Mental Health; Local Issues

Apology for Laws Criminalising Homosexuality and the Harms Caused

24 May 2016

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — On behalf of The Nationals I speak in support of today’s apology. As we are all acutely aware, prior to 1981 Victoria had laws which made homosexuality a criminal offence, and this included draconian penalties of jail terms. There were people convicted under these misguided laws, and there were people who saw the inside of jail cells. There were people who lived secret lives, who were cruelly burdened by shame, through no fault of their own, and who suffered terrible emotional suffering — all as a result of these misguided, bigoted laws.

This was wrong, and it is a painful part of our state’s social development that we look back now. Thankfully, as we have heard from a number of other speakers, these laws were repealed in 1981 by a government led by Sir Rupert Hamer. This repeal was passed 72‑7 and took effect from March 1981. It is a part of our history that many people in today’s society — 35 years later — struggle to comprehend. So it is not before time that we, the Parliament, unite to say on behalf of the state and of all Victorians that we are sorry for the angst that these old laws caused. These were laws founded on intolerance which flourished in communities where diversity was feared instead of welcomed.

I would like to recognise the contribution that many, including current and past members of Parliament, have made in correcting these laws. Specifically I would like to commend the former member for Prahran, Mr Clem Newton‑Brown, who is in the gallery here with us today, for his determined work on behalf of the LGBTI community. Clem did a significant amount of work in this space, and he really was instrumental in lobbying for the legislation that was introduced by the former coalition government in 2014 that now allows people to have their historical convictions expunged from their records.

I also commend the work of former Premier Denis Napthine in that process. Denis attended the Midsumma Festival in January 2014 where he announced this legislation. It surprised many of us to learn that Denis was the first Premier ever to open this celebratory Melbourne event, even though it has been held annually since 1988 and is regarded as one of the leading arts and cultural events here in Melbourne, attended by tens of thousands of Victorians and interstate visitors alike.

When he introduced the Sentencing Amendment (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill to Parliament in September 2014, Dr Napthine said:

This is a day on which the Parliament can be proud of doing something for the good of the whole community, fixing something that should have been fixed a long time ago, righting a wrong and making sure that people who have convictions on their record are able to have them expunged …

Today is also one of those days. It is a day when we continue that important work of righting a wrong of our past. Today we proudly write a new page in Victoria’s history book. We say to people who suffered the indignity of being convicted, and to all those who could not live their lives openly, on behalf of Victoria, that we are truly sorry for the injustice you were dealt. We are sorry for the anguish you experienced, for the misguided social divide that these laws created and for the prejudices that were allowed to flourish because of these laws. I support today’s apology as part of righting what is a tragic part of Victoria’s history.

Honourable members applauded.

Motion agreed to in silence, honourable members showing unanimous agreement by standing in their places.

The SPEAKER — Order! The Chair wishes to thank, on behalf of the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, the President of the Legislative Council and all members of the Legislative Council for attending this historic event.

Members of Legislative Council withdrew from chamber.


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