Gay conversion therapy flies under the radar in Australia

The real road to Damascus: no ‘living waters’ here. pic by Upyernoz

Yesterday I wrote about a member of our community who had taken his own life. I’d like to clarify something. It wasn’t my intention to suggest that all his troubles were caused by ‘conversion therapy’. He had many other demons to deal with, too.

What I did want to make clear was that, for people like him, who are already vulnerable and hurting, this so-called ‘therapy’ – which is nothing of the kind – only adds to the harm, sometimes with devastating consequences.

Those consequences are what led the California legislature to try to ban the practice, at least for minors under the age of consent. The law was due to come into effect Jan 1 but was appealed by ‘Christian’ therapists and has been put on hold until a federal court decides if the measure violates their First Amendment rights and those of parents.

(The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”)

A similar fight is brewing in New Jersey, where a bill outlawing the therapy for under 18s is headed to the Senate for a vote, after it was overwhelmingly approved in committee.

The issue has also raised its head in the Jewish community:

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), in Jersey City, on behalf of four men who claimed to have gone through rituals to rid them of their homosexuality. The rituals included “bodywork,” or being forced to undress and show their genitals to a counselor, Jewish Queer Youth co-executive director Mordechai Levovitz testified. [ibid]

As we have seen, this is NOT just a US problem: ‘reparative’ therapy is practiced here in Australia too, usually disguised as ‘counselling’, to avoid scrutiny and regulation. Or dressed up as ‘pastoral care’, helping someone ‘deal with unwanted sexual attractions’. It generally flies under the radar, unlicensed, unobserved, uncontrolled.

But far from repairing anything, this destroys. Deep depression may be induced. Victims are told their failure to change is their own fault: for not trying hard enough, not praying hard enough, not wanting hard enough to change. Surely we can agree that this kind of ‘treatment’ of minors should be labelled child abuse, and dealt with accordingly?

Unfortunately, no-one, no matter how hard they try, can remove homosexual desires and replace them with heterosexual ones. They might at best suppress their sexuality. Only people with an underlying bisexual orientation can ‘choose’ which of their desires – homosexual or heterosexual – to act on, and which to suppress.

Time after time after time, so called “ex-gay” star patients have eventually been found out, or have admitted it was all wishful thinking. Many, like Paul Martin and Anthony Venn-Brown here in Australia, now actively campaign against this vicious practice.

It’s not just the ‘patient’ who is crushed. Family members are also damaged:

“reparative therapists not only hurt their clients but they often upend the lives of spouses. These unfortunate individuals marry so-called “ex-gays” who mistakenly think they have been converted – but later find that their “progress” was a mirage brought on by wishful thinking and pressure from their therapist.””This ‘therapy’ also encourages clients to blame their parents for allegedly causing their homosexuality, leading to resentment, broken bonds, and the disintegration of previously close families.” [Truth Wins Out]

Support for people struggling to reconcile their Christian faith with their sexuality/gender identity can be found at freedom2b website.

Below are some of these dangerous ‘reparative therapy’ groups that have operated in Australia in recent times: many of them are very wary of outsiders, some have closed their online portals. Some have closed down altogether, or may be operating under other names.

Barnabas House (New South Wales) Jane Dawson; 18 The Avenue, Hurstville NSW 2220

Courage – Australia Chapters
Broadway, Lynn Ryan, Write – PO Box 893 Broadway 2007
Dingley, Fr. Danial Pietrzak, Phone – 03 9551 7579, E-Mail:
St. Lucia, Fr. Gregory Jordan, S.J., Phone 07 3878 0638, E-Mail:

Debbie and Alan Hirsch (Victoria; formerly Exodus Central) 011-61-3-699-1536; c/o 412 Dorcas St., South Melbourne, Victoria 3205

Exit Ministries (New South Wales) Tel: (02) 9578-3622 Ian Lind. 011-61-2-698-3622 c/o Christian Life Centre, 188 Young St, Waterloo, Sydney NSW 2017, Australia

Homosexuals Anonymous 
HA-Brisbane: 07-3390-4593
HA-Canberra: 02-6291-7792
HA-Perth: 09-367-9420

Exodus Pacific (Qland) has a long list of ministries here, including Living Waters, Mosaic Ministries, and Catholic groups.

Liberty Christian Ministries Inc. (New South Wales) Directors: Chris and Truda Keane. PO Box 67, Summer Hill, NSW 2130. Telephone: 011-61-02-9798-4685.

Liberty, Inc. (Queensland) Director: Paul Wegner; Phone: 61 7 3390 4250, Fax: 61 7 3371 4705; P.O Box 2083, Tingalpa, Queensland, 4173, Australia. E-Mail:

Living Waters – Canberra Phone: (02) 6296 1587; c/o Tuggeranong Baptist Church, PO Box 82, Erindale ACT 2903 Web: E-Mail:

Living Waters Melbourne

Love in Action (South Australia) Director: Nick Kuiper; Phone: 61 8 8341 7373; GPO Box 115, Adelaide, 5000, Australia E-Mail:

Mosaic Ministries: Beauty from Brokeneness (03) 9558 3980

Open Door Community (New South Wales) Tel: 02 6583 8413. Fax: 02 6584 1033. c/o St. Thomas Anglican Church, Port MacQuarie NSW 2444

The Recovery Line PO Box 1321, Fyshwick ACT 2609. Telephone: 011-61-02-6291-7792. E-Mail:

Regeneration (formerly listed under Jim Gallagher) Director: Pastor Jim Gallagher; Phone: 011-61-66-243519; Fax: 61 2 6622 4711; PO Box 517, Lismore, NSW, 2480, Australia E-Mail:

Restoration (Queensland) Bruce and Rhonda Sleaford; 76 Jindabyne Circuit, Forest Lake, Q 4077, Australia

Roy and Dawn Ball (Victoria) Phone 011-61-6-251-530. PO Box 222, Wodonga, Albury, Victoria 3689.

Sanctuary (Queensland) Director: Laurie Jean Wilson; Phone: 61 7 5445 4898. Fax: 0754770711; PO Box 942, Buderim, Queensland, 4556, Australia E-Mail:

Setting Captives Free:

Spencer Gear (Queensland) Director: Spencer Gear; PO Box 2106, Bundaberg, Queensland, 4670, Australia

Steve Richards (Queensland) 45 Webb St, Logan Lea, Q 4131, Australia.

Turnabout Director: Tim Schewen; Phone/Fax: 61 7 5446 6017; PO Box 227, Marcoocydore, Queensland, 4558, Australia E-Mail: trsabodeportraiture@hotmail.c om

Uniting Churches in Australia
Stephen Richards, Logan Uniting Church, P. O. Box 239, Springwood, Queensland 4127, Australia. Phone: (07) 3290 1277. Fax: (07) 3808 6696.
Work in Progress Director: Dr. John Meteyard; Phone: 61 7 5530 7126; PO Box 358, Mudgeeraba, Queensland, 4213 Australia

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)