HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [4.53 pm]: I rise tonight to share some reflections on what is happening in our federal sphere and particularly how it will impact the state. We are all aware, of course, of the debate that is occurring federally on equal marriage, and that is what I want to talk about tonight. It looks as though the likely outcome, at least at this point, is that we will have a very expensive postal poll, which will be issued to some, but not all, electors. I want to express some concerns about that process. I will maintain that it is a really unnecessary and expensive option that I do not feel is appropriate for us to be undertaking. I think that members of Parliament need to do their job and simply debate these issues in Parliament. I also want to raise my concerns that it would appear that a number of electors will be disenfranchised from that process anyway, in particular silent electors. I heard this morning that some regional electors are unable to have the postal ballots delivered directly to their homes. From the outset, we know that it will be a flawed process. One of the concerns is that it is not even binding. We do not know what will happen after we have gone through this process. In our current financial position, this is not a good use of our money.

Hon Simon O’Brien interjected.

The PRESIDENT : Order!

Hon ALISON XAMON : The concern that I particularly want to raise is about the impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex community. I am going to reflect on some of that and particularly the children of the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex, queer parents. For the benefit of members in this place, I want to reflect on the impact of what happened statistically in the lead-up to the referendum in Ireland. In the lead-up to the referendum in Ireland, there were spikes in calls for help and for mental health and suicide prevention assistance from members of the LGBTI community who had reached the point of such deep distress from the things that were happening and the language that was being used in the lead-up to the plebiscite. These things have been borne out statistically. I am going to reflect on that in what has happened here in this state. Before we went into our winter break, I raised concerns about what had happened with the funding here of the only LGBTIQ-specific peer-based counselling service, and that is Living Proud. Effectively, what had served as core funding for that organisation had ceased. That meant it had to wind back its activity. The $80 000 had ceased.

Hon Alanna Clohesy interjected.

Hon ALISON XAMON : That is a fact. It also had to wind back some of its activity with QLife. Since then I have been advised that it has received some interim funding of $30 000 that will be made available up to November this year and that is for the purpose of seeing whether there is some way that it can find ongoing funding.

I am particularly concerned that in the lead-up to this postal poll and this very public debate, now is not the time to look at any reduction in these sorts of services, particularly considering what has happened globally with demand for these services as people have become more and more distressed. We need to keep a very close eye on the delivery of services, because I think that these sorts of public debates have the potential to have a very real detrimental impact on vulnerable people in our community. In this case, I am talking particularly about members of the LGBTIQ community, but potentially it will also impact on their families. It is beholden on every single one of us to be very, very conscious of that and to make sure that these sorts of impacts are not occurring. If people are feeling as though they need to access services, we need to ensure that their mental health will be okay and, even more importantly, that any risk of a sense of suicidality is able to be addressed.

I remind members that Lifeline Australia relies very heavily on the existence of Living Proud to refer people to once they get past a critical point. It is a really important service that we need to make sure continues so that people can get the support they need. It is an award-winning service and the only peer-based service in this state. Sometimes I feel as though people do not necessarily understand the impact that this plebiscite will have on people. I want to read in something that I suspect a number of people here may have heard before, but I think it is worthwhile bringing it to people’s attention so that they can really start to reflect on the impact of these sorts of debates.

This is from Hannah Gadsby, who, as a number of members would know, is a female Australian comedian, although she is now retiring from that role and doing other things. She has written about this on her official page before, particularly in light of the plebiscite. I thought that I would read this out because it really encapsulates my concerns. She states —

… this plebiscite thing is a very bad idea.

Let me be clear. I don’t care about marriage equality for myself because I do not have an aptitude for relationships. The reason I care about this is because I don’t want young kids to hear the kind of horrific bile I was forced to listen to in the 1990s when Tasmania debated on whether to legalise homosexuality.

For many, the debate was theatre. For me, it made me hate myself so deeply I have never been able to develop an aptitude for relationships.

In the mid nineties I was the age when I should have been learning how to be vulnerable, how to handle a broken heart, how to deal with rejection and how to deal with all the other great silly things about young love which help pave the way to the more substantial adult version. But instead I learnt how to close myself off and rot quietly in self-hatred. I learnt this because I learnt that I was subhuman during a debate where only the most horrible voices and ideas were amplified by the media. These voices also gave permission for others to tell me that I was less than them, with looks, words and on one occasion, violence.

Every day of my life I deal with the effects of anxiety and low self esteem. It is not nearly as debilitating as it used to be but I don’t imagine I will ever be truly free of it. Just imagine how brilliant I could have been if I hadn’t been given such a … show at such a vulnerable time in my life.

I am very concerned that the plebiscite debate is going to be another open season for hate. I fear for those, particularly in regional Australia, who are isolated from positive voices.

She goes on to talk about the hate - filled commentators —

They might not have the numbers but they will no doubt be handed a megaphone in the name of entertainment. But this kind of entertainment will not only ruin young lives … it will end some of them. Speech is not free when it comes at such a cost.

Members know that one of the things that I am particularly concerned about is the issue of mental health and suicide prevention. It would appear that we are going to be having this big public debate going into the future. The one thing I ask is that there is a way that this can occur that is as conscious as possible of people who have an entitlement to feel safe and to be okay. In the meantime, we really need to ensure that both federally, in terms of funding for QLife , and at a state level we provide whatever services are required to ensure that people are going to be okay.


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