s sexuality,” said Ms Brown

Ms Brown added, “These laws had a profound impact on the everyday lives of gay men, lesbians and bisexual people and continue to limit work, travel and volunteering opportunities. By acknowledging the impact of these homophobic laws, the Premier pays respect to the victims of these laws but also to Queensland’s sexual and gender diverse communities.”

Alan’s story

One man convicted under Queensland’s old laws and present for the apology was Alan Raabe. Alan Raabe was convicted of sexual assault in 1988 after he made an overture to a plain clothes police officer at a well know gay beat. Mr Raabe said, “This is the first Queensland government in 30 years which has had the decency to acknowledge the trauma and anguish caused to hundreds of Queenslanders by these convictions. They are the first Queensland government in 30 years with the courage to right these injustices.”

“Being a criminal offence of a sexual nature, I had to abandon any hope of gaining teacher registration in Queensland. I had studied to gain a qualification, but was advised not to proceed with even an application for registration,” added Mr Raabe (Read more of Alan’s story here.)

Response from LGBTI community leaders

Alan’s story is representative of a number of gay men impacted by the history of criminalisation in Queensland, and the damaging legacy of discriminatory laws. Pete Black, Vice President of the Queensland AIDS Council said this was an historic moment for the state.

“The bill, together with the apology from the Premier, is a really important symbolic step for the LGBTIQ community in Queensland. This recognises that homosexuality should never have been against the law, and that gay men and women are entitled to the same rights and freedoms and privacy in their relationships as the rest of the community,” said Mr Black.

“The Queensland AIDS Council saw first-hand the impact the criminalisation of homosexuality had in this state. These laws not only impacted upon the individuals convicted for consensual sexual activities, they also contributed to a political climate that sought to marginalise the LGBTIQ community. This made it even harder for the community and for QuAC to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic when it arrived on our shores. Sadly, many members of our community from this time are no longer with us today. But this reform is welcomed by their families, friends and loved ones and is an opportunity for us all to remember their lives and their loss,” added Mr Black.

Response from Alan Raabe in full

My first reaction upon hearing this most welcome news is to say a huge “Thank you”.  There are two groups of people to whom I owe my thanks.

The first is to that amazing group of dedicated activists who work unacknowledged and quietly behind the scenes. They spend countless hours and enormous energy preparing copious submissions and reports, constantly lobbying politicians for equitable laws for our community. Despite repeated let downs and betrayal by bigoted, hypocritical and ill-informed politicians you never give up. I wish to specifically acknowledge the help and support of Emile McPhee and Anna Brown. Without your efforts none of this would have happened.

The second group of people I wish to thank is the current Palaszczuk government, and in particular the Attorney General Yvette D’Ath. This is the first Queensland government in 30 years which has had the decency to acknowledge the trauma and anguish caused to an estimated 500 Queenslanders by these convictions. They are the first Queensland government in 30 years with the courage to right these injustices. To you, I say a heartfelt “Thank you”.

Read Alan’s story here

The LGBTI Legal Service is continuing to look for stories like Alan’s. If you have a conviction you would like to discuss, please contact the LGBTI Legal Service. Read more here.

The Human Rights Law Centre also provides free legal help and support for individuals with historical convictions across Australia. Read more here.

For all media enquiries including interviews with Alan please contact:

Anna Brown, Director of legal Advocacy: 0422 235 522

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519

Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service: 0438 766 176

Peter Black, Vice-President, Queensland AIDS Council: 0421 636 496

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LGBTI Queenslanders welcome inaugural funding for legal help

For additional background, please see Media Release: Inaugural Funding (PDF, 155.8 KB).

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) Queenslanders have welcomed today’s announcement that the volunteer-run LGBTI Legal Service will receive funding from the Queensland Government, meaning more LGBTI Queenslanders will be able to get legal help.

‘There are many LGBTI people with legal issues which are hidden and closeted, but they show a portrait of disadvantage, including mental illness and drug use, employment problems, homelessness and poverty, and generally lower health outcomes,’ said Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service. ‘Research shows that LGBTI people are also less likely to access to legal remedies and health and community services.’

‘LGBTI Legal Service has been providing free legal services for over six years without funding, and is the only standalone community legal centre in Australia specialising in helping LGBTI people with legal problems,’ said Ms Alexander. ‘An increasing number of clients have been reaching out, and without government funding, the Service has had no capacity to do any ongoing casework. It is common to have to turn away clients because of the restricted capacity of our volunteer lawyers who can only accomplish a limited amount in the time available.’

‘Over the past two years, Yvette D’Ath has introduced significant legislative changes to fix outdated laws that stigmatised and marginalised members of our community. She has taken historic action to address this structural discrimination and sent a clear message to all Queenslanders of equality, safety and fairness. We have called this a legislative rainbow revolution.’

We applaud and celebrate this next groundbreaking step: providing the inaugural funding to the LGBTI Legal Service. With this money, we will be able to support LGBTI people experiencing domestic violence, to assist victims of crime, to provide specialist family law advice service, to support transgender people to transition and to eliminate discrimination in our workplaces. We now have the capacity to pursue justice and to make equality a reality for Queenslanders.’

‘LGBTI Queenslanders face the same legal problems as everyone else, as well as issues that are specific to people with diverse sexuality and gender identity,’ said Scott McDougall from Caxton Legal Service. ‘We join with other LGBTI Queenslanders to welcome today’s announcement that the LGBTI Legal Service will receive funding to provide more legal help across the state. This funding will allow the Service to do important work, and we’re pleased that the Queensland Government is supporting these vital services.’

‘With six years’ experience of providing quality legal help to people facing legal problems, it’s great to see the Queensland Government recognize the value of LGBTI Legal Service and the work they do,’ said James Farrell, Director of Community Legal Centres Queensland. ‘Sadly, this announcement comes as community legal centres across the state face a significant funding cut from the federal government. While funding for services like this one are welcome and important, we again call on Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis to reverse the funding cuts to community legal centres, to ensure all Queenslanders can access the legal help they need and the justice they deserve.’

Find out more about LGBTI Legal Service at https://www.lgbtilegalservice.org.au/.

Media Contacts:

Matilda Alexander, LGBTI Legal Service 0421 201 951 | president@lgbtilegalservice.org

Scott McDougall, Caxton Legal Service T (07) 3214 6333 | scott@caxton.org.au

James Farrell, Community Legal Centres Queensland 0411 206 835 | director@communitylegalqld.org.au

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QLRC submission – expunging criminal convictions

The LGBTI Legal Service is very pleased to have made a further submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission on the issue of expunging criminal convictions for consensual homosexual activity, a copy of which can be found below.

If anyone can share a story, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with us or the Queensland Law Reform Commission to share.

We thank Allens, Human Rights Law Centre, Queensland AIDS Council, Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services, Caxton Legal Centre and Townsville Community Legal Service for their assistance and input in preparing the submission.

Submission to Queensland Law Reform Commission review of expunging of criminal convictions for historical gay sex offences (PDF, 296.5 KB)
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How will the LGBTI community benefit from a Human Rights Act for Queensland?

A State Human Rights Act, in the right form, could remove the lawful discrimination of the LGBTI community in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).

If members of the LGBTI community in Queensland have been affected by lawful discrimination the LGBTI Legal Service would like to hear from you. You can remain anonymous. The service will be making a submission to the Parliamentary Committee in due course. You can contact us on mail@lgbtilegalservice.org

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Discussion Paper – Historical Criminal Treatment of Same-sex Activity

The LGBTI Legal Service Inc., in conjunction with Allens, Human Rights Law Centre, Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services and Brisbane Pride Festival have prepared a major research report for allowing individuals with convictions for consensual same sex activity to be expunged in Queensland.

Please download the Media Release (PDF, 72.4 KB) and Report (PDF, 300.4 KB).

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