Thursday, 16 June 2016
Statutes Amendment (Gender Identity and Equity) Bill
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I would like to put on the record that Dignity for Disability will be strongly supporting this bill, and in fact we believe it is long overdue. The more we learn about gender diversity and the true nature of gender diversity, we must acknowledge not only that we need to cease discriminating on those grounds but also that it was wrong and unnecessary to do so in the first place.
Our state has for too long discriminated against individuals based on factors including gender identity, sexual orientation and intersex status, to name a few. Unfortunately, I could name a few more where the state has discriminated, and indeed continues to discriminate. I would like to put on the record that Dignity for Disability has raised these concerns with the government on several occasions and attempted to deal with this discrimination some years ago. I was, to say the least, underwhelmed by the government’s response at that time.
In 2011, the Attorney-General advised me that changes to South Australian law to recognise, in this instance, a third gender category for gender neutrality, would involve, ‘complex legal issues’ and that it would be ‘too difficult to reach a position which would satisfy the broad range of views that are likely to exist in the community’. Fortunately, for whatever reason, it seems that the views in the community must have changed, prompting the government to finally take some action on the discrimination that many have faced, and continue to face, based on their gender identity. I am pleased to see that the government has stepped up to make these changes, although I believe that we still have, of course, a long way to go to ensure that South Australia really is inclusive to all.
I have a number of constituents who have in the past struggled to get recognition on an official document or documents for their true gender identity. These are people who, specifically in this instance, are of an unspecified sex or gender identity; that is, they identify as neither male nor female. Obviously, these people can be viewed as a minority in our society, but I do not believe that that makes them any less deserving of having their true identity reflected, including in official government documentation.
As it stands at the moment, while a South Australian can be recognised with an X in the gender box on their Australian passport to indicate non-binary gender or a gender neutrality, they are also only able to pick between male and female on other documents, including their birth certificate. There are several other examples of this limitation in South Australia, including when filling out forms required to get medical treatment. It is frustrating that in modern-day Australia this discrimination continues, as I said, particularly as we understand more and more about gender and its non-binary nature.
Through this bill, the government has acknowledged the need to remove gender-specific language from our legislation. The government has also acknowledged South Australia’s proud history of being a leader in antidiscrimination reform, such as being the first to allow women to stand for parliament and the first to decriminalise homosexuality. I am very proud of my state and the changes we have made so far to ensure that we are an inclusive community; however, I do believe this needs to go one step further when choosing a gender when filling out documentation.
Dignity for Disability will be supporting this bill today; however, we are in hope that this will be the starting point for more changes to come—more changes that we can again look back on very proudly to ensure that all members of our community are able to lead their day-to-day lives with dignity and autonomy and without discrimination.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. D.W. Ridgway.