Unfinished Business: LGBTI Seniors Protected But Kids Still Exposed


Senator George Brandis at CeBIT. Likes tech: LGBTI seniors, not so much.

It’s right to celebrate the passing of the Sex Discrimination Amendment Act. But our youth remain dangerously exposed – and omitted from the Health & Phys Ed National Curriculum.


In the end the Sex Discrimination Amendment Act passed the lower house on a voice vote, complete with the amendments removing the rights of ‘religious’ businesses to discriminate against our seniors.

Amendments the Liberal National Coalition opposed, led by Shadow Attorney General George Brandis, who argued that the rights of religious people outweighed the needs of LGBTI seniors.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said:

“The Government is proud to have passed this historic Bill, which is an important step towards equality for all Australians, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.”

“It’s deeply disappointing that the Liberal Party didn’t support this protection in the Senate for accessing aged care services by gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex Australians.

“Senator Brandis needs to explain why he argued against these aged care protections, despite strong community support and the wishes of aged care providers. By his own admission, the Senator shamefully puts practical protections for vulnerable older gay and lesbian people at the bottom of his hierarchy of rights.”

By contrast, Dreyfus was a strong LGBTI supporter throughout, following through on his assurance at Community Cabinet to restore the amendments, which were somehow omitted when the bill was first introduced.

But let’s not forget that this Act is only the small sad remnant of a major overhaul of anti-discrimination law, which had to be abandoned precisely because of Coalition intransigence over the extraordinarily broad religious exemptions, more extensive than in any other developed nation.

As a result, while seniors are now shielded from the effect of ‘religious’ prejudices, patients and staff in religious-run healthcare businesses are not, at any age.

More importantly, prejudice can continue to run rampant in religious-run schools and colleges, leaving staff, teachers and above all pupils vulnerable. Kids, teachers, even caretaking staff, can still be thrown out of these schools with no legal recourse, simply for being gay.

There’s nothing more to be done about it in this parliament, and likely in the next, and even the one after. However, there is one last chance to make thing better for GLBTI kids, and it’s sitting on Peter Garrett’s desk right now.

It’s the Draft Health & Physical Education National Curriculum, and right now it contains precisely NOTHING about LGBTI health. We’re not even mentioned.

The draft curriculum does not even include the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI). Even though it acknowledges that “same sex attracted and gender diverse” students exist in all schools, it does not guarantee that each and every classroom will be inclusive of LGBTI students and their health and physical education needs. And it cannot, as it claims, “ensure teaching is inclusive and relevant to the lived experiences” of LGBTI students, if the document itself cannot even name them.

The draft curriculum only includes one line on detailed sexual health education, and it reads “investigating practices that support reproductive health and wellbeing”. This excludes same-sex sexual activity, ignoring many of the sexual health issues of LGBTI students (indeed, it excludes many heterosexual sexual activities as well), and does not guarantee that all students will learn what they need to prevent STI transmission.

Finally, the draft curriculum does not even include a single reference to HIV. While new treatments mean that the health outlooks of people living with HIV have significantly improved, an HIV diagnosis remains a serious thing. It is negligent for a national HPE curriculum to omit all mentions of HIV, therefore excluding important HIV prevention messages.

How’s that for ‘inclusivity’? There’s a slim chance of changing the Minister’s mind – he keeps it quiet but he’s a “committed Christian” – specifically, he opposes abortion and IVF. It’s likely the same ‘religious’ objections are keeping LGBTI out of the curriculum. Please contact Peter Garrett and sign this petition. Our kids need to be cared for the same as everyone else. It’s the last chance before the election.



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)