“It is exceptional and wrong in principle to commit decisions on the basic human rights of minorities to a majority popular vote, especially in a country such as Australia which, exceptionally, has no entrenched constitutional guarantees for equality or fundamental human rights to protect minorities. For protection, minorities look to parliament to protect them. It should not shirk from that duty.”
– Former High Court Judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby in the August 9 digital edition of The Australian.
Michael Kirby was referring to the Federal Government’s proposed plebiscite to resolve the Marriage Equality issue. PFLAG’s National Spokesperson, Shelley Argent, conducted an online survey, designed by social scientist Sharon Dane, in late July to determine the feelings of the LGBTIQ community towards the plebiscite/free vote. The results showed that 85% of respondents stated they would prefer to wait for a free vote and this jumped to 89% when respondents realised the plebiscite was non-binding, 10% support a plebiscite and 5% are unsure. In the Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd August, LGBTIQ rights campaigner, Rodney Croome, said the results showed the LGBTIQ community understood a plebiscite would delay a change to the Marriage Act. He stated:
“There are clear concerns about the indignity of our rights being subject to a show of hands and the negative impact of hate speech on the mental health of LGBTIQ people, especially when the plebiscite result won’t be binding.”
Campaigners will take the results of the survey to MPs before Parliament returns this month.
Many thanks to Maree Lau, who was very well received by an audience of 70 people, when she spoke on behalf of PFLAG at the Pride Launch at Dell Computers at Frenchs Forest on July 20. Maree delivered a comprehensive and moving speech which included some very poignant personal stories. It is heartening that we are receiving continued invitations to speak to the staff of large corporations. It is certainly making inroads into wiping out homophobia in the workplace and making it a safe and welcoming place for LGBTIQ staff.
PFLAG has received an invitation from KPMG in the city to address their Pride group on August 24 as part of their Wear It Purple Day celebrations happening that week. Thank you to Ron, who has happily agreed to represent PFLAG and also to Ruth, who has offered to step in in case Ron is called interstate for work commitments.
Ray and I attended the Surry Hills Police Community Engagement Meeting on July 21st at the Inner City Legal Centre at Kings Cross. Most of the LGBTIQ service organisations were represented as well as several members of Surry Hills Police LAC. SuperintendentTony Crandell is planning to produce a package, that can be forwarded to LGBTIQ victims of incidents, that will give them the contact details of all the organisations that service their community. We were happy to have PFLAG’s contact details included in the package to assist LGBTIQ victims of crime. The police were also very enthused about their preparations for Wear It Purple Day on August 26th.
For those unfamiliar with Wear It Purple, this is what the group of young people stand for:
· Every young person is unique, important and worthy of love.
· No-one should be subject to bullying, belittlement and invalidation.
· We believe in a world in which every young person can thrive, irrelevant of sex, sexuality or gender identity.
Wear It Purple wants rainbow young people to be safe, supported and empowered in each of their environments.
Thanks to Geoff, who has offered to represent PFLAG at the Wear It Purple Mini Fair Day on August 26 to be held in front of the Hub @ Newtown (opposite the rail station)from 12 noon to 5pm. NSW Police GLLOs and other officers will be present along with Twenty10, ACON, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and Safe Schools.
A good time was had by all at the Metropolitan Community Church Good Shepherd, Granville’s 30th Anniversary Dinner at Old Government House, Parramatta on July 23. Thanks to Mollie, Narelle, Pam & Arthur, Ron & Ruth, Natalie, Marilyn and Ray who joined me in celebrating the milestone with our good friends at MCC. Mollie was very excited to win the raffle – a lovely TV, then Pam & Arthur won a hamper and I won a Coles/Myer voucher. Ray & I attended the very special Anniversary worship service on Sunday, July 24 at Granville Town Hall.
Thanks to Narelle for offering to represent PFLAG with some of her family members at the Sydney RAMS Bingo Night on Saturday, August 20 at Marrickville Bowling Club. We are very grateful to the Sydney RAMS for again including PFLAG as a beneficiary of their fundraising night.
Thanks to all who came along to support others at our July Family Meeting. I hope many of you will be able to attend our August 27 Family Meeting, for as Rudy always said: “When you don’t need PFLAG anymore, that’s when PFLAG needs YOU to help others.
Parliament is the Proper Place for Enacting Laws
This is the full text of Michael Kirby's article in The Australian, 9th August 2016:
Complex issues should be debated by our representatives, not thrown to a plebiscite
Australians should reject the proposal to hold a plebiscite as a precondition to the enactment of same-sex marriage legislation by the federal parliament. The elected politicians should get to work on what we the people elected them to do — to decide on the law, one way or the other, in parliament. Not at the hustings.
Ten reasons have brought me to these conclusions.
The Constitution provides for a parliamentary system of representative government. A plebiscite, as a precondition to legislation, is a totally exceptional procedure with no foothold in the Constitution.
Under the Constitution we make laws in parliament, through decisions voted on after recorded debates by the parliamentarians we elect to represent us. A plebiscite has no place in the constitutional arrangements that, since 1901, have governed the way we make laws.
The only relevant precedents, in 1916-17 on overseas compulsory military service, were defeated in plebiscites. The proposed plebiscite on marriage is the first such attempt in nearly a century. Our record on constitutional referendums is abysmal. Only eight have succeeded in 115 years despite 44 attempts. There is no reason to think a plebiscite on same-sex marriage will be different, particularly with several political parties opposing a yes vote.
Complex, sensitive, issues are better decided after debate in parliament , not in the heat of public division and emotional campaigns in the community. If a plebiscite is held, it could become a bad precedent to be copied when other controversial questions come before parliament. This would further weaken our governmental institutions at a time when they need strengthening, not weakening.
A plebiscite campaign unfortunately would be likely to bring out hatreds and animosities in our country that are bad for minorities generally and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minority in particular.
It is exceptional and wrong in principle to commit decisions on the basic human rights of minorities to a majority popular vote, especially in a country such as Australia which, exceptionally, has no entrenched constitutional guarantees for equality or fundamental human rights to protect minorities. For protection, minorities look to parliament to protect them. It should not shirk from that duty.
Statements the plebiscite on marriage equality is “sure to be carried” are doubtful in light of Brexit and Australia’s record on national constitutional referendums when these are required. A plebiscite in Slovenia last year reversed the marriage equality law that had been enacted earlier by parliament. In any case, no plebiscite could bind subsequent parliamentary votes and several members of federal parliament have made it plain they will vote against change in the law whatever the outcome of a plebiscite. So what is the point? The point is to defeat or delay our normal way of making laws by a vote in parliament. When there are suggested matters of conscience involved, our procedure has sometimes involved a conscience vote. It has not been to call on a plebiscite.
Ireland is often quoted. But Ireland was obliged to have a referendum for constitutional reasons. There were also special circumstances in play involving the position of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The High Court of Australia in 2013 unanimously made it clear that the entire power to enact same-sex marriage in Australia rested with the federal parliament. There is no constitutional doubt. We do not need a referendum, still less an extra constitutional plebiscite , to resolve any issue that parliament cannot decide.
Those who have proposed a plebiscite have done so believing it will defeat the measure for marriage equality, already achieved in 23 countries whose legal systems approximate that of Australia. Defeat in a plebiscite on same-sex marriage would kill the reform, probably for decades, and do further damage to our international reputation on human rights. A defeat in parliament alone would do no more than delay the inevitable for a short time.
The substantial costs of the plebiscite (estimates of $160 million to $525m have been quoted) could be better spent on supporting, rather than attempting to frustrate, the attainment of the basic human rights of citizens.
The proposed plebiscite must be seen in the context of the global moves away from the former Washington Consensus concerning government in liberal democracies . It would constitute a move towards populism and anti-liberal international and national agendas . These moves are not to be encouraged in Australia. They should be rebuffed.
It is my hope the Senate will deny support for the referendum, including appropriation to pay for this unnecessary and expensive procedure.
This would release the Prime Minister from his commitment to a plebiscite that he inherited on his election to that office. It would return Australia to its normal constitutional arrangements. Under these, Australians do lawmaking in parliament, not plebiscites.
I believe I can approach this matter with dispassion. Although my relationship with my partner Johan van Vloten has lasted 47 years (still going strong) we are not decided on whether we would marry, if marriage became available under Australian law. We see this as possibly suggesting doubts about the legitimacy of our long relationship, which has never required , or received, a governmental or legal endorsement. After so much time, our relationship is not doubtful for us. However, we certainly consider that marriage in Australia should be available to LGBT citizens, the same as for other personal relationships, to help sustain the couple, families and good health in a country whose Constitution provides for a secular society.
It has never been possible in Australia for the federal parliament to enact a law for undertaking a specifically religious or sacramental marriage. That is certainly not the character of “marriage” under the Marriage Act 1961 or under the Constitution. Marriage in Australia is not a religious sacrament so far as our law is concerned . It is a secular legal arrangement between two adults. So it should be available to all eligible people without discrimination, least of all religious. It is significant that most marriages in Australia today take place in parks and vineyards , not churches. The attempt of a misguided minority to stamp on marriage a particular religious character is inadmissible. It is also thoroughly inadvisable and constitutionally unattainable.
It would be better that nothing at all were done by the federal parliament on same-sex marriage than that a plebiscite was undertaken with a possibility of defeat. Brexit is an illustration of what can happen where a popular vote is chosen contrary to a nation’s democratic and parliamentary tradition and launched for internal party political reasons.
On this subject, in Australia at least, there is no constitutional reason for a plebiscite. The supposed political reasons are unconvincing . There are plenty of reasons it should not happen.
Those proposing a plebiscite do so believing it will defeat the measure for marriage equality
A Request from Narelle
“I have started work on preparing PFLAG NSW’s Archives. Robert French from the Pride History Group is being very helpful and is guiding me. It’s a very big task. We were incorporated in 1997, so that is 19 years’ worth of everything!
If anyone has photos, newspaper clippings, magazine articles – or anything else they feel is appropriate to be included – please contact me. My home phone is 9874 3624 (please leave a message if I don’t answer). When giving/sending things to me, please make sure they are well labelled so I know to whom they should be returned. I promise to take the greatest care with anything entrusted to me. Robert also recommends that if contributing photos, to name as many of the people as you can.
It is just amazing and extraordinary to see what we have achieved over those years!
Thanks very much, in anticipation”.
- Narelle Phipps, PFLAG NSW Committee
Thank you, Sydney RAMS!
We were very fortunate to again be chosen as one of the co-recipients of the proceeds of the Sydney RAMS Tenpin Bowling League’s Charity Bingo Night on 20 August, which was held at the Marrickville Bowling Club. Narelle and Gillian went along to a really fun night – and both won prizes. Great entertainment too! At the end of the evening both PFLAG and Team Sydney were presented with a cheque for $1,000 each to assist us with our work. We very sincerely thank the Sydney RAMS for their generosity.
PFLAG will use this towards the costs of preparing Archives, for which there are very specific requirements including acid free archive boxes, acid free paper and folders.
Once again, many thanks Sydney RAMS!
Alphabet Soup Cinema
Event in support of PFLAG
Mount Vic Flicks
2a Harley Street, Mount Victoria
Friday 14th October at 8pm
Join Alphabet Soup Cinema for this much-loved classic about two teenage boys growing up in a working class British suburb, coming to terms with being gay. 100 per cent of profits from this screening will go towards the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), helping the organisation continue its vital work. Book now to avoid disappointment - tickets are available online at www...
Tickets may be bought and seats chosen by clicking this link:
then the green 'continue booking' button at the bottom of the page.
All tickets are $10 concession (full-time students, Health Care Card holders, pensioners and Seniors Card holders) or $15 full price - and all tickets include the film and a glass of bubbly on arrival (choice of sparkling wine or mineral water). Further drinks and snacks will be available at the cinema's snack bar.
100 per cent of profits from ticket sales will go to PFLAG.
Pinnacle Foundation Scholarships
Applications Close 1st October!
The Pinnacle Foundation has been established to provide scholarships to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer students who are marginalised or disadvantaged. The Foundation saw a big need in the LGBTIQ community that was not being met.
“Receiving a scholarship from the Pinnacle Foundation meant a great deal to me, a lot more than just receiving financial aid. It meant an amazing education, a lifestyle that I want and the realisation of my dream profession. It meant that I can be the person I need to and it meant that I can make a difference.”
18 year old scholar, Harrison, studying a Bachelor of Design (Honours)
Scholarships will be provided for 16-24 year old LGBTIQ* students who desire to undertake full-time education at a public or private secondary school (final year) or public institution of higher education in Australia. It will be for the purpose of gaining an educational or vocational qualification in any profession, trade or the arts.
Scholarships will be granted for a period of one year and a scholars application form needs to be submitted by 1 October each year. However, an existing Scholarship holder is entitled to reapply for the Scholarship should they comply with the goals enshrined in The Pinnacle Foundation Criteria and Process Policy.
Pink Mountains Youth Group
Following on from the first Same-Sex Formal for LGBTQI Youth 21 and Under organised by Pink Mountains which took place on the June Long weekend earlier this year, a new social group for LGBTQISSA+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex Same-sex Attracted and Questioning) Young people has been created. Working in partnership with Mountains Youth Services Team (MYST), Pink Mountains Youth will occur monthly at the the Katoomba Youth Centre on Waratah Street on the last Tuesday night of each month.
Responding to the positive feedback from the young people who attended the Same-Sex Formal in June, it was quickly identified that there aren’t any dedicated services for LGBTQISSA+ young people in the Blue Mountains that provide a regular safe space for social activity. Some services offer ad-hoc support or refer people on to other services which are often based off the mountains and mostly in the city of Sydney.
“There is most definitely a gap for young people,” said Jonathan Llewellyn, a Pink Mountains volunteer. “There was a gap 20 years ago when I was young and looking for social interaction with others my age in the mountains, and there is still a gap today. I’m hoping this new group will start to address that.“
Pink Mountains Youth will provide a relaxed and safe space for young LGBTQISSA+ people to be themselves, establish new friendships and peer support networks, and dissolve any sense of isolation that they may feel. The monthly get together’s will be a mixture of both social and education based activity. Although there is online access to information and online communities this regular group will provide a face to face experience you can’t get online.
Pink Mountains Youth will be run by a small group of Pink Mountains volunteers who have experience working with young people. Working with resources and support provided to the volunteers by other service providers like ACON, Twenty10, Headspace and more, an educational programme is being created to cover an array of topics that are important for young LGBTQISSA+ people.
Pink Mountains Youth will not be a 24/7 Support service or provide emergency accommodation for young people in crisis. People in need of these services will be referred on.
The first together for Pink Mountains Youth will be as follows:
Tuesday 30 August
7pm – 9pm
Katoomba Youth Centre
31 Waratah St Katoomba
Young people who would like to attend can either just turn up on the night or let one of the volunteers know they wish to attend by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with their name and contact number if they wish to provide it.
More information is available at http://pinkmountains.com.au/pink-mountains-youth/
Pink Mountains is a volunteer run website that connects the Blue Mountains LGBTQI Community.