ACT review of conversion therapy laws wants to increase awareness and training

The ACT government has published its review of the Sexuality and Gender Identity Conversion Practices Act 2020.

Disappointingly, the review, which was undertaken by the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate (CMTEDD) in 2023, only invited input from 26 handpicked stakeholders, many of which are LGBTQ+ activist organisations. Nine submissions were received and the CMTEDD officials met with seven further stakeholders including Victorian government officials, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the ACT Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the ACT Justice and Community Services Directorate.

The review found:

“No definite evidence of conversion practices being performed in the ACT since the commencement of the Act. ACT Policing reported that there have been no charges laid under the Act and no investigations in relation to offences under the Act. The ACT HRC has confirmed there have been no formal complaints made under the Act, but that there have been six enquiries”.

However, despite finding no evidence of conversion therapy, the report nevertheless states that “this should not be taken to mean conversion practices are definitely not occurring in the ACT”.

The report made three recommendations, including that the ACT Office of LGBTIQ+ Affairs, in partnership with the ACT Human Rights Commission, should raise awareness with stakeholders who may be “at risk of performing conversion practices” as well as stakeholders who may be at risk of experiencing conversion therapies.

Additionally, the report recommends that the government consider whether the current law provides adequate protection. It also recommends considering possible future changes to the law in light of “further awareness raising and education” and the Victorian government’s upcoming review of its own version of conversion therapy laws.

The report notes that some submissions targeted the  “watchful waiting” approaches that do not immediately affirm transgender identity, saying they have the  “same goals of conversion practice”.

It is concerning that the review limited consultation to select groups only. Unfortunately, the report and its recommendations reflect this limited approach. 

These laws, far from protecting the Australian community, prioritise controversial ideology and exclude a significant portion of Australians. Specifically, they threaten to undermine and dismantle Christian teachings about sexuality and gender.

HRLA has made submissions on conversion therapy laws around Australia, most recently to the Tasmanian version of the law.