Conversion Therapy isn’t just a US Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Issue

By Cordelia Attenborough

A recent motion put to the Victorian Liberal Party, by a conservative Liberal branch linked to Federal MP Kevin Andrews, has demanded legislation permitting health practitioners “to offer counselling out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning to patients who request it”. The motion to amend the Health Complaints Act was quickly removed from the State Liberal conference after Fairfax Media reported on its existence.

On Tuesday Liberal health minister Greg Hunt gave what can only be described as a baffling and lacklustre response when asked about the now-ejected motion supported by the Liberal party. Hunt, who was one of the leading supporters of same-sex marriage in the Liberal party was interview by Patricia Karvelas on ABC’s RN Drive. When asked if he supported gay conversion therapy Hunt told Mrs Karvelas, “Look, it’s not something I support, it’s not federal government policy, it’s not going to be federal government policy and we’re not about to change our position on that,” Hunt went on to say: “people are entitled to have different views, views that I disagree with.” And further commented “What I do worry about is this constant view that nobody is anywhere allowed to have a different view. As a journalist, I would hope you would believe in freedom of speech.”. The interview continued to divulge into a series of comments made toward Mrs Karvelas demanding to know her position on free speech.

This bizarre and appalling series of answers has shed light on the shortcomings of the Liberal party to address the enormously present issue of gay conversion therapy being practised in this country. Victoria is the only state to have a ban on gay conversion therapy but that doesn’t stop it from occurring both in and out of public view.

Whilst ministries that overtly implemented conversion therapy in Australia are no longer existent it is not hard to access these practices.

In a report of Tripple J, LGBTI people of faith advocate, Nathan Despott stated that conversion therapy is still rampant across Australia. A few years ago a grade 3 student at a school in the Mornington Peninsular was forced by her religious school to undergo a succession of conversion counselling’s, without her parent’s knowledge, to prevent her transitioning. A petition created by Conversion therapy survivor Chris exposes just how detrimental the effects this of ex-gay therapy can be, with methods ranging from exorcisms to corrective rape.

So-called ‘conversion therapy’ causes depression, self-loathing and even suicide. I prayed to God asking him to either heal me or kill me. I was so depressed, I wanted to die. The trauma associated with that part of my life still affects me – how could it not?”

In 2016 the Victorian Minister for health Jill Hennessy said in a statement, “We have zero tolerance for any person purporting to be able to ‘convert’ gay people through medical or therapeutic means,”. “Any attempts to make people feel uncomfortable with their own sexuality is completely unacceptable.”. So why is it so hard for Mr Hunt to make an equally firm statement?

Dear Mr Hunt; What you needed say about conversion therapy

People are entitled to have different views and Australians do value our right to free speech. However, people aren’t entitled to practice forms of abuse and conditioning that lead to suicide, self-harm and lives of conflicted self-torture. Mr Hunt when you defend people’s right to hold different views doesn’t make those comments in response to a question about deplorable acts of indefensible behaviour.  As our health minister your interest is the wellbeing of the people of this nation, unless you can use your platform to condemn such disgusting atrocities then you have no right to advocate on behalf of us. The queer community doesn’t need your nonsensical ramblings about freedom of speech, we need you to use your position to make a clear and direct statement that condemns these appalling practices and promises that they have no place in our nation.