It’s Happening: Victoria Will Be The First Australian State To Ban Conversion Therapy

"Bigoted quackery has no place in this state."

Rainbow flag.

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At long last, it’s finally happening: Victoria is about to become the first Australian state to ban gay conversion therapy. Premier Daniel Andrews announced the news at a pride rally yesterday, calling conversion therapy “bigoted quackery” that “destroys lives”.

He’s right. LGBTIQ people have been speaking out about the dangers of so-called conversion therapy — which typically tells LGBTIQ people they are broken or unwell, and attempts to counsel them into heterosexuality — for years, and the science supports them. For the past nine months, Victoria’s health watchdog has been investigating conversion therapy in the state, and its findings were grim.

“What we learned from the inquiry from the brave people who trusted us with their stories was that the trauma suffered by people who have been subjected to the practice can be deep and all-consuming, even many years after the conversion therapy ‘treatment’ has ceased,” Health Complaints Commissioner Karen Cusack said yesterday.

“Our inquiry looked at research in Australia and overseas and what was very clear is that conversion therapy is widely-condemned for the harmful effects it causes.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews put it more bluntly. “For far too long and for far too many Victorians, an evil practice has been peddled in shame and stigma,” he said in a statement.

“These activities – commonly referred to as ‘gay conversion therapy’ – claim to be able to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. What they really are is a most personal form of torture, a cruel practice that perpetuates the idea that LGBTI people are in some way broken.”

“It’s not LGBTI people who need to change. It’s our laws.”

In practice, it’ll still be a little while until the ban comes into effect. The Victorian Labor government has committed to introducing legislation that bans conversion therapy, defined as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change, suppress or eliminate an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity”, but the next step is a process of consultation with survivors and experts to get the details of that legislation right.

The government has also floated the idea of funding counselling and support services for survivors of conversion therapy, which will be part of the discussion over the next few months.