On Jan 22, 2019, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Attorney-General’s (AG) Department in Canberra on what my experiences have been as a queer South African Indian Australian woman social entrepreneur. I wanted to really highlight to the Department the dangers inherent to not recognising the importance of intersectionality in policy development.
I was thrilled to see a room full of diverse people and to hear that the Department had a LGBTIQ+ committee and a CALD committee. Here are some of the key messages from my talk:
- Through my own journey, I had to process all the homophobia and racism I had ingested in order to minimise my chances of projecting it. Be aware of the ‘isms’ you may have ingested and practice cultural humility in frequently reflecting on your own privileges.
- You can not be what you can not see -Marie Wilson. Upon walking into the AG Department, you are met with a wall on which photos of all the previous Attorney-Generals of Australia are displayed. They are all white men and 1 white woman. I do not see myself in any of those photos. This severely impacts my ability to believe I can succeed in being Attorney-General of Australia. It provides me with no role models, inspiration or leadership paths that reflect my experiences that I can follow.
- When you do not see yourself in the law, you are less able to access the law. In multicultural and diverse Australia where 1 in 5 are from a migrant background, 27% speak a language other than English at home and 11% of young people identify across the LGBTIQ+ spectrum, there is a growing cohort of Australians whose life experiences are not being reflected by the law. In my own personal travels around Australia, two problems were present across all communities:
- Domestic Violence: this was evident by their being limited to no training for first responders to same-sex/gender domestic violence.
- Lack of medical access: a dire lack of access to appropriate medical services, especially for trans people in rural communities and the fact that involuntary medical treatment, including surgeries, on intersex children is still being carried out in Australia.
- Lack of access to the law results in over-representation of LGBTIQ+ and Indigenous communities in the criminal system.
- The consequences of this are very real. We see that with suicide being the biggest killer of people under 44 in this country.
I thank the Department for their time, for engaging and for striving to make the law more accessible for all Australians. For a detailed guide on including LGBTIQ+ Australians into policy, please see the LGBTIQ Policy Guide 2018.