On 12 December 2016, the LGBTI Taskforce’s Justice Working Group 2015-17 held its final meeting for 2016. The Working Group welcomed Aram Hosie as a member. 

The Working Group is co-chaired by Anna Brown and Harriet Shing MP and is supported by the Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR). 

The Working Group provided input on a number of government initiatives during 2016. 

Removing discrimination against LGBTI people in Victorian laws 

The Working Group welcomed the commencement of the reforms to the Adoption Act 1984 that removed discrimination against same sex couples 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. 

The Working Group continues to monitor the progress of the audit of laws that discriminate against LGBTI people being conducted by DJR. 

Strengthening relationship recognition for same sex couples 

The Working Group provided extensive input and advice on the 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 to ceremonial services similar to those provided to couples married at the Registry. 

Most of the amendments to the Relationships Act commenced on 1 July 2016 and the amendments in relation to ceremonies commenced on 1 October 2016. Further information on the reforms is available on the Recognition of domestic relationships in Victoria page.   

The Working Group provided input on regulations to recognise relationship registration schemes of relevant Australian states and territories, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Scotland, South Africa, Hawaii, California and New York. Relationships registered under national and international relationship registration schemes are recognised as registered domestic relationships under the Relationships Act. 

The Working Group met with the Registrar to discuss a proposal developed by the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for relationship registration ceremonies under the Relationships Act. 

The Working Group also provided input into reforms to recognise domestic partners and overseas same sex marriages on death certificates. 

Improving access to birth certificates for trans, gender diverse and intersex people 

The Working Group provided significant input on proposed reforms to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 to enable 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. 

Trans, gender diverse and intersex people in custody 

The Working Group has been 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 on the Corrections Victoria website (External link). The Working Group also provided input on a draft health care policy for prisoners who are trans, gender diverse or intersex which is being developed DJR. 

The Working Group also discussed the treatment of trans, gender diverse and intersex people held in places of detention managed by Victoria Police and met with a representative of Victoria Police to discuss current policies and practices relating to trans, gender diverse and intersex people. 

Achieving access to justice for LGBTI Victorians 

The Working Group met with the Project Manager for the Access to Justice Review (the Review) to discuss how access to justice can be improved for LGBTI communities. The Review was established by the Victorian Government to consider ways of improving access to justice for Victorians with an everyday legal problem or dispute, and to ensure that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the community receive the support they need when engaging with the law and the justice system. The Working Group identified key issues including gaps in availability of legal services for LGBTI people and the absence of specialist services, poor understanding of the legal needs of LGBTI people, and widespread lack of cultural competency among the legal profession as a significant barrier for LGBTI people accessing legal services. 

Working Group members welcomed the recommendation in the Review 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. 

Family violence and LGBTI people 

The Working Group discussed and continues to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence Report (External link) relating to the justice area, including recommendation 169. 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’. 

Reparations for past wrongs against the LGBTI community 

The Working Group welcomed the State apology to victims of unjust past laws that criminalised homosexual conduct and continues to monitor the operation of the expungement scheme for historical homosexual sex convictions and consider opportunities to promote the scheme among LGBTI communities.

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