back to top

Here's What LGBTI People Are Talking About This Election

Everyone's fixated on the possible plebiscite... but this election, there's more than marriage.

Posted on

1. The Safe Schools Coalition


The Safe Schools Coalition went from a much-loved program among the LGBTI community to a national controversy earlier this year, following a campaign from the Australian Christian Lobby andThe Australian newspaper.

An anti-bullying program, the Safe Schools Coalition included eight lesson plans centred around the stories of LGBTI young people as well as specific resources on issues like coming out and transitioning genders at school.

A government review into Safe Schools found it met its stated aims and was largely age-appropriate, though recommended some lesson plans be amended. However, the government also introduced stringent permission requirements off the back of the review, asking for individual parents to sign off before their kids are taught the program, and also for school parental bodies to approve before it is introduced to a school at all.

Amidst the political brouhaha engendered by the program, many forgot funding is due to run out next year. The Coalition has said it will not renew the program, while Labor has vaguely committed to continue funding it. The Greens proposed a quadrupling of the current funding from $2 million a year to $8 million.

Greens senator Janet Rice told BuzzFeed News the party's proposed increase would mean all LGBTI young people could have the program in their school. "Currently, lots of young people are missing out," she said.

2. Intersex bodily autonomy

Open Book Publishers

Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia lists the right to bodily autonomy first and foremost on their election agenda. Intersex is an umbrella term for people born with sex characteristics outside of typical social and medical understandings of male and female bodies.

In many cases, intersex infants undergo surgery to "normalise" their genitalia for social and cultural, rather than medical, reasons. OII would like to see states and territories legislate to ensure such interventions do not happen "for social and cultural reasons such as marriage prospects, gender incongruity or parental distress".

OII co-convener Morgan Carpenter told BuzzFeed News the group wants the federal government to "show leadership" on the issue.

"The legal system recognises a right to bodily autonomy, but that doesn't apply to children," he said. "Parents are being asked to make decisions that affect their children for the rest of their lives – we need to get into a situation where we recognise parents don't have the right to do that when it comes to their child's physical sex characteristics."

Carpenter also noted the high education dropout rates among intersex people – 18% compared to 2% of the general population – and an exemption that permits discrimination against intersex women in sport as causes for concern.

3. Trans teenagers and the family court

Sean Davey for BuzzFeed

Australia is the only country in the world where transgender teenagers must apply to the Family Court to start taking cross-sex hormone treatment – a process that incurs big financial and emotional costs.

As awareness and understanding of transgender people has grown, the number of people coming out as trans in childhood or adolescence has increased, and consequently, so has the load of such cases on the Family Court.

Although this process has been in place since 2004, momentum to change the status quo has ramped up in recent years among a small but committed group of children, parents, doctors, and legal experts. Their goal is to amend the Family Law Act to abolish the court's role in the decision to start hormones, and leave it up to the relevant teenager, their parents, and doctors.

Abolishing the court process is part of the Greens LGBTI election policy. The major parties are yet to reach a position.

4. LGBTI refugees

Eoin Blackwell / AAP

Concerns continue to simmer about the safety of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers detained in Australian offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

Last month, the PNG Supreme Court ruled the Manus Island centre unconstitutional and prime minister Peter O'Neill announced it would close. However, the future of the 850 men being held on the island is uncertain, with Australia and New Zealand ruled out as settlement prospects by the government, and the prospect of life in PNG extremely frightening for the gay and bisexual men on Manus.

“Really PNG is a most dangerous place for gay people, and they are always scared of PNG police,” Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who is detained on Manus, told BuzzFeed News in April. “I have not seen any gay person who would even think about living in PNG.”

Sex between men is also criminalised in Nauru, where refugees living in the community have spoken out about their fears of violence.

5. Anti-discrimination exemptions

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A proposal to strip away religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law has put various religious groups in a tizz and left Labor vague on whether they would support the controversial suggestion.

The Greens LGBTI policy document rails against the "gigantic" exemptions for religious organisations when it comes to anti-discrimination law, proposing they be scrapped entirely.

"Successive Labor and Coalition governments have maintained these exemptions, which mean that a religious hospital can refuse to employ a gay doctor, and a faith-based homelessness shelter can refuse to accept a transgender resident," the document reads.

The exemptions fall under state law, but a federal override is a possibility.

The proposal comes as conservative religious groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby argue for anti-discrimination laws to be rolled back to allow businesses to refuse service based on sexuality.

Asked if Labor would support the proposal, Bill Shorten said: "We do believe that people shouldn't be discriminated against in their employment on the basis of the criteria which currently exist, so we are not as keen to simply start changing everything and denying people their employment rights."

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.