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Community Services and Development – LGBTIQ+ Wellbeing

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Tags: Community, LGBTI

Dr WOODRUFF - I just want to talk about the LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians: Telling Us the Story report. I know you were at the launch. There's obviously a lot that that report tells us that we need to do to provide inclusion and reduce prejudice against LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians. We understand that survey is going to be used to inform the design of a new framework and action plan. What's been missing in the past is a commitment to resource an action. There is obviously amazing work done by Lynn Jarvis and all the staff at Working It Out, but the implementation is a big issue. I want to bring to your attention that a survey done in Victoria resulted in the Victorian government this year announcing $14.7 million in funding to support the implementation of their state's survey findings. Can we hear from you about your views on funding an action plan so that we can tackle some of those big issues?

Mr STREET - The first thing I would say is that that report is a bit of a landmark for Tasmania in terms of asking the LGBTIQ+ community for their thoughts and their experiences. It seems to me that as well-meaning as it's been, there's been a bit of a top-down attitude from government to this particular community in terms of us as parliament or a government deciding what they need rather than actually getting the feedback on what they are experiencing and what they want in terms of support, so I think that survey was really important. Ministers Petrusma and Rockliff, who initiated the funding for that particular report, need to both be congratulated for pushing that through and doing it because it's something that Rodney Croome has raised. He raised it with me when I was working for Mrs Petrusma in the community development space. The fact that we actually got it done and we've got that report in front of us now I think is really important.

It was also good to see that the report was launched on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania. I've got to say, though, standing there at that function it did make me think that it's only 25 years. I'm 42 years of age and I was 17 years old before homosexuality was decriminalised in Tasmania. It's obviously good that it happened but we need to reflect on the fact that that's where we've come from as well and there are people with the lived experience of having the way they are, the way they were born and the choices that they've made in their life, criminalised. You just need to pause and think about that when you are talking about this topic to understand that the lived experience of somebody my age or older is very different from the lived experience of a teenager now in Tasmania as an LGBTIQ+ person.

In terms of developing the framework and action plan, that work is ongoing and we are funding it. Again we talk about this word 'commitment'. As the co-chair of the whole-of-government working group, I'm absolutely committed to making sure the framework and action plan meet the needs of the community going forward and that it's properly supported as well.

Dr WOODRUFF - On behalf of LGBTIQ Tasmanians I know and represent, I want to thank you for those strong statements of support and inclusion for that community. The more that we can continue to be inclusive, the better that everyone in Tasmania will be, but especially those people.

Several recent reports, Private Lives 3, the Tasmania Project's What Wellbeing Means for LGBTIQ Tasmanians and your Government's LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians Telling Us a Story, highlight the worse mental health, economic, health and social outcomes experienced by LGBTIQ people compared to the broader population. The Private Lives 3 report recognises that LGBTIQ community-controlled organisations are crucial to providing the services and the practice based knowledge. Working It Out, as we've just discussed, has only limited capacity to extend their services. So far, the services outside of Hobart can't be extended to meet the need that's been identified. From my experiences of southern Tasmania and the Franklin region, that need is incredibly acute amongst the youngest LGBTQI people.

Can you please tell us why that hasn't been supported for outside the Hobart region because I understand that they requested additional funding to help them with that work?

Mr STREET - I might pass to Ms Kent regarding the Communities budget process because decisions on funding were made before I came into the portfolio. What I would say in terms of support is that it's not just about monetary support; it's about leaders making statements publicly about inclusiveness as well.

You're talking about mental health issues with younger Tasmanians - that's from having to deal with the stigma that still exists in the community. Money alone isn't going to solve that issue. It's about having these conversations publicly, making it clear that there is no stigma attached to being gay, to being trans. Any of the other issues that these young people are dealing with, the mental health issues and the struggles that they have are only going to be combated at a community level.

I understand that those community organisations have got work to do in the community and that they need financial support to do it. But it's not just about financial support. It's about changing attitudes as well.

Ms KENT - There's probably not much more I can add to the minister's answer. However, through the process we have with LGBTI matters, we have, as the minister said, a whole-of-government reference group. That includes people from across every agency and the members from all the community organisations. That's the group that's been behind developing the framework and subsequently the action plan.

In all of those meetings - and it meets three to four times a year, plus lots of out-of-session meetings, agencies such as Health and Education, in particular, and Justice talk about the programs they have across their agencies to address the particular needs of the LGBTIQ community. The most recent one, I think, included a good presentation about the range of health services and how they're becoming more aware of, and the need for addressing these particular cohorts of our people in our communities.

The next step of the framework and the action plan, as the minister talked about earlier, will be to identify where there are gaps for further actions. But across all agencies now there's many integrated programs underway to address the needs of LGBTIQ people. And it's through the work of these community organisations. Most agencies have a specific reference group around LGBTIQ matters as well to look at how they're delivering their programs and services. There's been a lot of work undertaken in the bureaucracy over the last three to four years.

Mr STREET - The grants program I was speaking about before was focused on funding initiatives that sit outside the major metropolitan areas as well.

The whole-of-government reference group was consulted on the 2022 grants program. Some of the things that were focused on and funded were Stories Matter: Telling LGBTIQ+ Tasmanian Stories, highlighting diversity and the impact of intersectional identities within the LGBTIQ+ community through writing, film, art, photography, painting, sculpture and theatre.

There were general projects that were funded as well. The Women's Health Education Network, Hobart Out Tennis, the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania and Documentary Australia Foundation were all funded. Working It Out was also given $10 000 to administer a community grants program in recognition of the important work that individuals and communities undertake at the local level.

That government money is being spent to try and promote these conversations and making sure that they're happening all across the state, not just in the metropolitan areas of Tasmania, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thanks. I want to reflect on the comments you made before about leadership. You said that it is not only about services, it is about a view about stigma. The strong feedback during the federal election campaign was the real pain and suffering of LGBTI people but especially all trans people in the national conversation that was generated by comments made by Senator Claire Chandler but others in the federal election campaign, and I know you have already disavowed and separated yourself entirely from that.

You cannot commit to funding, and I get that you do not have that power, but Senator Chandler and other people with those extreme anti-trans views have been elevated in the shadow Liberal ministry. She is now the shadow assistant minister for foreign affairs. It is not a demotion, it is an elevation, and I think we all understand where the Liberal Party is at the federal level.

Keeping the politics out of this for a moment and just person to person as someone who genuinely does support LGBTI people, will you do everything you can to make public statements of support for LGBTIQ people in the years ahead when hateful comments are made by federal leaders which really cause direct pain and suffering? Young people feel like it is one step forward and two steps back and they don't necessarily see that the majority of Tasmanians embrace them.

Mr STREET - You're right, Dr Woodruff, I can't commit to funding, but I can commit to the second part. Were you at the breakfast for IDAHOBIT?

Dr WOODRUFF - I read some of Rowan Richardson's and Dorothy McRae-McMahon's comments into Hansard.

Mr STREET - Yes, you did. At any public opportunity, I will make it clear what my personal views are and I have to say that the Tasmanian Liberal Party and the Tasmanian Liberal Government has been very firm in its support for the LGBTIQ+ community. It was not just me who spoke about the federal bill, the previous premier, Peter Gutwein, made it clear that he did not think the bill was necessary. The Deputy Premier and Minister for Health at the time, Jeremy Rockliff, now the Premier, made it clear as well that he was of the same view. In that first press conference I spoke about my views very clearly as well and I will continue to do so.

I do not shy away from the fact that some of the conversations that happened during the federal election were incredibly distressing for some people and not just for trans people. It was incredibly distressing to other people that these conversations became central to a federal election campaign that should have been fought on issues around the cost of living and the economy. The federal government has massive challenges in front of it, both domestic and foreign, and there was a lot of oxygen wasted during that election campaign on a non-issue, because as I said, I have had one example raised with me as the Sport and Recreation minister.

Dr WOODRUFF - And it was sorted, actually.

Mr STREET - Exactly, it was sorted. It wasn't raised with me, I had to seek that particular incident out because it was dealt with away from government, where it should be, at the local level without the Government ever having to be involved in it. If I hadn't asked about it, nobody would ever have known about that issue on the north-west coast, and it is still the only one we know about.

Dr WOODRUFF - So without getting engaged in the politics and without -

Mr STREET - Surely not, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - I think on this matter we're all trying to move forward.

Mr STREET - Sorry, I was only joking.

Dr WOODRUFF - There are places for that, but I think we are all in agreement that is desperately important for people's lives that we move past this hateful stuff. Yes, you made those comments to the IDAHOBIT breakfast and they were amazing and very welcome. There is a space in the future with media reporting, which likes to report extremes and which will always find space and oxygen in some outlets for hateful comments, for them to be met with a moderate inclusive response from a minister who speaks on behalf of LGBTIQ+ people and has their care at heart. I just leave that with you as an opportunity to take up, because every time an LGBTIQ+ person opens a newspaper and sees hateful comments they feel like everyone feels that way and to have as a counterpoise the actual reality of the situation would be very helpful and healing.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Chair. Minister, around 1.7 per cent of people have innate intersex traits. Many intersex children undergo surgery and efforts to 'normalise' them, despite these interventions being harmful, invasive and irreversible. For some, they result in ongoing harms for intersex adults. Working it Out, with a small LGBTIQ+ community grant piloted a project with Intersex Peer Support Australia to train Tasmanian midwives on supporting parents of children with variations of sex characteristics. That was extremely successful and it highlighted the low level of understanding of intersex people among health professionals. Will you work with Working it Out to secure funding from Government to provide a dedicated intersex project officer so that training can be delivered to health professionals and provide the specialist peer support that intersex Tasmanians need?

Mr STREET - I can certainly advocate to the Minister for Health for funding for that; but I'm fairly clear in my mind that this is a health issue, rather than a community services and development issue, even though Working it Out is obviously an important organisation in my portfolio space. The education process for me around these issues started when I was a backbencher. Rodney Croome contacted me and asked if he could set up a meeting at my office in Kingston. It was to talk about conversion practices but also intersex surgery issues as well. I've read the executive summary of the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI ) report, and I believe that -

Ms HADDAD - I was about to recommend you read the report.

Mr STREET - Yes. I believe that this issue is dealt with in that TLRI report as well. The Premier and Minister for Health was quite clear in his public statements that he sees educating the health sector about intersex issues and how to deal with them as a health issue. I am confident that as Minister for Health he will consult with the health sector but also with Working it Out and every other community stakeholder who has an interest in making sure that we come to a solution, a process -

Dr WOODRUFF - Understanding.

Mr STREET - And an understanding.

Dr WOODRUFF - And training. Yes.

Mr STREET - Exactly. Understanding and training that helps alleviate this situation. I have to say that a couple of the personal stories that I was told face-to-face were pretty distressing to me. I didn't have a great awareness of the issue or the situation before I met with these people.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. I've got a second question. Minister, thank you very much for that response. A number of reports that have made it very clear that LGBTIQ+ community is best represented by a peak organisation, but we don’t have a peak organisation that's recognised by the Government for LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians. Working it Out provides a lot of Government reference groups and it does a huge number of programs. But it's not resourced to engage in the deep community consultation and research that is usually carried out by a peak body. You can't commit to funding; but will you commit to advocating with your colleagues to create a dedicated position to carry out the activities of a peak body, either within Working it Out or a similar organisation, so that we can have a peak body representing LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians?

Mr STREET - In terms of representing the LGBTIQ+ community, we've got the whole of Government working group that brings together multiple stakeholders in the space to sit as an advisory group to Government. I co chair that, with Lynn Jarvis from Working it Out. I'm more than happy to have the conversation at the whole of Government working group about what you're talking about. If there is a way to bring all of those stakeholders together into one peak body it's not something I'm averse to, but I'm also pretty confident that the whole-of-government working group allows all of those stakeholders with an interest in the community to come, meet with government and make their views clear on what they want in terms of support. The outcomes from that whole-of-government working group have been very good.

The survey and report we've been talking about was an initiative of that whole-of-government working group and it was pushed in that meeting to minister Petrusma, when I worked for her. It was then funded by minister Rockliff when he came into it and it's been delivered by me as minister. I have every confidence in that whole-of-government working group, having sat on it as a staffer and now as the minister, that it's providing the advice a peak body would provide to government as well.

Dr WOODRUFF - Including deep consultation and research.

Mr STREET - Like I said, the survey and report we've been talking about was funded as a government initiative out of that group.

Dr WOODRUFF - So it's a conversation with Working It Out or the ministerial advisory working group to -

Mr STREET - It's a conversation to have at the whole-of-government working group with the multiple stakeholders that sit on that group n terms of how they want to take -

Dr WOODRUFF - Where the gaps are.

Mr STREET - Yes, and where they want to go as well.