Sydney LGBTI leaders speak of hopes and wishes for 2012

Published: December 27, 2011

SYDNEY: Marriage equality, rapid HIV testing, an expansion of services for LGBTIQ youth in need, and anti-discrimination laws that offer every person protection no matter what their sexuality, gender or sex identity, are a few of the things that some of the country’s leading LGBTI bodies and community groups will be fighting for and looking forward to as the calendar turns to 2012.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill told SX this week that the next 12 months would be crucial to the chances of greatly reducing new HIV notifications in NSW over the coming few years.

“Knowing your HIV status is crucial to ensuring optimal prevention outcomes and we’ll be working to ensure that rapid HIV testing is made available in 2012 in order to meet our community’s requirement for cheap, accessible testing that offers rapid turnaround on results,” Parkhill said.

ACON will also be committed to seeing the expansion of the Enhanced Medications Access Scheme that currently enables people living with HIV to access medications via mail out or pickup from a number of retail pharmacies in Sydney and one in Lismore, Parkhill added.

Parkhill was however concerned by the NSW Government’s plan to introduce a new licensing scheme for the sex industry, with similar systems in Queensland and Victoria driving legal sex work into the black market.

“Health information access to sex workers is obviously compromised in these circumstances and in NSW – where the health of sex workers is the world’s best practice standard – that could be very damaging,” he said.

2012 is also slated to be the most important year for the issue of marriage equality since at least 2004, with a private member’s bill expected to be introduced sometime in the new year.

Australian Marriage Equality convener Alex Greenwich said that the organisation would continue a “robust government relations and public awareness campaign” along with the successful media campaign that has well and truly caught the public imagination in the past year.

“I would like to see the Coalition maintain their proud history of allowing conscience votes on GLBTI law reform and would love to see a multi-party sponsored bill amending the Marriage Act successfully introduced into Parliament,” Greenwich said.

Cat Rose, convener for Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) told SX that while the another big rally for marriage equality in Sydney is planned for May 12 to tie in with IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia), the community could not afford to get complacent in its fight against discrimination.

“Now more than ever we need to get out there and show politicians that we expect ALL of them to vote for our rights, and that we do not accept that anyone’s so-called ‘conscience’ should allow them to do otherwise,” Rose said.

While marriage equality is something that Gina Wilson, chairperson of Organisation Intersex Australia (OII), is also hopeful for, the tireless activist told SX that the intersex community needs to keep agitating to be included “in all aspects of Australian law and life” without having to subject themselves to male and female assignments.

“Next year we will for the first time seek secretariat funding. We intend to approach both government and private philanthropist sources.

“We intend to vigorously follow through on the Anti-Discrimination Consolidation Act to ensure intersex are fully included,” Wilson said.

“We will continue with our participation in the LGBTI aging initiative and insure that intersex training and aged care places are included.”

Wilson added that OII would as well continue to the challenge the powerful medical establishment to move from a pathologising view of differences of sex anatomy and normalisation erasure protocols to “one of embracing diversity and treating clients according to their needs with prior free and fully informed consent.”

It will also be a year of expansion for LGBTIQ youth and counselling agency Twenty10, which has newly merged with the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW.

“2012 sees the organisation celebrating 30 amazing years and the wonderful people who have made up its history and its successes. It will also be a time for renewal and change,” Twenty10 managing director Rebecca Reynolds told SX.

“With the new services being offered through our merger with the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of NSW; the possibility of moving to new premises and a number of other exciting projects underway, 2012 is going to be a year to remember.”

Reynolds said that the expansion would throw up certain challenges as the organisation attempts to find new ways to reach young people in need or struggling to find their identity.

“This will mean a willingness for the organisation to enter into new partnerships, and to build on those that we have developed over the length of our history,” she said.

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