Author Archives: Damien Stevens

Uniting Network Australia calls for action to end formal and informal LGBT Conversion Therapy

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church of Australia is not surprised by the horrendous impact on members of the LGBT community reported in the study released this week entitled, “Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice – Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia”.  

The report highlights the individuals interviewed:

“knew from an early age, that they were same-sex attracted or transgender;
Faith and service to their respective faith communities was at the centre of their lives during the period they were subject to gay conversion and related therapies;
Each person carries deep grief, and, in some cases anger, over being told they were ‘broken’ and needed fixing; and
All have experienced a profound sense of loss at the lives they had taken away from them.”

We endorse the recommendations issued with the study’s report and call on all levels of government in Australia as a priority to:

Prohibit both professionals and other peoplefrom processes that aim to change, suppress, cure, heal or repair a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  Any person breaching such a prohibition should be subject to significant criminal charges.
Provide urgent funding for support programs to support people still dealing with significant mental health and family issues resulting from ‘conversion therapy’.
Add clauses to Commonwealth Government Chaplaincy funding agreements prohibitingany attempt to change a school student’s sexual orientation or gender identity either directly or by referral and establish training programs that all such chaplains must complete on the potential harm to children through such conversion therapies’ and failure to validate their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Make Counsellors a protected title under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, requiring Counsellors to be registered with an appropriate oversight body established in association with APHRA and in NSW HCCC/HPCA.  A code of practice should state that providing LGBT conversion therapy and not supporting a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a breach of professional standards.

Further, and outside of the report, we call on all religious organisations to denounce the “call to celibacy” for LGBT people, which is another form of abuse being instituted by some religious organisations as they have realised the unacceptability of “conversion therapy”.

Finally, we call on all religious organisations in Australia to explicitly state their rejection of LGBT conversion therapy, and any statements along the lines that LGBTQ people are disordered, broken or otherwise not whole individuals.  It is our view that involvements in activities such as ‘conversion therapy’ and these types of statements fail upholdthe fundamental premise and hope provided by Jesus Christ, who calls all of us to “Love God and to Love one another”, with no exceptions.

For further information contact:

Jason Masters on 0407780110 or uniting.network@gmail.com

Uniting Network Australia rejects calls for additional discrimination and call for removal of all discrimination against LGBTIQ people in Australia

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church of Australia expresses is concern that the full content of the Ruddock Review has not been made public.  Elements were leaked, and Uniting Network provided a position statement on discrimination of LGBTIQ Students and Teachers in educational institutions on 10 October 2018.

Subsequently, further information has been leaked primarily the recommendations.

In response to the general public’s significant disquiet that private and religious schools can discriminate against LGBTIQ students, while the process has been unsettling, we applaud the Prime Minister’s move to eliminate discrimination against LGBTIQ students in all schools.  We call on all State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers to urgently follow the lead of the Federal Government an urgently remove any legislative provisions that allow for schools in their area of legislative control discrimination of LGBTIQ Students in schools.

However, we further request that all legislators in Australia also revoke the discrimination of LGBTIQ in all situations.  To this we call on the Federal, State and Territory Governments to:

Removed all discrimination against LGBTIQ students in all school environments;
Remove all discrimination against LGBTIQ teachers and staff in all school environments, including but not limited to hiring and ongoing employment, except in positions where the employee is responsible for teaching the religion or undertaking the role of a religious leader;
Remove all discrimination against LGBTIQ patients and clients in all hospitals, age care facilities and nursing homes;
Remove all discrimination against LGBTIQ staff in all hospitals, age care facilities and nursing homes; and
Undertake a full review with the objective of removing all legislation and regulations that provide opportunities for discrimination against LGBTIQ people, outside of specific religious roles.

 

We acknowledge the Federal Government’s announcement for significant ongoing funding for Headspace, who provide mental health services for youth and young adults.  We call on all governments to continue and grow mental health funding for the LGBTIQ community who suffer significantly higher rates of suicide attempts and mental health issues than the national average.  To fully address LGBTIQ mental health, this will require effective programs to support anti-bullying of LGBTIQ children in schools and effective age appropriate sex education which encompasses all students, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity to be delivered in all schools irrespective of the school sector.

For further information contact:

Jason Masters on 0407780110 or uniting.network@gmail.com

Read more here, including our interim responses to the Ruddock Review recommendations…

Uniting Network Australia rejects calls for additional discrimination on LGBTIQ students and teachers

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church of Australia expresses its concern around the potential to allow religious schools to exclude LGBTIQ children from schools, under the guise of religious freedom or ongoing unnecessary religious privilege (SMH report 10 October 2018).

Uniting Network rejects the need for Federal Government action on discrimination of LGBTIQ children (and any person) within any education system. We call on State Governments to wind back discrimination measures already in place at the state level impacting LGBTIQ staff and students.

Children during their schooling (from primary and high school) come to understand their sexuality, sexual orientation and gender. To permit an already vulnerable young person to be thrown out of a religious school as they become aware of their identity is not in the best interest of children and is likely to add to the already unacceptably high rates of depression, self-harm and suicide of young LGBTIQ people.

Further, we express our concern that all schools should have some relationship to representing the broader Australian society. If religious schools are permitted to exclude LGBTIQ children from their schools, around one third of Australians will continue not to have any natural connection with LGBTIQ people, potentially ingraining homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Australian society indefinitely.

We also see no rational or religious reason to discriminate against LGBTIQ staff in religious schools except in the limited case of school chaplains and teachers for the specific religious teaching. There is no justification for the exclusion of LGBTIQ teachers in core curriculum areas such as Maths, Science, English or support staff and school caretakers.

The breaking of this news comes at the same time as the Federal Government is seeking the Productivity Commission to review Mental Health programs in Australia, when the LGBTIQ people suffer a significantly higher rate of mental health issues, leading to dramatically higher self-harm and suicide rates than the general population. On the one hand, the Federal Government is seeking to improve mental health outcomes, and on the other proposes to implement policies that will continue to create mental health issues within the LGBTIQ community and in particular younger LGBTIQ people.

In our Christian context, Jesus gave two underpinning commandments, to Love God, and to Love One Another. This proposed action is providing religious, and in our context Christian schools, to disobey Jesus’ clear objective, as this form of discrimination shows that those schools will not love one another.

For further information contact:
Jason Masters on 0407780110 or info@unitingnetworkaustralia.org.au

Uniting Network Australia welcomes the decision of the 15th Assembly to allow the marriage of two people in the witness and life of its church

On Friday night 13th July, the National Assembly of the Uniting Church resolved to allow Ministers freedom to choose to conduct the weddings of any two people under a new definition of marriage which is to be held equally with the current definition of marriage and reflects the diversity of belief on this issue within the Uniting Church.

“Today I celebrate that the Uniting Church has a statement that affirms that marriage is for two people and there is now a place that myself and my LGBTIQ siblings can be married and have their existing marriages recognised as equal to that of others in our church.” says Hannah Reeve Co-convenor of the Uniting Church’s LGBTIQ and Ally Network.

Co-convenor Peter Weeks added, “As a Minister in the Uniting Church this now means not only can I marry my partner in the Church, but I can also legally celebrate the weddings of LGBTIQ couples who wish to have a Uniting Church wedding.”

Unfortunately, the Uniting Church was not ready to move to one inclusive statement on marriage which was the hope of Uniting Network members. We do however acknowledge that across the church there is a diversity of beliefs in regards to marriage and some parts of our church wish to hold their current understanding.

This is one step further towards full equality within our church and we will continue to advocate for LGBTIQ people, couples and rainbow families as we journey together.

Uniting Network Australia reminds members of the UCA and wider community that 3 years ago the 14th Assembly affirmed that the Uniting Church seeks to be an inclusive church that embraces LGBTIQ people as full members of our church community.

In her media release, the President of the Assembly Dr Deidre Palmer acknowledged the ministry and struggle of LGBTIQ people and how painful and difficult this conversation has been for LGBTIQ members of the church.

A proposal regarding setting up a consultative process to look at a formal apology from the UCA to the LGBTIQ community has been referred to the Assembly Standing Committee for consideration. Uniting Network will be urging the Standing Committee to support the three-year process leading to decisions at the 2021 Assembly.

For more information, see official Uniting Church links:

https://uniting.church/freedom-to-decide-on-marriage/

https://uniting.church/a-reflection-on-the-marriage-decision/

For further information contact us.