On 19 June 2017, the LGBTI Taskforce’s Justice Working Group held its eleventh meeting, which was the final meeting for the current term. The list of members, terms of reference and previous communiqués are available.
Specific matters considered
Attendance by the Victorian Attorney-General
The Justice Working Group was very pleased to welcome the Attorney-General, the Hon Martin Pakula MP to the meeting.
The Attorney-General reflected on the contribution made by the Justice Working Group over its term, to progressing the Government’s equality agenda. The group also discussed with the Attorney-General potential future policy and legal reforms to advance the rights of LGBTI people for consideration of the Attorney-General and the Justice Working Group in the future.
The Attorney-General thanked members of the Working Group for the high quality advice provided to him and the Department of Justice and Regulation on legislative and non-legislative reforms impacting on LGBTI Victorians, over the term of the Working Group.
The Justice Working Group provided advice on a number of legislative and non-legislative initiatives during its term, including:
- Reforms to the Adoption Act 1984 that removed discrimination against same sex couples and their families in adoption in Victoria. Working Group members worked closely with the Government on the implementation of the reforms including providing input on communications materials and recommendations regarding the availability of support services for couples and provision of training to service providers.
- Repeal of section 19A of the Crimes Act 1958, which abolished the specific offence of intentionally infecting another person with HIV. The repeal of this section has contributed to reducing the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV, while recognising that HIV transmission is a public health and not a criminal issue.
- The expungement scheme for historic homosexual sex convictions commenced on 1 September 2015, and as at 6 June 2017, 16 applications had been successful. This follows the State apology to victims of unjust past laws that criminalised homosexual conduct. The Working Group continues to monitor the operation of the expungement scheme and consider opportunities to improve its operation and promote the scheme amongst LGBTI communities.
- Implementation of reforms to the Relationships Act 2008, which strengthen legal recognition of same sex relationships in Victoria. The Relationships Act was amended in early 2016 to: recognise overseas same-sex marriages and civil partnerships; recognise relationships registered in other states and territories; to only require one person in the relationship to live in Victoria to register a relationship; and to ensure couples have access relationship registration ceremonial services at the Old Treasury Building, Melbourne.
- Reforms to recognise domestic partners and overseas same sex marriages on death certificates.
- Reforms to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 which would have enabled more adults who want to alter their recorded sex to do so without having to undergo invasive surgery or forsake their legal relationship with their spouse. The Births, Deaths and Marriages Amendment Bill 2016 (the Bill) would also have enabled children to obtain a birth certificate that reflects their affirmed gender. Sufficient safeguards were included in the Bill to preserve the integrity of the Register of Births. Regrettably, the Bill was defeated in the Legislative Council.
- Working with Corrections Victoria on improving the Corrections Commissioner’s Requirements for managing trans, gender diverse and intersex people held in prison to ensure their dignity and humane treatment. The Commissioner’s Requirements set out high level requirements in respect of operational matters in prisons and are available at www.corrections.vic.gov.au . The Working Group also provided input on a health care policy for prisoners who are trans, gender diverse or intersex.
- Meeting with senior representatives of Victoria Police to discuss current policies and practices relating to trans, gender diverse and intersex people.
- Providing input into the Access to Justice Review (the Review), focussing on how access to justice can be improved for LGBTI communities. The Working Group identified key issues including gaps in availability of legal services for LGBTI people and the absence of specialist services. The Review recommended that the Victorian Government include legal triage and services in the proposed Pride Centre in order to provide tailored and specialist legal information, education, referrals and legal advice to LGBTI people and to deliver LGBTI cultural competency training to legal service providers. The Government has accepted this recommendation.
- Providing input into the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence Report relating to the justice area, including recommendations 169 and 141. Recommendation 169 recommends that the ‘Victorian Government, in the context of its commitment to reviewing equal opportunity and birth certificate laws, examine the need to clarify relevant provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to remove any capacity for family violence accommodation and service providers to discriminate against LGBTI Victorians’. Recommendation 141 recommends that the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) issue a guideline to assist service providers in meeting their obligations to act inclusively and avoid discrimination when delivering services. The guideline was finalised and launched by the VEOHRC on 19 June 2017.
Implementation of Commissioner’s requirements
Justice Working Group members discussed with representatives of Corrections Victoria ongoing implementation activities in relation to the revised Commissioner's Requirements for the Management of Prisoners who are Trans, Gender Diverse or Intersex .
Working Group members also discussed with representatives of Justice Health, implementation activities in relation to the Health care policy for prisoners who are trans, gender diverse or intersex.