In many ways, it's been a tough year for queer people in Australia. Attacks on the Safe Schools Coalition, the bitter debate around the proposed marriage equality plebiscite, and the tragic death of the Tyrone Unsworth could leave us all feeling dejected, angry and disappointed as we depart 2016.
Without diminishing how tough this year has been for many, 2016 has also seen lots of positives. A range of local, state, and federal initiatives have seen great advancements for queer people. While there is still a lot to fight for in 2017, here is a non-comprehensive list of things we should celebrate as we round out 2016.
1. Queensland turns back on conservative history
Often considered Australia’s most conservative state, Queensland began to reverse that trend. The Queensland Government legislated to equalise the state’s age of consent laws to 16, and to allow for same-sex adoption. It is widely expected the Government will go further in 2017 by scrapping ‘gay panic’ defence laws.
2. Adoption in multiple states
Queensland was not the only place to legislate for same-sex adoption. Victorian also did so in November this year, while South Australia legislated to allow same-sex couples to adopt and use surrogacy. This now makes the Northern Territory the only state or territory where adoption is not available to same-sex couples.
3. Changes to gender identity laws
After being initially defeated by conservative forces, South Australia become only the second jurisdiction in the country (following the ACT) to allow people to legally change the gender on their birth certificate without requiring gender re-assignment surgery. Similar legislation was unfortunately narrowly defeated in Victoria at the end of the year. In the ACT legislation was passed to expand these provisions to people residing in the ACT who were not born there.
4. New trans health initiatives
The Victorian AIDs Council (VAC) established Australia’s first peer-led trans and gender diverse health service. ‘Equinox’ will provide a range of services for trans and gender diverse people, including general care, mental health checks, a PrEP clinic, support for people living with HIV, and sex work check ups. The Victorian Government also announced an additional $6 million for the Royal Children’s Hospital Transgender Unit.
5. Changes to court processes
After some high profile cases the Chief Justice of the Family Court said she would change the way trans children access hormone treatment. Trans children currently require approval from the Family Court, a process that can take up to ten months, and that the Chief Justice says is too difficult and stressful.
6. The end of AIDS
In July the nation’s top scientists declared “the end of AIDS”, with the disease no longer being a national public health issue. The victory follows years of campaigning and advocacy.
7. Steps to end HIV
Important steps have been made to see the end of HIV. In May the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) licensed the HIV drug Truvada (also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP) for use in Australia. PrEP is considered a major new tool in preventing the spread of HIV. While the drug was rejected for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), new and increased trials have seen access to PrEP significantly increase over the past year.
8. International moves on intersex rights
Campaigning on the forced and coerced surgeries and sterilisations of intersex people has stepped up. Coinciding with Intersex Awareness Day The UN launched a public awareness campaign and made a powerful statement calling for the end of coerced medical interventions. In Australia, the new Australian Human Rights Commissioner declared ending forced surgeries to be one of the Commissions priorities in coming years.
9. Long-needed apologies
The NSW police and state Government, as well as the Sydney Morning Herald made a formal apology to the Mardi Gras 78ers for the treatment at the first march in 1978. A couple of months later Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews issued a formal apology for the state’s history of anti-gay laws. South Australia Premier Jay Wetherill has announced he will make a similar apology soon.
10. Increased relationship recognition
While marriage equality remains stalled there has been action at a state level. After the high-profile death of British tourist David Bulmer-Rizzi, whose marriage to his partner Marco was not recognised on his death certificate, South Australia moved to recognise overseas same-sex marriages.
The ACT has announced legislation that will automatically register interstate or overseas same-sex unions, removing the process where couples are required to register their relationship when entering the territory. Finally, Victoria has introduced legislation that will end the so-called practice of “trans-forced divorce”, when couples who entered into heterosexual unions are forced to divorce when one partner legally changes their gender.
11. A new place for pride and celebration
The Victorian Government announced the establishment of a ‘Pride Centre’, which will provide community services and space, as well as be a showcase for queer culture. The centre, based on a similar one in San Francisco, will be the first in Australia.