25 April 2024

Tasmanian conversion practices ban will save lives: Survivor

Survivors and advocates will press for strong anti-conversion practices laws in Tasmania. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

21 March 2024

Advocates in Tasmania will push to have sexual orientation and gender identity conversion practices, including faith-based practices, banned to protect LGBTQIA+ people from harm.

Tasmania’s draft anti-conversion bill says it will ban harmful sexual orientation and gender identity conversion practices.

But LGBTQIA+ advocates and mental health professionals criticised the draft Tasmanian bill saying several exemptions provided opportunities for conversion practices to continue.

Opponents of the ban, including the Catholic archdiocese in Hobart, also rejected the draft legislation, saying it was unnecessary because there was no evidence conversion activities were happening in Tasmania.

The Liberal government introduced the proposed bill for public feedback in December.

Advocates say they will push either party to redraft the legislation as the state prepares for election on Saturday.

The proposed bill defines conversion practices as actions that try to change or erase sexual orientation or gender identity.

It says support or guidance provided to a person by their family, or in religious or spiritual settings does not constitute a conversion practice.

LGBTQIA+ advocates said the draft needed to address the risks and harms caused by conversion activities similarly to Victoria’s strong anti-conversion laws.

They wanted to see the bill ban unqualified people from assessing, diagnosing and treating LGBTQIA+ people as if they were broken or at fault.

Read more: LGBTQIA+ Anglicans standing proud amid same-sex marriage debate

Christian survivor of conversion practices Glen Worrell said he would push for an outright ban on all conversion practices from either side of politics, because he didn’t want others to go through what he had.

A former member of an Anglican church, Mr Worrell said he endured conversion practices there and in other groups in NSW and Tasmania for 21 years.

This included repeated prayer ministries and exorcisms at various church retreats and ministries, where he was told it was compulsory for Christians to be heterosexual or burn in hell.

Despite hoping they would help him change, the practices left him feeling increasingly depressed and scared because they didn’t work, Mr Worrell said.

He said he was aware of many others who were similarly affected by conversion practices.

“There are people who are no longer with us, because of the guilt and the shame that they couldn’t carry, because it didn’t work. And that is so sobering because I was nearly one of those statistics as well,” Mr Worrell said.

He said there was a prayer group that was still active in conversion activities in Tasmania.

Read more: Calls to train clergy to repair faith-based conversion harms

The Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart rejected the proposed legislation saying it was based on a lie about the human person and human sexuality.

The archdiocese said in a statement that despite the bill’s exemptions the proposal’s underpinning view was opposed to reality and to Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

It told The Melbourne Anglican the legislation was both unnecessary and dangerous because it was based on a lie about the human person. 

The archdiocese said as far as it was aware from public reporting, no complaints about coercive practices had been made to Tasmania’s police.

The Australian Christian Lobby and Christian Schools Australia also criticised the draft bill when it was released in December, saying it was legislation for a non-existent problem.

Advocacy group Equality Australia said it wanted stronger laws to stop people using Tasmania as a haven for conducting conversion practices.

Spokesperson Rodney Croome said he knew of people who were sent to the state for conversion practices because they were legal there, unlike in neighbouring states.

The University of Tasmania reported in 2021 that five per cent of LGBTQIA+ Tasmanians experienced conversion practices.

It found many community members were worried about how religious organisations might influence their lives, and wanted the government to legislate against conversion practices.

Mr Croome said the proposed law should implement Tasmanian Law Reform Institute recommendations because they addressed the risks and harms of conversion practices.

Read more: St Mark’s stands in solidarity with trans community 

Uniting Church of Victoria and Tasmania leader the Reverend Fiona Morrison said in a recent video the church supported banning conversion activities because they were harmful to people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Ms Morrison said as Christians the church believed everyone was a child of God and therefore believed in dignity for all.

Tasmania’s Department of Premier and Cabinet said it could not comment on the bill until after the election, because the government was in care-taker mode.

The Anglican Bishop of Tasmania Richard Condie declined to comment until after the election.

The Examiner in Launceston reported in 2021 that the Free Reformed Church of Launceston was offering conversion practices and was unapologetic about it.

The church declined to comment when The Melbourne Anglican contacted it.

NSW introduced its Conversion Practices Ban Bill in mid-March.

To read the Tasmanian government’s draft conversion practices bill, and fact sheet, see here and here.

To read the Tasmania Law Reform Institute’s full list of recommendations, see here.

If you or a loved one needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.  

If life is in danger, phone Triple Zero (000). 

For more faith news, follow The Melbourne Anglican on FacebookInstagram, or subscribe to our weekly emails.

Share this story to your social media

Find us on Social Media

Recent News

do you have A story?

Leave a Reply

Subscribe now to receive our newsletter and stay up to date with The Melbourne Anglican

All rights reserved TMA 2021

Stay up to date with
The Melbourne Anglican through our weekly newsletters.