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I support the Government's Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024, which bans conversion practices in New South Wales. This is an important day. Deliberate, forceful and harmful conversion practices, based on the notion that individuals within the LGBTQI+ community are in need of fixing or are broken, have zero place in our community.

Conversion practices can cause serious and lasting harm. Survivors can suffer chronic trauma, distress and complex mental health repercussions. Tragically, many victims have been lost to suicide. People in our communities have genuine and legitimate questions about how the bill might impact freedom of religion and the rights of parents and other adults to guide their children through complex personal matters related to their identity. I acknowledge those concerns and have met with representatives of faith-based groups who wish to see the bill amended.

It is important the bill gets the balance right but, ultimately, putting an end to harmful practices is a goal I completely support. I thank every survivor who has shared their story and pushed for this change. Hearing their stories was hard but nothing in comparison to how difficult it must be to share them. I thank them for their bravery, vulnerability and honesty. I have heard stories where survivors were tricked, being told they were seeing a psychologist or counsellor to help them. Alarmingly, those counsellors had no qualifications, but rather a deliberate intent to actively work to change the person's identity. Other times, the efforts to supress, change or punish a person are more overt, including behavioural-change camps and programs, and even exorcisms. Make no mistake: It is clear from survivors' stories that the practice of conversion is very much alive in New South Wales. That is why this bill is critically important. It has been welcomed by survivors, advocacy groups and, importantly, my colleague the member for Sydney, who has championed this reform.

While there are survivors with us today, many people did not survive this. There are many people who right now are being damaged by these practices. That is why this legislation is so important. This is a very emotive issue. It is so important we all approach this with unwavering respect and empathy. I get nervous about the impacts of debates and news cycles when LGBTQIA+ reforms are in the spotlight. The discourse around these issues often spirals into something harmful, hurtful and damaging. We need to be better at having these conversations. I am determined for this Parliament to lead by example. This debate has to be respectful.

I acknowledge that there have been genuine questions from people across New South Wales who were unsure what these measures may mean for the rights of parents as well as faith‑based individuals and groups. I 100 per cent respect that and view their input as a vital part of this discussion. In rigorously assessing this legislation, I met with representatives of faith‑based groups and, of course, the LGBTQIA+ groups. For me, the legislation is about balance. It is about finding the sweet spot where we can adequately protect people's rights while still allowing the practice of faith in peace. That is not an easy thing to achieve, but it is vital that we get the balance right.

Wakehurst has a dynamic and diverse community, which we are very proud of. Many of my constituents—indeed, my in‑laws and my wife—belong to faith groups. It is wonderful to see their strength and connectedness. They are a very important and deeply valued part of my community. I am a parent to two young men. I know that the guidance a parent brings to the raising of their children is incredibly important. Our families shape so much of who we are. I do not believe this bill tries to diminish that. It is about making sure that there is no longer the opportunity to deliberately harm someone based on their sexual identity. That is where we are drawing a clear line today. In Wakehurst, we have a blossoming rainbow community. Like everyone, they have the right to live authentically and peacefully. There is really great progress in Wakehurst and across the northern beaches. I am proud to have been mayor of a council that upped the ante with very visible support of local pride groups and our rainbow community in general. They are great steps, but I know that there is a long way to go and a lot of work still to do. This bill represents a significant step towards ensuring their safety and wellbeing in our community.

The truth is that, while things are indeed getting better, the northern beaches has a dark history with anti‑LGBTQIA+ hate crimes. Many of these crimes remain unresolved decades later. My own uncle, "Auntie" Glen, as I affectionately knew him, was very much a victim back in the eighties. He ended up in intensive care after a bashing. In making positive change, the bill will protect the rights of parents and persons of faith. It clearly clarifies that conversion practices do not include professional clinical care that is appropriate; activities genuinely aimed at aiding an individual's ability to cope, grow, or explore their identity, which includes parents engaging in discussions with their children; and expressions of religious beliefs, including prayer, provided they do not actively alter or suppress someone's sexual orientation or gender identity in a way that causes harm. This bill only criminalises intentional conduct that results in substantial physical or mental harm.

Ultimately, parents and faith groups are still free to provide guidance based on their beliefs. If a faith group does not support a particular way of life, they are still free to say this. I believe that is appropriate. This means we also need to make sure that everyone, regardless of who they love or how they identify, knows they are not broken in the eyes of this Parliament or our wider society. They need to know that they are valued, respected and accepted for exactly who they are. I commend the Government for its approach to the bill. I commend the member for Sydney for his approach, in particular.

It appears careful consideration has been given to strike a balance between protecting individuals and respecting religious freedoms. Let us now send a clear message that harmful conversion practices have zero place in New South Wales. If the other place can improve the bill, then great; I am more than happy and open to amendments. I do not think anybody wants this legislation to be weaponised. I look forward to the other place working together in the spirit of this proposed legislation. This issue is too important and critical, now and for the future.

20 March 2024, 20:27

View the entire transcript of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill (2024), second reading debate at:

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