Sunday, 7 December 2008

Australian women go to Thailand to select the sex of their child

The Herald Sun reports that Australian women and couples, denied by Australian doctors the ability in IVF to choose the gender of their child, are going to Thailand where they can choose. At least 10 women or couples have been there so far.

According to ethical guidelines, Australian doctors can only allow the ability to choose the gender when it is to reduce the transmission of a serious genetic condition.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Vic Bill passes both Houses

Last night I posted about how the Victorian Upper House had passed, with amendments, the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, and that this was to go back to the Lower House.

I was contacted by SBS Radio today and told that the bill passed the Lower House late last night. No mucking about there!

I do not know when the Bill will take effect.

Milk- great film

Harvey Milk

I know it's a bit off topic, but on Tuesday night I went to the preview screening of Milk, the moving story of the life and death of Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay politician. Qnews sponsored the preview in Brisbane.

Harvey Milk ended up living in San Francisco (where else?) and spearheaded the gay rights movement there and was an inspiration for many throughout the US and throughout the world.

Sean Penn was superb in the title role, and seemed to capture all the nuances of the character.

In the course of the film, Harvey Milk challenges Proposition 6 which was sponsored by a cohort of then right wing activist Anita Bryant, which sought to throw teachers out of school if they were gay or lesbian, or if they were supported of gays and lesbians.

The story demonstrated why people power can be such a powerful force for change.

Hearing about Proposition 6 reminded me very much of the current struggles in California arising from Proposition 8, which was partly sponsored by the Mormon Church. It surprised me that Ronald Reagan, of all people, was opposed to Proposition 6, which he considered unnecessary.

The most touching moment for me, however, was not in the film itself. It was seeing a friend of mine afterwards, tears welling up in his eyes, tell me that he knew two of the men in the film, saw them in the film (as they played themselves) and had been inspired by them years ago to be an activist.

Harvey Milk is due to be released at the end of January.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Vic Bill passes Upper House

The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill was passed by the Victorian Legislative Council tonight,but with amendments, meaning that it will need to return to the lower House for approval next year.

The Bill will legalise surrogacy in Victoria, and will allow single women and lesbians formally to access IVF services in Victoria. Single women and lesbians already have this right in Victoria, because the Federal and High Court decisions in Re McBain have held in effect that Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws override Victorian laws which otherwise prevent single women and lesbians accessing IVF services.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Today is World Aids Day

Today, 1 December 2008, is the 20th anniversary of World Aids Day. In 1988, the World Health Organization declared the first World AIDS Day in an effort to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS issues, including the need for support and understanding for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Complacency has snuck in about our reaction to HIV/AIDS, with the inevitable result- infection rates have risen, and continue to rise.

Two years ago, on behalf of Qnews, I travelled to San Francisco and handed over examples of a campaign run in Qnews based on California campaigns targetting young men who have ended up with AIDS. In my naivete I was surprised to learn from Stop Aids deputy director Jason Riggs about how one quarter of the gay men in the Bay area had HIV/AIDS and that although no positive link could be established, infection rates waxed and waned at the same time with the number of those using Ice- when Ice usage rates went up, so did HIV infections, and when Ice usage rates went down, so did the number of new infections.

I was also surprised to learn that syphilis and gonorrhea rates had increased. Where were the new infections? I was told mainly among positive gay men. Why had those rates gone up? I was told that the anecdotal evidence was that positive men sought out other positive men, and as both were positive, did not use protection. Result- the spread of these old nasties. Added to that- those with HIV/AIDS not surprisingly had lower immunity- meaning that they got a lot sicker from the old nasties than someone who was not infected with HIV/AIDS.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

SA: to change discrimination laws

The South Australian government has announced that it proposes amending the Equal Opportunities Act including to provide increased protection for those with HIV and to make it unlawful to refuse a job based on who the person's spouse is.

Some details of the Amending Bill

The Bill introduces a new concept of close personal relationship:

close personal relationship means the relationship between 2 adult
(whether or not related by family and irrespective of their gender)
who live
together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis, but does not
(a) the relationship between a legally married couple; or
(b) a
relationship where 1 of the persons provides the other with
domestic support
or personal care (or both) for fee or reward, or on
behalf of some other
person or an organisation of whatever kind;
Two persons may live
together as a couple on a genuine domestic
basis whether or not a sexual
relationship exists, or has ever existed,
between them.

There is a new definition of 'domestic partner":

domestic partner—a person is the domestic partner of another if he or
she lives with the other in a close personal relationship

The Bill will remove the excuse of mistake:

For the purposes of this Act, an act will be regarded as a
discriminatory act despite the fact that the person alleged to have
35 committed the act did so on the basis of a mistaken assumption (for
example, a mistaken assumption that another person was of a
particular sexuality or a particular race or a person of a chosen

There is now a reference to "chosen gender", the key provision being:

For the purposes of this Act, a person discriminates on the ground of
15 chosen gender—
(a) if he or she treats another unfavourably because the other is
or has been a person of a chosen gender or because of the
other's past sex; or
(b) if he or she treats another unfavourably because the other
20 does not comply, or is not able to comply, with a particular
requirement and—
(i) the nature of the requirement is such that a
substantially higher proportion of persons who are
not persons of a chosen gender comply, or are able
25 to comply, with the requirement than of those of a
chosen gender; and
(ii) the requirement is not reasonable in the
circumstances of the case; or
(c) if he or she treats another unfavourably on the basis of a
30 characteristic that appertains generally to persons of a
chosen gender, or on the basis of a presumed characteristic
that is generally imputed to persons of a chosen gender; or
(d) if he or she requires a person of a chosen gender to assume
characteristics of the sex with which the person does not
35 identify; or
(e) if he or she treats another unfavourably because of an
attribute of or a circumstance affecting a relative or
associate of the other, being an attribute or circumstance
described in the preceding paragraphs.

There are exceptions for chosen gender discrimination at religious schools.

As to the discrimination because of a person's spouse, the bill provides:

For the purposes of this Act, a person discriminates on the ground of the identity of a spouse or domestic partner if he or she treats another unfavourably because of the identity of the other's spouse or domestic partner, or former or proposed spouse or domestic partner.

Here is the Ministerial media release:

New discrimination laws put to Parliament

November 26, 2008
Carers, mentally ill people, breastfeeding mothers and people wearing religious dress are among those set to benefit from new equal opportunity legislation being introduced to State Parliament today.

Minister for the Status of Women Gail Gago will introduce the legislation today.

“The Bill covers new grounds of discrimination such as religious dress, caring responsibilities, and breastfeeding. These laws will avoid unfair treatment in the workplace, the marketplace and at educational institutions,” Ms Gago said.

“The current laws are out of date and in some situations they fail to protect South Australians against unjustified discrimination. This Bill marks a big step forward in achieving equality and fair treatment,” she said.

The Equal Opportunity (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2008 also:
makes it unlawful to discriminate against voluntary carers, including indirect discrimination such as setting unreasonable requirements that are too difficult for a carer to meet.
provides protections at a State level for people with disabilities, mental illness, learning difficulties or illnesses such as H.I.V. and Hepatitis C.
makes it unlawful to refuse to sell goods or services to a breastfeeding mother, or refuse nursing mothers access to educational services.
makes it unlawful for employers or educational institutions to force workers or students to get rid of religious dress, unless the dress prevents a person from doing a job or creates a danger. This doesn’t stop employers from setting reasonable dress standards.
makes it unlawful to refuse a job to a person based on who their spouse is.
The Bill was first introduced to Parliament in 2006, but it soon became clear the Liberals and minor parties would not support it. The Bill to be introduced today comes after two years of discussions.

“These laws are not as strong as we envisaged, but, if passed, they’ll be a vast improvement on the current situation. Some change is better than no change,” Attorney-General Michael Atkinson said.

Some controversial elements have been removed from the original Bill, as there was little chance they would pass Parliament. For example, the 2006 Bill would have outlawed victimisation, on a ground of discrimination deemed unlawful under the Act, where a person engages in a public act inciting hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person or groups of people. This is no longer included.

Some limited protection for carers already exists under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act, but the new Bill delivers broader new protections for carers at a State level.

“Carers are some of the hardest working volunteers in our State and discrimination against them by employers is in no-one’s best interests. These laws will help stop the unfair treatment of these valuable volunteers,” Ms Gago said.

“The Bill is also a big win for nursing mothers. For too long, women have had little legal protection if retailers or educational institutions treat them unfairly because they are breastfeeding. These laws will make it clear that discriminating against breastfeeding women is totally unacceptable,” Ms Gago said.

Mr Atkinson, who is also the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, said the changes also better protect immigrants and those from ethnic backgrounds.

“South Australia prides itself on being a culturally diverse society. It’s important that people from different backgrounds retain their identity and aren’t excluded from society because of what they choose to wear,” he said.

“This Bill meets the government’s election pledge to amend this Act and give South Australians more comprehensive protection against unjustified discrimination. I urge the State Parliament to support this Bill and provide a more just society for all South Australians,” Ms Gago said.

Same sex reforms pass through Parliament

Attorney-General Robert McClelland has today [27/11/08] welcomed the passage through Parliament of historic legislation that will remove same-sex discrimination from a wide range of Commonwealth laws.

The legislation removes discrimination in areas including superannuation, social security, taxation, Medicare, veteran’s affairs, workers’ compensation, and educational assistance.
“This landmark reform has been long overdue and it has taken a Labor Government to do it,” Mr McClelland said.

“This is another example of the Rudd Government honouring its election commitments.”
“The changes provide for equality of treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples. I think that the general feeling within the Australian community is that these reforms are appropriate and should have been introduced a long time ago”
In areas such as social security and taxation, the reforms will be phased in to allow time for couples to adjust their finances and for administrative arrangements to be implemented. All changes are expected to be implemented by mid-2009.
This historic reform follows the proclamation of the Rudd Government’s changes to de facto laws on 21 November, which give same-sex de facto couples the same rights as heterosexual couples to access federal family law courts on property and maintenance matters.

Here is the list of the legislation being amended under the relevant portfolio[ I have added some highlights to some of the Acts being amended]:

Attorney-General's Department
o Acts Interpretation Act 1901
o Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977
o Age Discrimination Act 2004
o Australian Federal Police Act 1979
o Bankruptcy Act 1966
o Crimes Act 1914
o Crimes (Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989
o Customs Act 1901
o Family Law Act 1975
o Federal Magistrates Act 1999
o High Court Justices (Long Leave Payments) Act 1979
o Judges (Long Leave Payments) Act 1979
o Judges’ Pensions Act 1968 [ so now Justice Kirby's partner Johann will be entitled to
a pension in case Justice Kirby dies before him]
o Law Officers Act 1964
o Passenger Movement Charge Collection Act 1978
o Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
o Service and Execution of Process Act 1992
o Sex Discrimination Act 1984
o Witness Protection Act 1994

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
o Australian Meat and Live‑stock Industry Act 1997
o Farm Household Support Act 1992

Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
o Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989
o Broadcasting Services Act 1992
o Telstra Corporation Act 1991

Department of Defence
o Defence Force (Home Loans Assistance) Act 1990
o Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act 1969
o Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973
o Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948
o Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act 1953

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
o Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000
o Higher Education Support Act 2003
o Judicial and Statutory Officers (Remuneration and Allowances) Act 1984
o Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988
o Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992
o Student Assistance Act 1973

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
o Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986
o Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989
o Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988
o Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006
o A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999
o A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999
o Social Security Act 1991 [ included in the changes is that same sex couples will be treated, once the changes come into effect as a couple for social security purposes, whereas now they are treated as two single people. This will have a major adverse impact on some couples.]

Department of Finance and Deregulation
o Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
o Medibank Private Sale Act 2006
o Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002
o Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990
o Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948
o Superannuation Act 1922 [ affecting Commonwealth public servants]
o Superannuation Act 1976 [affecting Commonwealth public servants]

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
o Australian Passports Act 2005
o Export Market Development Grants Act 1997
o Trade Representatives Act 1933

Department of Health and Ageing
o Aged Care Act 1997
o Health Insurance Act 1973 [ Medicare]
o National Health Act 1953
o Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002
o Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002

Department of Immigration and Citizenship
o Australian Citizenship Act 2007
o Immigration (Education) Act 1971
o Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946
o Migration Act 1958

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government
o Airports Act 1996
o Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959
o Navigation Act 1912

Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
o Pooled Development Funds Act 1992

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
o Governor-General Act 1974
o Privacy Act 1988

o A New Tax System (Medicare Levy Surcharge—Fringe Benefits) Act 1999
o Corporations Act 2001
o Financial Sector (Shareholdings) Act 1998
o Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975
o Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986
o Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
o Income Tax Assessment Act 1997
o Income Tax (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997
o Insurance Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1991
o Life Insurance Act 1995
o Retirement Savings Accounts Act 1997
o Small Superannuation Accounts Acts 1995
o Superannuation (Government Co-contribution for Low Income Earners) Act 2003
o Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 [affecting virtually every superannuation fund in the country]

Department of Veterans’ Affairs
o Defence Service Homes Act 1918
o Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004
o Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986

Source: Ministerial media release with added comment by Stephen Page

McClelland on same sex reforms, gay marriage

Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland participated in a door stop yesterday afternoon. Here is a part of the transcript:

QUESTION: Mr McClelland, could I ask you about the same sex reforms that have passed Parliament. How important do you believe those reforms are and what does it mean for same sex couples?
ROBERT MCCLELLAND: I'm really quite proud to have been responsible for introducing those same sex law reforms. They remove from Commonwealth legislation, affecting about 88 different acts of the Commonwealth Parliament, remove discrimination against same sex couples. That means that for the first time that people in a same sex relationship will be treated equally as those in a heterosexual relationship. Equally as important, it means each and every child in Australia will have the same rights, irrespective of what the make-up of their family is. That's very important.
I think it's also symbolically important because removing those last vestiges of discrimination is entirely consistent with Australia's respect for the fundamental human rights of each and every Australian. And I think it reinforces that discrimination in any way, shape or form, is unacceptable and is no longer part of the Australian legal system.
So I think that being achieved in the first year of the Rudd Government not only is consistent with our election commitment, but I think is very symbolic and obviously will make a real difference to the lives of a great number of our fellow Australians.
QUESTION: Could you ever see gay marriage being on the agenda?
ROBERT MCCLELLAND: It's the Labor Party policy that a marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Prime Minister's indicated a commitment to that and I have as well.

Transgendered golfer out of men's team, joins women's

The Courier-Mail reports that a member of the Wynnum Golf Club men's team, Don Asher, has been rejected by the men's team after wearing a dress and undergoing hormone therapy to become a woman, Dasher. The club, aware of anti-discrimination laws, has ensured that Dasher has joined the women's team, where she was welcomed, subject to handicaps about her extra strength and her 175cm height.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Health Minister embarrassed by "anti-gay" nominees

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has been embarrassed by her appointment of two men as health ambassadors- both of whom were linked to an anti-gay publication, which said that gay men were more likely to molest than straight men. One of the men refused to back away from the comments- causing him to be sacked. The other, Barry Williams of the Lone Fathers Association, backed away from the publication, as reported on, enabling him to stay.

New LGBTI legal award

Justice Kirby congratulates Sally Robb

Professor Seuffert, Nominee Dean Jones, Justice Michael Kirby, Professor Stychin, Dr Zanghellini

Nominee Dean Jones, Justice Michael Kirby, Griffith Law Dean Profesoor Paula Baron, Nominee Sally Robb

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Justice Michael Kirby Award at Griffith Uni Law School.The first award of its kind in Australia was launched by the Griffith Law School with graduate Sally Robb taking out the honours. Griffith Law student Dean Jones was also a nominee.

Valued at $500, the award is open to all Griffith Law School students and alumni and aims to foster acceptance, diversity, inclusiveness, participation, tolerance and joy in relation to LGBTI issues.

The funding for the award and the subsequent academic discussion, was made possible by an anonymous donor, inspired by the speech that Justice Kirby gave at his opening of the 2002 International Gay Games in Sydney. The key words his Honour used then were:
At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this
event represents an alternative vision struggling for the soul of humanity.
Acceptance. Diversity. Inclusiveness. Participation. Tolerance and joy. Ours is
the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We
are here because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion
are numbered. In our world, everyone can find their place, where their human
rights and human dignity will be upheld.

Justice Michael Kirby, in attending and announcing the award, said he was delighted Griffith University had named the award after him, and:
Griffith is now one of Australia's great teaching and research universities, but
has never forgotten the importance of diversity, humanity and good social
values.Diversity strengthens society and helps to make it creative and tolerant.
If we can build such a society in Australia, we will be a great example to the

Justice Kirby said he hoped the award would promote idealism and optimism amongst law students. He was also delighted to be receiving an honorary doctorate in laws from Griffith in December.

Griffith Law School Dean Professor Paula Baron said the school was committed to improving social justice, diversity and inclusiveness:

The award demonstrates the Griffith Law School is committed to more than
just the rhetoric of diversity and inclusiveness but to the actual realisation
of these goals as part of our educational mission. The award recognises
individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to GLBTI issues through the
knowledge and skills acquired as part of their law studies and their broader
involvement with the GLBTI community.

After the award ceremony, there was a presentation by four academics from Griffith, Sydney, the UK and NZ about such diverse topics as:
  • parenting leave issues
  • the intersection of anti-discrimination laws and religion
  • NZ migration laws and the impact they are having on same sex couples (generally quite good)
  • and a seriously heavy discussion about the intersection of jurisprudential theory and queer theory.

I had the privilege of meeting nominee Dean Jones (but unfortunately not the other nominees or Sally Robb). In the next couple of days I will be publishing Dean's paper on the blog.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Same sex reforms pass the Senate

As I write this, it appears that historic same sex reforms have passed the Senate, which will alter almost 100 pieces of Commonwealth legislation that discriminate against same sex people.

The two bills: Same-sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws- General Law Reform) Bill and the Same-sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws- Superannuation) Bill arise from the efforts of LGBT lobbyists which then resulted in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission report last year Same Sex: Same Entitlements, which recommended changes to 55 Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination.

In a major contrast between the parties at the time of the election a year ago, Kevin Rudd said that he would follow through on the report, but John Howard refused, other than on the issue of superannuation.

On coming to office, the Rudd Government recognised that there were almost 100 laws that needed to change to remove discrimination. The General Law Reform Bill amends 68 laws, altering laws including those delaing with tax, Medicare and Centrelink. The Superannuation Bill alters 14 of those to do with superannuation.

The latter bill needed to be passed, if only the discrimination in the existing law was on show for all to see. Last year it became apparent that the wife of then retiring High Court judge Ian Callinan, Wendy, would be entitled to a pension on Justice Callinan's death, but that the partner of soon to be retiring High Court judge Michael Kirby, Johann, would not- simply because the gay relationship between Justice Kirby and his partner was not recognised. Justice Kirby is due to retire by March 2009.

The Government, at the time of introducing these historic reforms, said that there would be a financial impact on some couples, so that the financial aspects would not be coming into force until 1 July 2009. The impact may be major for some couples. Under existing Centrelink laws, a lesbian couple is not recognised as a "marriage like relationship" with the result that if they have children, one might work and the other be entitled to receive Centrelink benefits- which may well end come 1 July 2009.

The changes also marked an attempted point of differentiation between both Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull when both were trying to be Opposition Leader last time, with saying to their party room that they were in favour of same sex reforms.

The Government has announced a same sex Centrelink hotline to help those couples to take effect in December.

WA: all snips and tucks are required for gender reassignment surgery

Western Australia and South Australia are the only States that allow specific gender reassignment, without the need to show that you are unmarried (or in the case of Queensland, that if you were married that you have been married overseas).

The limitations of that approach have been seen in the case reported by the Australian, where two female to male transgendered people are appealing the refusal by WA's Gender Reassignment Board to recognise them as male. This is because the Board apparently sees them as female, when:

  • each has had years of therapy (as is required before any gender reassignment surgery occurs);

  • each has had years of testosterone and intend to take that indefinitely;

  • each has had a double mastectomy; but

  • neither has had a hysterectomy, meaning that in theory, according to the Board, they might be able to bear children and therefore were technically female.

Qld: following through on referral of powers

Queensland is now reported to be following through on the final stage of referral of powers which will allow the de facto law reforms to take effect in Queensland.

The ABC reports that Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine has introduced the changes in the House.

The de facto law reforms will allow de facto couples, including same sex couples to access property settlement rights in the Family Court.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Obama and Biden to kickstart gay rights in US

President elect Barack Obama has set out a clear plan to bring equal rights for LGBTI people in the US. The one thing that he cannot get Congress to legislate about is marriage equality- as this is a state responsibility, as we have seen recently in Connecticut and California.Here is the blurb from his website:

Support for the LGBT Community
"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

The Obama-Biden Plan
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. Barack Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.

Fight Workplace Discrimination: Barack Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. Obama also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: Barack Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

Expand Adoption Rights: Barack Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.

Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Obama will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. Obama also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. He will continue to speak out on this issue as president.

Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Barack Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

QAHC seeks input for repsonse to Qld DV response

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities is seeking public input to make submissions to the Queensland Government's review into domestic violence law and policy.

General manager Paul Martin stated:

QAHC will be making a submission to the consultation. If you would like to contribute to QAHC’s response, or take part in a discussion to inform your own response please
(a) attend the meeting below or
(b) provide written comments to me by 16th December (deadline for consultation is 19th December).

The meeting will take place at QAHC Brisbane (30 Helen St, Newstead) from 6pm on Tuesday 16th December. Please let me know if you can attend or if you need to join via teleconference.

Key questions for the meeting are:·

  • What do we know about domestic & family violence in the LGBT community?·
  • What differences are there for LGBT people?·
  • What responses are necessary (mainstream and LGBT)?

Paul Martin's email address is

Saturday, 22 November 2008

What Will It Take to End HIV Stigma and Discrimination?

Washington: A group of high-level international researchers, program implementers, activists and donors met earlier this week to discuss the urgent need for a focus on HIV stigma and discrimination as part of the global response to HIV and AIDS.

“Stigma and discrimination is an issue that touches everyone,” says Khuat Thu Hong, of the Institute for Social Development Studies, Vietnam, who participated in the Nov. 17 event. At the meeting’s conclusion, the group identified five priorities to strengthen HIV-fighting efforts. Top among them was a call to add ending stigma and discrimination as part of the three-pronged global approach of universal prevention, treatment and care. Evidence shows that fear of HIV stigma and its consequences – such as the loss of a job or property, threats of violence, abandonment and poor medical care – remains high and undermines current prevention, treatment and care programs. To make the most of funds to fight HIV, attention and resources must go to addressing the social drivers of the epidemic, including stigma and discrimination.

Queensland: to change response to domestic violence

The Queensland Governemt has issued a discussion paper about possible changes responding to domestic violence, including same sex domestic violence.

Public responses need to be in by 19 December.

Here is a copy of the discussion paper:

Consultation paper

A Queensland Government
strategy to target
domestic and family violence 2009–2013

October 2008

Table of contents

Foreword.. 3
Introduction.. 4
Background. 5
A Queensland Government strategy to target domestic and family violence. 5
Context.. 6
About domestic and family violence. 6
Current Queensland responses.. 9
Key Challenges.. 10
Responses in other jurisdictions.. 11
Five areas for action.. 12
Prevention (a focus on healthy relationships) 13
Early identification. 13
Connected support services. 14
Perpetrator accountability. 16
System planning and coordination. 17
Response sheet.. 19


It is never acceptable for anyone to experience violence in their family, nor is it acceptable that such violence is kept hidden. The Queensland Government is determined to tackle the causes of domestic and family violence through a range of new and expanded initiatives that build upon the foundations established over the past 20 years.

Domestic and family violence affects all communities, whether wealthy or disadvantaged, urban or remote and the human and financial cost to individuals, families and the community is significant. Federal and state governments have a key leadership role in addressing domestic and family violence. However, the government, private and community service sectors and the broader community need to work together if we are to reduce the incidence of domestic and family violence.

We recognise the commitment, dedication and expertise of all those who work hard to prevent domestic and family violence, to support those experiencing it to live lives free from violence, and to provide opportunities for those who commit acts of violence to change.

Accordingly, this consultation paper invites feedback on the development of a Queensland Government strategy to target domestic and family violence.

This consultation paper proposes a vision, principles and goals for the strategy, and areas for action and improvement. Your feedback on the proposed directions will contribute to developing a strategy which builds on and strengthens the significant efforts to date.

We are committed to working with all sectors to reduce the incidence and impact of domestic and family violence.

Hon Lindy Nelson-Carr MP Hon Judy Spence MP
Minister for Communities Minister for Police

Hon Margaret Keech MP
Minister for Women

Australia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Queensland Government is committed to enabling all people, particularly women and children, to live lives free from domestic and family violence.

This consultation paper seeks your feedback, as a key stakeholder, on:

· the development of a whole-of-government strategy to target domestic and family violence
· specific areas in which effort or improvement will be of most benefit to people at risk of or affected by domestic and family violence.

The Queensland Government anticipates that a domestic and family violence strategy will enable greater focus on those areas in need of action, promote the use of new models to improve outcomes for victims, and make perpetrators responsible for their behaviour.

There are a range of views on how to best target the complexities of domestic and family violence in Queensland. This consultation paper offers a starting point for discussion. Some initiatives may require significant development and further investment by government, while others will simply improve the use of existing resources. The Queensland Government will make decisions about the funding of particular initiatives following consideration of the final strategy.

We value your knowledge and experience with the domestic and family violence service system and appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

You can respond to this consultation paper by:
1. completing the ‘Response sheet’ at the back of this paper
2. returning your response by post or email to the Department of Communities
3. submitting your response online by accessing the government’s Get Involved website

By post
Department of Communities
Domestic and Family Violence Strategy Team
Strategic Policy and Evaluation Directorate
GPO Box 806
Brisbane QLD 4001
By e-mail

Responses are due by Friday 19, December 2008.

The Department of Communities will not disclose your personal details, your organisational details, or submission information without obtaining consent, unless required by law.

For additional hard copies, please call the enquiries line on 1800 081 934.

To date, the Queensland Government has developed a number of initiatives to reduce domestic and family violence. The Safe Families – Safer Communities Policy and Action Plan 2001–2003 and Coordinating Efforts to Address Violence Against Women 2002–2005 identified significant gaps and overlaps in the way government agencies responded to violence. While results were achieved through these initiatives, more needs to be done to tackle the causes of domestic and family violence (not just the crisis), connect support services for victims and ensure perpetrator accountability.

The need to develop a new, whole-of-government strategy to address domestic and family violence was identified as part of the response to the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s 2005 report Policing domestic violence in Queensland: Meeting the challenges.

A Queensland Government strategy to target domestic and family violence
The vision, principles and goals that Queensland Government agencies have agreed to uphold when responding to domestic and family violence require a focus on the safety of all people, particularly women and children, and the accountability of those who are violent.

We recognise that targeting domestic and family violence is a long-term prospect which needs continued, collaborative and sustained effort and investment. Our strategy will build on the investments and achievements to date to tackle the causes of domestic and family violence.
Our vision for the domestic and family violence strategy is to create communities where all people feel safe and valued, and live free from domestic and family violence.
The following principles have been developed to inform future program initiatives and to govern the way that government agencies, private and community services sectors work together:
· All people have the right to be free from violence and to be safe in their relationships.
· The safety and wellbeing of the child will be paramount where adult interests conflict with child interests.
· Communities are supported to say no to violence and to foster healthy relationships.
· Culturally appropriate approaches are required within mainstream services that provide access into the service system for vulnerable groups.
· People who are violent are held accountable and responsible for their behaviour and are provided with opportunities to change.
· Partnership between all levels of government, private and community services sectors and the broader community is critical.
· Reporting, monitoring and an action learning approach are essential to promote innovation.
The domestic and family violence prevention strategy has two overarching goals:

1. To ensure people, particularly women and children, experiencing domestic and family violence are safe, adequately protected and supported.
2. To ensure people who commit acts of domestic and family violence are monitored and held accountable and responsible for their behaviour.
Queensland Government agencies have worked together to produce the framework set out in this consultation paper. Five areas for action across the continuum of domestic and family violence responses have been identified through research, literature reviews, consultation across government agencies and targeted information gathering with domestic violence service providers.

Queensland Government partners to the strategy will include:
· Department of Communities (including the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Multicultural Affairs Queensland)
· Queensland Police Service
· Office for Women
· Department of Child Safety
· Queensland Health
· Department of Education, Training and the Arts
· Department of Housing
· Disability Services Queensland
· Department of Justice and Attorney-General
· Legal Aid Queensland
· Queensland Corrective Services
· Department of Emergency Services.

About domestic and family violence
Defining domestic and family violence
Domestic and family violence occurs when one person in a relationship uses violent and abusive tactics to maintain power and control over the other person/s in the relationship. People who experience these acts of abuse or violence often feel afraid and unsafe and can suffer physical injuries. The violence can take many forms, ranging from physical, emotional and sexual assault through to financial control, isolation from friends and family, threats to harm pets, loved ones or self and constant checking on whereabouts. Some people may not recognise they are being abused.

Domestic and family violence can take place between people in a range of domestic relationships including spousal, intimate personal, family and informal care relationships. The range of relationships identified in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 reflects the changing nature of domestic and family arrangements that exist in contemporary Australia.

Although this strategy focuses on domestic and family violence-specific responses, we recognise that the violence occurs within a social context and is linked to other environmental and individual risk factors. These factors include social isolation, financial and housing stress, attitudes to masculinity and femininity, drug and alcohol use and mental illness or mental health concerns.
Key facts and statistics
The following summary of key facts and statistics on domestic and family violence highlights groups that have an increased risk of vulnerability and who face additional difficulties in accessing assistance. There is limited available research and data specific to Queensland, particularly in relation to incidence and prevalence.

Most domestic and family violence is committed by men against women.
For the 12 months prior to the ABS survey, of those women who were physically assaulted:
o 31 per cent were physically assaulted by a current and/or previous partner, compared to just 4.4 per cent of men.
o 64 per cent of incidents occurred within the home for those who experienced physical assault by a male.
o Only 36 per cent who experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator reported it to police.
Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey Australia 2005
Many children are affected by domestic and family violence.
61 per cent of persons who experienced violence by a previous partner reported that they had children in their care at some time during the relationship.
Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey Australia 2005
Indigenous females are more likely to be hospitalised or become victims of intimate partner homicide than non-Indigenous females.

Indigenous women and children are among the most victimised people in the community.
Indigenous females were 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than other Australian females.

For Indigenous females, about 50 per cent of hospitalisations for assault were family violence-related (compared to 20 per cent for men).

45 per cent of Indigenous homicides occurred after a domestic altercation compared to 23.7 per cent of non-Indigenous homicides.
Schmider, J., and Nancarrow, H. (2007) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Violence – Facts and figures. Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research: Mackay.

Mouzos 2001 in Schmider and Nancarrow

Blagg et al., 2000 in Crisis Intervention in Aboriginal Family Violence: Summary Report. University of Western Australia (2000).
People living in regional, rural and remote areas of Queensland may be at a higher risk of experiencing domestic and family violence due to geographical barriers and isolation from friends and family. People may also be reluctant to access services due to a lack of confidentiality in small communities (which may lead to intimidation of the victim).
Reported domestic violence rates were highest in very remote Australia (16.7 Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) periods per 1,000 population), remote Australia (12.8), outer regional (3.4), inner regional (2.6), and major cities (2).
SAAP/Australian Institute on Health and Welfare data 2004–2005
People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who experience domestic and family violence may find it more difficult to engage with services due to a range of factors, including:
o different attitudes in their country of origin towards women and domestic violence
o differences between the Australian (and Queensland) service system and the one in their country of origin
o fear and/or mistrust of police or medical personnel
o linguistic and cultural barriers to seeking and accessing support.
7.5 per cent of women born in non-English speaking countries had experienced violence by their partner during the course of the relationship.

13.1 per cent of women in SAAP funded services during 1999–2000 were women from a non-English speaking background.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2000.
People with a disability (including those with impaired capacity) are at increased risk of being victims of domestic and family violence due to the inherent vulnerability of some forms of disability and subsequent reliance on informal support people or carers.

People with a disability are also more vulnerable to some forms of violence, such as sexual violence, financial abuse or controlling behaviour.
Women with disabilities in general experienced intimate partner violence 40 per cent more often than other women.
Brownridge (2006) cited in A Framework for Influencing Change: Responding to Violence Against Women with Disabilities 2007–2009. Victorian Women and Disabilities Network
Older people can be susceptible to abuse because of their dependence on others, social isolation, mental and physical health and carer stress. Abuse can remain unreported due to feelings of powerlessness, shame and fear of retaliation and institutionalisation.
2.6 per cent of older people aged over 65 years were found to be mistreated by family, close friends or care workers in one United Kingdom study.

2.7 per cent of older people aged over 65 years were found to be abused in one South Australian telephone self-report study.
O’Keefe et al (2007) in Sanderson and Mazerolle, 2008.

Dal Grande et al (1999) in Sanderson and Mazerolle 2008.
People in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex relationships who experience domestic and family violence may find it more difficult to receive appropriate support due to:
o differing methods of control (such as threatening to ‘out’ the person)
o lack of community understanding.
A range of studies have sought to determine the prevalence of domestic and family violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex relationships. It is generally agreed that it occurs at the same rate as within heterosexual relationships.

Vickers, L. (1996) The second closet: domestic violence in lesbian and gay relationships: a western Australian perspective. Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law.
Domestic and family violence represents a high workload for the police and the Courts.
There were 13,305 Domestic Violence Protection Orders and 7,580 Temporary Domestic Violence Protection Orders made in 2006–07.

8,978 breaches of Domestic Violence Orders were reported in 2006–07.

Calls received by the Queensland Police Service between 1 April to 30 September 2003 for the Gold Coast and Redcliffe districts demonstrate high incidence of domestic violence:
o 28,814 calls for service in the Gold Coast.
o 23,438 calls for service in Redcliffe.
Data provided to the Department of Communities by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (August 2007).

Annual Statistics Review 2006/07 Queensland Police Service.

Policing domestic violence in Queensland (2005). Crime and Misconduct Commission.
Queensland communities perceive family violence and physical assault as problems in the neighbourhood, although this perception is declining.
In 2004–05, 37.4 per cent of Queenslanders believed family violence to be a major problem or somewhat of a problem in their neighbourhood, compared to 38.5 per cent nationally.

In 2006–07, this declined to 30.9 per cent and 32.2 per cent respectively.
Report on Government Services 2008
Domestic and family violence imposes significant costs to the economy.

Costs include loss of productivity in the workplace due to injuries or attendance in court, social isolation, increased physical and mental ill health and housing burdens when women and children (primarily) have to leave their homes to escape violence.
The cost of domestic and family violence is $8.1 billion per annum to the Australian economy.

If extrapolated, this would equate to around $1.5 to $2 billion to the Queensland economy, based on a population share estimate.
The Cost of Domestic Violence to the Australian Economy. Access Economics, 2004.

Note: This estimate is conditional upon a number of assumptions, such as extrapolation of reporting rates to estimate true prevalence, and assumptions used to calculate the cost of pain, suffering and premature mortality.
Note: All figures provided are estimates only, as the studies from which they are drawn vary in their reliability, currency and applicability to Queensland. The purpose of these statistics is to provide a snapshot of some of the data currently available about the nature of domestic and family violence.

Current Queensland responses

The Queensland justice system provides both civil and criminal responses to domestic and family violence and plays a key role in holding perpetrators accountable and supporting and protecting victims. There are also a wide range of support services and other initiatives to target domestic and family violence, working with both victims and perpetrators.

The Queensland Government’s achievements to date

The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 (the Act) contains a broad definition of domestic and family violence and covers a range of groups.
The Act allows for the removal of the violent person from the home.
There are a range of funded service responses, including dvconnect which provides a 24-hour womensline and mensline.
The Queensland Police Service Domestic and Family Violence Unit is improving training, investigation and case management practices.
The Ministerial Advisory Council on Domestic and Family Violence provides advice to the Minister for Communities on issues relevant to domestic and family violence.
The Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month promotes the message that domestic and family violence is not acceptable, raises community awareness about the social and personal impacts of domestic and family violence and provides information about available services.
The Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research funded by the Department of Communities contributes to the prevention of domestic and family violence through research, evaluation, sector development and community engagement.
The Seniors Legal and Support Service pilot provides free assistance for seniors who are at risk of or experiencing elder abuse or financial exploitation.
Queensland Health provides domestic violence screening in ante-natal clinics.
The Queensland Ambulance Service is developing training resources for paramedics to assist responses to vulnerable people, including those experiencing domestic and family violence.

The Queensland Government currently invests in a range of initiatives for people affected by domestic and family violence, including:
housing support such as crisis accommodation
regional domestic violence services
community services such as support groups and counselling programs
counselling for children who experience domestic and family violence
legal support and advice and court support workers to assist people through the court process
family support and education programs
Indigenous Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Support Services
behaviour change programs
information sheets and a ‘Find a Service’ database for women and girls
information on tenancy rights in relation to domestic and family violence
some courts that have dedicated times to deal with domestic and family violence cases.

Many universal services not specific to domestic and family violence have a preventative effect and are also funded by the government, including:
maternal and child health initiatives
early childhood programs
crime prevention and health promotion initiatives.

The Queensland Government has introduced significant alcohol reforms which aim to reduce the unacceptably high level of alcohol-related harm in discrete Indigenous communities. It can be expected that these reforms will have some impact on family violence in those communities. To support these reforms, alcohol-related legislation has been amended, a service assessment has been undertaken in each community and service enhancements in relation to health, harm reduction and diversionary activities are currently being put in place.

Key challenges

To victims seeking information, support and protection, the Queensland domestic and family violence service system comprising the police service, the legal system, housing, health and counselling and support services can seem complex and disjointed. Where these services are not adequately linked, information that is vital for providing safety for victims can go unnoticed, and opportunities to intervene with perpetrators of domestic and family violence may be missed.

Gaps in our current responses

We recognise that there are opportunities to improve in the following areas:
Services for victims and perpetrators, including behaviour change programs, child counselling services and accommodation options.
Coordination across the government and non-government sectors.
Consistency across Queensland in responding to domestic and family violence, including the use of safety and risk assessments and the monitoring of perpetrators.
Opportunities for service providers across Queensland to share best practice and ideas to better protect victims of domestic and family violence.
Community involvement and education to promote the message that domestic and family violence will not be tolerated in Queensland.
Access to services for people with diverse needs, including people with a disability.
Open information exchange between government agencies and services, including addressing some privacy barriers.
Culturally appropriate domestic and family violence programs for Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse people.
Standard information and awareness training for mainstream services (such as allied health and community service professionals and school staff) about the identification and appropriate response to people experiencing domestic and family violence.
Research and data on related issues and incidence and prevalence of domestic and family violence in Queensland.

Innovative solutions are needed to tackle the causes and improve the responses to domestic and family violence in Queensland. Support and justice services need to find better ways to work together to support victims, provide for their safety, and hold perpetrators accountable.

What is missing from Queensland’s current system is an integrated approach to service delivery. In order to be effective, this would require ‘agreed protocols and codes of practice, joint service delivery, agencies reconstituting or realigning their core business to confront the challenges posed by a broadened conception of the problem’.[1]

An integrated approach would mean reorganising the way we do business so that people do not have to approach multiple services, telling their stories multiple times, and preventing people from falling ‘between the gaps’ to achieve a more efficient and effective response to safety.

Responses in other jurisdictions

New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand have introduced multi-agency case coordination, including court supports, common risk assessment tools and assistance for victims of domestic violence to remain in their home where this is a safe option. The success of these approaches hinges on the collaboration of the agencies involved.[2]

The benefits of a coordinated approach have been realised through a decrease in reports to child protection in Victoria and reduced repeat offences in the Northern Territory. Similar impacts are reported in Tasmania.

While there are differences in each jurisdiction’s approach to minimising the harmful impacts of domestic and family violence, common features include:
central coordination of reforms
multi-agency case coordination models
a focus on legislative and justice system improvements
expansion of service delivery programs
prevention and community engagement activities
housing choices for victims, including programs to help them stay safely at home
a focus on the safety and wellbeing of children and young people affected by domestic and family violence.

Alongside strong policing protocols and integrated practices, jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America have established interdisciplinary committees to learn from homicide cases related to domestic and family violence and to advise on measures needed to improve service and systems responses to domestic and family violence. There is no single model for learning from domestic violence-related homicides, with mechanisms ranging from reviewing case information to the establishment of a formal board.[3]

Five areas for action

To address the causes of domestic and family violence and close the service system gaps, we have identified the core elements of an effective system and propose five areas for action across the continuum of responses:

1. Prevention (a focus on healthy relationships)
2. Early identification
3. Connected support services
4. Perpetrator accountability
5. System planning and coordination.

For the five areas for action, we have identified new initiatives that might be introduced and existing programs that may warrant expansion. Key proposals include a social marketing campaign, development of Case Coordination Teams and cross-government planning and coordination.

Some of the suggestions presented within this section may require significant development and further investment by government while others will improve the use of existing resources. The Queensland Government will make decisions about the phased roll-out of the strategy and funding of particular initiatives following consideration of the final strategy.

In addition, there are a number of potential opportunities to partner with the Commonwealth Government to introduce further initiatives and improvements, including the ‘A Place To Call Home’ initiative, the White paper on homelessness, development of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children and the review of domestic and family violence in the family law system.
1. Prevention (a focus on healthy relationships)

The problem of domestic and family violence is too significant to limit efforts to interventions in cases where violence has already occurred.[4] To address the causes and reduce the incidence, there needs to be a range of responses, including primary prevention and promotion. A stronger focus is needed on working in a variety of settings across age groups to deliver messages about healthy relationships and the identification of domestic and family violence. This includes development of social marketing campaigns and targeted education programs for children and young people to build self-esteem and empowerment.
Initiatives to prevent domestic and family violence
Possible options include introducing:
· a sustained Queensland Government social marketing campaign that could target a range of audiences, including young people, Indigenous people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and carers of people with a disability to raise awareness and change behaviours. Campaign elements could include:
o television advertising and supporting media
o an integrated campaign website to provide information on domestic and family violence, how and where to get help and advice
o practical initiatives to drive action at grassroots level, such as:
- a community engagement grants program for local initiatives to support domestic and family violence prevention
- a community development program to build community capacity in domestic and family violence awareness and prevention
- media training for domestic and family violence service providers.

Options also include expanding:
· materials, programs and strategies in schools that promote the social and emotional development of students and that deliver proactive anti-violence messages
· community engagement models, including arts and cultural programs to promote healthy relationships in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities
· collaboration with industry partners to develop and introduce workplace policies on respectful relationships and to raise awareness of the impacts of domestic and family violence.

2. Early identification

Consistent information and professional awareness is a crucial aspect in ensuring victims of domestic and family violence are identified and supported at the earliest opportunity. It is important for professionals to understand gender and power dynamics, especially when confronted with mutual claims of abuse, to prevent ongoing violence and enhance safety and wellbeing. The quality of response at the earliest disclosure of domestic and family violence may have an impact on a person’s future help-seeking behaviour and subsequent need for ongoing support. Early identification can also avoid the need for more costly and intrusive interventions for families if violence continues to escalate.
Initiatives to enable early identification and provide support to victims of domestic and family violence
Possible options include introducing:
· the domestic violence screening initiative applied in Queensland Health ante-natal clinics to other Queensland Health clinics and services where appropriate
· screening for domestic and family violence during the postnatal period as part of the roll-out of the universal postnatal contact service program
· improved models of support and assistance to better respond to victims who present at Queensland Health Emergency Departments
· a workforce skills development strategy for domestic and family violence services that could include:
o a professional development program, including capacity building for cultural competence, working with diverse communities and carers of people with a disability
o practice forums
o web-based practice tools
· standard information kits for a variety of allied professionals for recognising and responding to domestic and family violence, particularly in relation to children and young people, people with a disability and people from diverse communities.

3. Connected support services

Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Victoria have found that effective information sharing between agencies, and access to a variety of support services, can lead to the improved safety of victims and prevention of reoccurrence or escalation of violence. Culturally appropriate responses are required for people from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. There are also many complex issues that intersect with domestic and family violence, including child protection and family law and living and care arrangements for people with a disability. A lack of coordination and support can result in a justice response that is time-consuming, confusing and intimidating for victims.
Initiatives to better protect families earlier
Possible options include introducing:
· Case Coordination Teams that would be trialled, and subject to evaluation, phased implementation could occur across Queensland. These teams could be co-located and include the Queensland Police Service, Department of Child Safety and domestic violence specialists working together on a full-time basis, focusing on supporting victims (child and adult) and monitoring perpetrator behaviour. A regional coordinator position could be created to support establishment of these teams. The aim of these teams could be to:
o undertake risk assessments and coordinate safety and security assessments to inform case coordination
o broker referrals to support services, including child counselling, behaviour change programs and victim advocate positions, court support workers, case management and alternative accommodation where required
o undertake ongoing monitoring of outcomes for the family.
Initiatives to support children and young people affected by domestic and family violence
Possible options include introducing:
· practice guidelines for people who work with child victims of domestic and family violence
· regular practice forums for professionals providing services for children
· research and development of resources on best practice therapeutic interventions for children and young people exposed to domestic and family violence.

Options also include expanding counselling and support programs for children and young people affected by domestic and family violence.

Initiatives to support victims of domestic and family violence to stay in their own homes where this is safe
Possible options include introducing:
· a safety upgrades program to support the work of the proposed Case Coordination Teams that could include:
o the use of a standard risk assessment tool to determine whether staying in the home is a safe option for those affected
o upgrades to the security of the home.

Initiatives to support victims of domestic and family violence who need safe alternative accommodation
Possible options include introducing:
· support models to address the needs of victims in crisis and transitional accommodation to help them transition into long-term stable accommodation
· models to engage people subject to ‘ouster conditions’ (these allow the removal of the person using violence from the home, as part of a Domestic Violence Order) to access alternative accommodation
· a specialist assessment and referral model for women escaping violence who have particularly complex needs. This could include developing agreements between agencies to provide support based on a thorough safety and needs assessment.

Initiatives to improve the justice system response to domestic and family violence
Possible options include introducing court coordinators for domestic and family violence cases to support the work of the proposed Case Coordination Teams.

Options also include expanding specialised court supports to support the work of the proposed Case Coordination Teams that feature:
· court support workers for both the offender and the victim
· specific list days to hear domestic and family violence matters (criminal and civil).

This will deliver more timely access to quality evidence for the Magistrate resulting in improved decision making, and increase the availability of support and information for people affected by domestic and family violence.

Other initiatives
Possible options include introducing:
· a domestic and family violence rural and remote outreach model that could include support for victims and assistance to perpetrators to access support to change their behaviour
· a program for female prisoners who have been victims of domestic and family violence, with a focus on assistance to avoid returning to violent relationships upon their release
· a regional strategy for the Torres Strait that could include community education, community involvement and an outreach model to support victims, including travel assistance to access safe accommodation
· culturally relevant models for male behaviour change programs in Indigenous communities and ensuring they are delivered in the context of child and adult victim support.

Options also include expanding:
· access to interpreter services for funded domestic and family violence programs and other relevant funded services
· translation of information materials into the main language groups in Queensland (and including, for example, materials for Auslan and Braille).

4. Perpetrator accountability

Every state in Australia has criminal and civil justice mechanisms in place to respond to domestic and family violence. The aim of these mechanisms is to protect victims and to reinforce the message that domestic and family violence will not be tolerated and is punishable by law. A major difficulty in this area is often the availability of evidence to support claims of domestic and family violence. Where evidence exists, it needs to be used to prosecute incidents, including breaches of Domestic Violence Orders.

Behaviour change programs (also called ‘perpetrator programs’) have a significant role in preventing and responding to domestic and family violence. While the underlying philosophy of these programs can vary, the general purpose of these programs is to challenge abusive behaviour and to implement non-abusive alternatives to violence in the home. To be effective, such programs must include direct advocacy and support to maximise the safety and wellbeing of the partners and families of the perpetrator.

Initiatives to hold people who use domestic and family violence accountable for their behaviour
Possible options include introducing:
· development and distribution of investigation kits to strengthen police practice
· victim advocate positions attached to behaviour change programs so that the victim’s views and safety are taken into account
· behaviour change programs appropriate for Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Options also include expanding community-based behaviour change programs to support the work of the proposed Case Coordination Teams.

Initiatives to strengthen justice responses to domestic and family violence
Possible options include introducing:
· a cross-agency examination of the links between the domestic and family violence system and the broader justice system to recommend improvements where necessary, for example:
o the use of ouster conditions and attendance at behaviour change programs as a condition of an order
o penalties for breaches of orders
o less traumatic ways for victims to present evidence.

5. System planning and coordination

Effective systems reforms in other jurisdictions have involved strong leadership and coordination to drive development, implementation and reporting of changes. This would require a formal structure that sets out mutual obligations, relationships and responsibilities agreed by all agencies.

Domestic and family violence is an issue that cuts across both state and federal legislative and program functions. It is therefore important to have a coordinated approach to identify intersections, undertake negotiations on the various issues and collaborate with the Commonwealth Government to achieve the best outcomes for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Initiatives to give effect to system planning and coordination
Possible options include introducing:
· a new Queensland Government domestic and family violence coordination unit, that could:
o drive implementation across government agencies and sectors and coordinate monitoring and reporting on the strategy
o develop and implement a code of practice for Queensland Government agencies that could include an agreed definition of domestic and family violence, roles and responsibilities, grievance resolution processes, model protocols and policies, and provisions for responding to diverse groups
o identify opportunities to collaborate with the Commonwealth Government and negotiate on priority issues identified for Queensland
· improved research and data collection, including:
o a strategic research program on domestic and family violence in Queensland, in partnership with academics, to better understand the issues and how we can improve our responses (including prevention) to meet diverse needs
o improved collection of data on the incidence and prevalence of domestic and family violence in Queensland, to fill the gaps in our knowledge base
· an examination of models to learn from domestic and family violence related homicides, such as death review boards, which identify factors that could have improved service system responses and prevented the escalation of domestic and family violence incidents.

A review of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 will commence in early 2009, as agreed as part of the response to the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s 2005 report Policing domestic violence in Queensland: Meeting the challenges. Terms of reference will be informed by the outcomes of consultation on development of the strategy. The review will:
· ensure the Act’s effectiveness in protecting the victims of domestic and family violence
· ensure the legislation is in line with new policies arising from implementation of the strategy
· examine the appropriateness of justice interventions to hold perpetrators responsible for their behaviour
· determine whether any legislative refinements are necessary.
Response sheet

Name (optional)



1. Prevention (a focus on healthy relationships)
Do you think the proposed initiatives would effectively address the prevention of domestic and family violence?

Are there other, better ways to prevent domestic and family violence?

2. Early identification
Do you think the proposed initiatives would improve early identification and responses to domestic and family violence?

Are there other, better ways to improve early identification and responses to domestic and family violence?

3. Connected support services
Do you think the proposed initiatives would effectively close service system gaps?

Are there other, better ways to connect support services?

4. Perpetrator accountability
Do you think the proposed initiatives would effectively improve perpetrator accountability?

Are there other, better ways to improve perpetrator accountability?

5. System planning and coordination
Do you think the proposed initiatives would effectively improve system planning and coordination?

Are there other, better ways to improve system planning and coordination?

Additional questions

Has the consultation paper adequately covered the main issues to be addressed to effectively target domestic and family violence?

Are there any other issues or initiatives that you believe should be considered as a priority? If so, please list your top three priorities.

Are there any other issues or initiatives that you believe should be considered for groups that may have increased vulnerability?

Your comments

[1] Developing an Integrated Response to Family Violence in Victoria: Issues and Directions (2004), Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre, Victoria.
2 Reforming the Family Violence System in Victoria (2005). State-wide Steering Committee to Reduce Family Violence.
3 David, N (2007) Exploring the Use of Domestic Violence Fatality Review Teams. Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, NSW.
[4] World Health Organisation (2002), citied in Preventing violence before it occurs: A framework and background paper to guide the primary prevention of violence against women in Victoria, VicHealth, 2006

Thursday, 20 November 2008

California Supreme Court Grants Review in Prop 8 Legal Challenges

California Supreme Court Grants Review In Prop 8 Legal Challenges
Court to determine constitutionality of Prop 8
(San Francisco, California, November 19, 2008)—Today the California Supreme Court granted review in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, which passed by a narrow margin of 52 percent on November 4. In an order issued today, the Court agreed to hear the case and set an expedited briefing schedule. The Court also denied an immediate stay.
On November 5, 2008, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of Proposition 8 in the California Supreme Court on behalf of six couples and Equality California. The City of San Francisco, joined by the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and Santa Clara County, filed a similar challenge, as did a private attorney in Los Angeles.
The lawsuits allege that, on its face, Proposition 8 is an improper revision rather than an amendment of the California Constitution because, in its very title, which was “Eliminates the right to marry for same-sex couples,” the initiative eliminated an existing right only for a targeted minority. If permitted to stand, Proposition 8 would be the first time an initiative has successfully been used to change the California Constitution to take away an existing right only for a particular group. Such a change would defeat the very purpose of a constitution and fundamentally alter the role of the courts in protecting minority rights. According to the California Constitution, such a serious revision of our state Constitution cannot be enacted through a simple majority vote, but must first be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature.
Since the three lawsuits submitted on November 5, three other lawsuits challenging Proposition 8 have been filed. In a petition filed on November 14, 2008, leading African American, Latino, and Asian American groups argued that Proposition 8 threatens the equal protection rights of all Californians.
On November 17, 2008, the California Council of Churches and other religious leaders and faith organizations representing millions of members statewide, also filed a petition asserting that Proposition 8 poses a severe threat to the guarantee of equal protection for all, and was not enacted through the constitutionally required process for such a dramatic change to the California Constitution. On the same day, prominent California women’s rights organizations filed a petition asking the Court to invalidate Proposition 8 because of its potentially disastrous implications for women and other groups that face discrimination.
In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court held that barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and violates the fundamental right to marry. Proposition 8 would completely eliminate the right to marry only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group.
Over the past 100 years, the California Supreme Court has heard nine cases challenging either legislative enactments or initiatives as invalid revisions of the California Constitution. In three of those cases, the Court invalidated those measures.
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Source: National Center for Lesbian Rights