AIDS Councils silent on discrimination law reform

australian-senate-600x310Senator Louise Pratt of Western Australia has confirmed that while the government is calling for input from the LGBT community on changes to anti-discrimination law, not one single AIDS Council or HIV advocacy group has bothered to lick a stamp. Submissions close tomorrow.

Meanwhile the West Australian Branch of the Australian Family Association is telling law makers:

“[H]omosexuals are not unfairly discriminated against [they are] promoting so-called ‘rights’ using a fallacious concept of ‘discrimination’, the rights of those who are compelled to accept behaviours which they find morally or ethically repugnant are being transgressed…”

As the Victorian AIDS Council blithely runs campaigns that undermine decades of safe sex messages (in the face of a rise in HIV transmission rates), the Victorian Family Council writes:

 “These laws are generally just used as weapons by the activist groups to silence any criticism of their activities, lifestyles, and agendas. This has nothing to do with genuine concern of slander, defamation, and so on, which of course we already have legislation covering.

This is about using the heavy hand of the law to force all Australians to submit to the agendas of small social engineering bodies. That is not how a democracy should function, and that is not how we maintain liberty. This is the stuff of Brave New World scenarios, not rational and sensible communities.”

According to the Senate Committee’s staff, not one of the AIDS Councils has written one word about the anti-discrimination legislation, about how it might be used to confront HIV stigma, for example, or about the discrimination and hatred the general LGBTIQ community faces every day.

Contrast that silence with the words of Joy 94.9 – our gay and lesbian community radio station –  which told the senate committee:

“To allow one section of the community to be treated differently or not be protected by the same laws that govern Australia sends a message that causes much damage to many people including higher rates of depression, suicide and drug and alcohol abuse for which we all pay for in one way or another.”

Joy 94.9 makes it clear that they’re not an advocacy group: they’re a hub for the gay community, not a professional lobby group like ACONJoy finds the time to write about anti-discrimination, why hasn’t AFAO?

My mother always taught me if a man says one thing and does something else, you should always, always trust the behaviour.  The silence from every Australian AIDS Council from ACON to VAC is baffling: are they too busy to represent the LGBT community, even though they have the funding, personnel and skills to do it.  If these organisations don’t advocate for the LGBT community, especially for those who face HIV stigma, then who will?

If the organisations that were founded by our gay elders to represent our interests can’t be bothered, then what good are they? Why not give the money to professional advertising agencies that can make condoms sexy and build a condom culture, and to campaigns like ENUF (run by Living Positive Victoria) to address HIV stigma?

By their deeds (or lack of deeds) you will know them – it’s becoming clear to me that organisations like Joy 94.9 actually care about the gay community; the AIDS Councils seem more interested in keeping their government grants.

Perhaps Ray Mackereth was right.  Perhaps these organisations have lost their way.   Perhaps the time has come for Australian governments to follow Queensland’s lead. Perhaps the AIDS Councils have outlived their usefulness – their silence on gay law reform is a betrayal of their founders intentions, the people we’ve lost and the gays to come.


Editor’s note: anti-gay submissions to the senate committee significantly out-number pro-LGBTIQ submissions.  Submissions close on Friday 21 December. Make your submission about anti-discrimination law.  All it takes is an email.  You can find a quick guide to writing submissions here.  The views expressed are those of the writer: if you disagree, why not write a rebuttal?

About the author

James Newburrie is a cyber-security specialist, the man who organised a marriage equality demo outside Mt Isa MP Bob Katters office, and runs the Facebook Equal Marriage page 32001names. Never without his unrelenting sense of logic or his trusty iPad he tweets as @Difficultnerd