JCCV policy changes strengthen support for LGBTIQ+ people and people living with HIV

JCCV

At their 2019 Annual General Meeting the Jewish Community Council of Victoria passed an amendment to their Policy Platform, in response to feedback from Aleph Melbourne and others, strengthening support for a range of groups including LGBTIQ+ people and people living with HIV.

The relevant changes, as detailed in the Agenda of the AGM, are outlined here:

14. Amendment to the JCCV Policy Platform 

Proposed Resolution: 
That Paragraph 3.7.4 of the JCCV Policy Platform be amended as shown in mark up: 

Respect
3.7.4 
CALLS FOR abstention from any public or private conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, revulsion, vilification or severe ridicule of, another person or group on the ground of their identity (including race, religion, colour, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, sex characteristics, HIV/AIDS status, descent or and national, ethnic or ethno-religious origin) or the lawfully held views or personal medical decisions of that other person or group. 

Note: the marked-up changes appear to have inadvertently removed the characteristic “gender”. Aleph Melbourne has raised this concern to the attention of the JCCV.

This amendment significantly builds on the ground-breaking 2010 reform where the JCCV added “sexual orientation” to their Policy Platform, and follows on from the (previously passed) changes the Executive Council of Australian Jewry made to their Policy Platform.


20191118-JCCV-AGM-Agenda

ECAJ policy changes strengthen support for LGBTIQ+ people and people living with HIV

In December 2019 the Executive Council of Australian Jewry effected a range of changes to their Policies, in response to feedback from Aleph Melbourne, strengthening support for LGBTIQ+ people and people living with HIV.

The relevant changes are outlined here.

1. Social Inclusion

BEFORE

1.5 ACKNOWLEDGES that in the Jewish community, social exclusion may result from a number of factors including: lack of educational or vocational opportunities; low levels of income; mental or physical illness or disability; or immigration without social support, and that such exclusion most often results in individuals being prevented through no fault of their own, from building a better future for themselves and their families;

1.6 NOTES that poverty amongst Australian Jews is no less prevalent than in other sectors of the Australian community and that aspects of inequality from which poverty stems and which require further investigation and support are:
Work opportunities particularly in the case of immigrants, families with young children, large families and religiously observant families and older people and people with a disability;
Access and Equity in the utilization of services – where members of the community do not have access to contacts, groups and opportunities which empower them to access the mainstream Jewish community and the wider society. This can arise from the inability to speak English, or lack of education and information, or lack of sufficient income to participate;
Social stigmas where individuals experience social exclusion from the community as a result of mental illness, disability, or choice of lifestyle;

AFTER

1.5 ACKNOWLEDGES that in the Jewish community, social exclusion may result from a number of factors including: lack of educational or vocational opportunities; low levels of income; mental or physical illness or disability; immigration without social support; or sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or sex characteristics, and that such exclusion most often results in individuals being prevented through no fault of their own, from building a better future for themselves and their families;

1.6 NOTES that poverty amongst Australian Jews is no less prevalent than in other sectors of the Australian community and that aspects of inequality from which poverty stems and which require further investigation and support are:
Work opportunities particularly in the case of immigrants, families with young children, large families and religiously observant families and older people and people with a disability;
Access and Equity in the utilization of services – where members of the community do not have access to contacts, groups and opportunities which empower them to access the mainstream Jewish community and the wider society. This can arise from the inability to speak English, or lack of education and information, or lack of sufficient income to participate;
Social stigmas where individuals experience social exclusion from the community as a result of mental illness, disability, or sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or sex characteristics;

3. Anti-Racism Legislation

BEFORE

3.11 CALLS ON the Federal Government to pass legislation to create an indictable offence based on the following model:
§*** (1) A person who, otherwise than in private, intentionally or recklessly promotes or advocates the use or threatened use of violence against, or who harasses or intimidates (although no actually bodily harm is occasioned), another person or group of people because of, or by reference to, the actual or presumed:
(i) race, colour, descent or national, ethnic or ethno-religious origin; or
(ii) religious belief or affiliation; or
(iii) homosexuality; or
(iv) HIV/AIDS infection; or
(v) transgender identity,
of the other person or of some or all of the members of the group, commits an indictable offence.

AFTER

3.11 CALLS ON the Federal Government to pass legislation to create an indictable offence based on the following model:
§*** (1) A person who, otherwise than in private, intentionally or recklessly promotes or advocates the use or threatened use of violence against, or who harasses or intimidates (although no actually bodily harm is occasioned), another person or group of people because of, or by reference to, the actual or presumed:
(i) race, colour, descent or national, ethnic or ethno-religious origin; or
(ii) religious belief or affiliation; or
(iii) sexual orientation; or
(iv) HIV/AIDS status; or
(v) gender identity/expression; or
(vi) sex characteristics,

of the other person or of some or all of the members of the group, commits an indictable offence.

54. Counteracting Hatred and Discrimination Against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Persons

BEFORE

54.2 CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred, ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the foregoing principles;

54.3 OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;

54.4 ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and

AFTER

54.2 CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred, ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, or sex characteristics; and, in accordance with the foregoing principles;

54.3 OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, or sex characteristics;

54.4 ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and

55. Same Sex Civil marriage

BEFORE

55.7 AFFIRMS that in matters of ordinary trade and commerce, as distinct from matters of religious practice and belief, all people are entitled to be protected from adverse discriminatory treatment on the basis of their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

AFTER

55.7 AFFIRMS that in matters of ordinary trade and commerce, as distinct from matters of religious practice and belief, all people are entitled to be protected from adverse discriminatory treatment on the basis of their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, sex characteristics, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

55.8 That the ECAJ encourages each of its constituent organisations to align the formulation of its policies concerning the foregoing matters with those of the ECAJ, and that affiliate organisations which have adopted policies concerning such matters be encouraged to do likewise.

Australian LGBTIQ+ and Jewish communities respond to COVID-19

A collection of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from the Australian LGBTIQ+ and Jewish communities.

Responses to COVID-19 from the Australian LGBTIQ+ and Jewish communities

Thorne Harbour Health (Victoria)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update and advice for people living with HIV [Feb 28 2020]
2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) [Mar 12 2020]
Update on COVID-19 for PLHIV [Mar 16 2020]
Sex, Intimacy and Coronavirus [Mar 17 2020]
COVID-19
COVID-19: Services Update

ACON (New South Wales)
COVID-19 and Our Communities
ACON Coronavirus (COVID-19) Statement [Mar 15 2020]
Trans and Gender Diverse People and COVID-19 [Mar 18 2020]
ACON COVID-19 Update: Casual Sex and Social Distancing [Mar 20 2020]
ACON COVID-19 Update: Changes to ACON services, programs and events [Mar 23 2020]
Sex in the Era of COVID-19 [Mar 24 2020]
ACON COVID-19 Update: Changes to ACON Regional Services [Mar 26 2020]
ACON COVID-19 Update: Changes to ACON Head Office Opening Hours [Apr 3 2020]
Dealing with stress and anxiety during COVID-19 [Apr 3 2020]
ACON Publishes Online COVID-19 Clearinghouse for LGBTQ Communities in NSW [Apr 8 2020]
WATCH: LGBTQ Online Forum – COVID-19 & Our Communities [Apr 8 2020]
Support For Harmful Drug and Alcohol Use Available During Coronavirus (COVID-19) [Apr 9 2020]
ACON and Positive Life NSW statement on media report on spitting, Coronavirus and people living with HIV [Apr 22 2020]
ACON COVID-19 Update: Visiting other people at home, physical distancing & casual sex [Apr 28 2020]
Forum To Explore Impact of COVID-19 on Trans and Gender Diverse Communities [May 5 2020]
Virtual Forum to Explore Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ People in Regional NSW [May 7 2020]
COVID-19 Update: Easing of Restrictions, Physical Distancing and Casual Sex [Jun 12 2020]
COVID-19 Update: Casual Sex and Sex On Premises Venues [Jul 10 2020]

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations / National LGBTI Health Alliance
LGBTI people, health and COVID-19 [Mar 17 2020]
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Hub

Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives
Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation [Mar 20 2020]

Community Security Group (Victoria)
Information on COVID-19 for communal leaders

Equality Australia
COVID-19 and Australian LGBTIQ+ Communities [Apr 16 2020]

Executive Council of Australian Jewry
ECAJ Statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic [Mar 12 2020]
Community response to Coronavirus [Mar 17 2020]
Australian Jewish community management of COVID-19 pandemic – National Bulletin #1 [Mar 20 2020]
COVID-19: ABC’s Dr Norman Swan with a special message for the Australian Jewish community [Mar 23 2020]
What coronavirus means for our school-kids, seders, and saftas [Mar 24 2020]
Australian Jewish community management of COVID-19 pandemic – National Bulletin #2 [Mar 27 2020]
Coping with isolation, fear and anxiety in a time of Coronavirus [Mar 29 2020]
NSW Jewish community opens Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to support community during coronavirus pandemic [Mar 31 2020]
Australian Jewish community management of COVID-19 pandemic – National Bulletin #3 [Apr 3 2020]

Hares & Hyenas Bookshop (Victoria)
UPDATE FOR CUSTOMERS & SUPPORTERS [Mar 19 2020]

Intersex Human Rights Australia
Intersex people and COVID-19 [Apr 12 2020]

Jewish Care (NSW)
JCA Announces COVID‐19 Jewish Emergency Relief Fund [Apr 2 2020]

Jewish Care Victoria
COVID-19 Helpline
Jewish Care Victoria Response to Stage 3 Restrictions [Jul 8 2020]

Jewish Community Council of Victoria
Information for Victorian Jewish Communal Leaders on Coronavirus (COVID-19) [Mar 17 2020]
Information for Victorian Jewish Communal Leaders on Coronavirus (COVID-19) – UPDATE 2 [Mar 18 2020]

Leo Baeck Centre (Victoria)
LBC Weekly Update 11 March 2020

Living Positive Victoria
Coronavirus update and advice for HIV positive Australians [Feb 28 2020]
COVID-19 Update for People Living with HIV [Mar 17 2020]
COVID-19 is changing the way we interact with you [Mar 25 2020]
Looking after your mental health during COVID-19 [Apr 15 2020]
Casual sex in the time of COVID-19 [Apr 21 2020]

Minus18 (Victoria)
COVID-19 UPDATE FROM MINUS18 [Mar 20 2020]

New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies
NSW Jewish Community Response to COVID-19 [Mar 18 2020]
COVID-19 pandemic: Message from Board of Deputies President Lesli Berger [Mar 26 2020]

Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand
Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand Statement on Coronavirus COVID-19 [c Mar 12 2020]

Temple Beth Israel (Victoria)
COVID-19 update [Mar 18 2020]

Union for Progressive Judaism
Union for Progressive Judaism Statement on Coronavirus [c Mar 12 2020]


This page will be updated as further information comes to hand.
We invite readers to contact us with relevant community information.

World AIDS Day – Communities Make the Difference

Thorne Harbour Health logo

1st December 2019

World AIDS Day – Communities Make the Difference

As the 1st of December is upon us, not only does it mark the start of a promisingly hot Summer, it marks World AIDS Day, with this year’s international UNAIDS theme being “Communities Make the Difference” and for Australia specifically, “Every Journey Counts.”

It is possible this presents two questions for you – What is World AIDS Day about? How has and how can the Jewish Community make a difference on this journey?

Firstly, World AIDS Day is a day for the community to support people living with HIV, to commemorate the lives we have lost to the AIDS pandemic caused by HIV and to raise awareness around the globe on the issue. HIV looks very different now than it did 35 years ago when the first cases were reported.

Becoming HIV positive was perceived as a death sentence because we knew so little about it and how to treat it. The virus would weaken the immune system to the point where it could not fight off an otherwise regular infection such as a cold, and it would move into an AIDS diagnosis, especially if exposed to more than one infection. Since the first cases were reported 35 years ago, 78 million people have acquired HIV and 35 million of them have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

Australia’s response to HIV and AIDS is considered to be one of the best in the world. We led the way with the incredible advancements and uptake of evidence-based treatment and prevention strategies. The implementation of needle and syringe programs removed HIV from largely affecting the injecting drug using population. The annual AIDS diagnosis in Australia has fallen from 953 cases at its peak in 1994 to about 50 cases in recent years. Currently, there are approximately 900 new infections each year, and with 28,500 people living with HIV, the vast majority never move to having an AIDS diagnosis, but instead live long, happy, productive and healthy lives.

We didn’t get to this place because we stopped having sex, stopped having babies, or used condoms every single time we had sex. We got here through relentless advocacy and enduring grass-roots activism. We got here through educating ourselves and each other about sex, gaining support from the government and community leaders to have open conversations about it, wide spread health promotion campaigns, reducing stigma and discrimination, increasing testing, implementing harm reduction strategies and of course major advancements in biomedical prevention.

One of the reasons Australia has done so well in reducing HIV transmissions is because of the wide range of prevention strategies available where individuals can choose what works for them. To name a few options available, they could be using condoms and lube, increasing testing frequency, taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which is an HIV medication you can take to prevent yourself from acquiring HIV, or PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) which you can take within 72 hours after you think you’ve been exposed to HIV. There is also using an undetectable viral load (UVL), where someone who is HIV positive and on treatments has a viral load (aka the amount of virus in the body) so low that it cannot be detected by current tests. A positive person with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on the virus. This is the most effective prevention strategy available. It has been studied in large scale clinical research trials around the world, and is endorsed by the World Health Organization, The American Centre for Disease Control, and the Australian Medical Association.

The latest research has shown that if a person living with HIV is on proper treatment, they can live normal healthy lives and have a life expectancy similar to that of an HIV negative person, given all other lifestyle factors are the same. If HIV is no longer the death sentence that it once was, nor is it the scary and unknown disease brought by the grim reaper any longer, then why is HIV treated so differently? Why is there so much baggage associated with the virus when we utter its name, despite how far we’ve come? It doesn’t matter how you look at it, misinformation, judgement, stigma and discrimination will only ever cause more harm than good.

HIV is a virus and it doesn’t discriminate. There is a lack of education around how HIV is transmitted, which is in fact quite difficult as the blood of a person living with HIV needs to enter directly into the bloodstream of an HIV negative person in order to be transmitted – the virus cannot live outside the body. Then there is of course the harmful misinformation around things like it being a “gay disease”. Other than the stigma and physical impacts any infectious disease carries, more severely, stigma can be attributed to the disproportionate number of gay and bisexual men it affected over the course of the past three decades. Due to the biological, cultural, religious, social, behavioural and legal factors, HIV swept across the gay community like wildfire at the start of the pandemic and we were losing young gay men to AIDS too quickly to even understand what was going on. The gay community was in shock, under-resourced, afraid, and dying. The world’s initial response wasn’t to run to our aid, stand by our side and support our brothers. Instead, we were made to feel ashamed of who we were, discriminated against, pushed further into isolation resulting in severely impaired physical, mental and social health outcomes.

When anyone goes through a trying time, physically, mentally or even just trying to survive in a sometimes harsh and unjust world, their greatest lifeline is their community. The beliefs and attitudes of a person’s community and its leaders can make them or break them. It can change their world from a place they’d rather not live in, into a loving, caring and supportive one, where we can proudly embrace our humanity.

When HIV was faced with judgement, stigma and discrimination, it was the perfect recipe for devastation to ripple throughout the world, resulting in the global AIDS pandemic. It wasn’t just gay and bisexual men who were affected by this. In other parts of the world, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters were affected just as much. When any one of them were too sick to stand up for themselves and too tired to keep on fighting, it wasn’t just their peers who stood by their side, their communities stood strong to support them, advocate for them, fight with them and cry with them.

It is this sense of understanding how HIV has affected the world and people living with HIV that we come together on World AIDS Day. This then leads to the second question around the theme for World AIDS Day this year – Communities Make the Difference.

How has and how can the Jewish Community help make the difference in changing the world for the better?

Religious leaders and faith-based communities play such a significant role in how an individual feels about themselves, their healthcare-seeking behaviour, the support they receive, their resilience and their individual make-up on the whole. It is harder to talk about things like HIV and AIDS in more conservative cultures or faith-based communities because it tends to be related to sex, homosexuality and sin. This relationship between the two topics is a rudimentary assumption from misinformation and one that is anchored in discrimination.

In the Jewish faith, amongst many faith-based communities, it is declared as a cardinal sin if two men engage with each other sexually. However, on the other hand, the obligation to provide appropriate care for the sick is seen not only as one of the most universal obligations in Jewish law, but in fact an opportunity to emulate the Divine Attributes.

We can assume that there would be some positive experiences and some negative experiences growing up Jewish and gay. Some people may have been excluded from communities, families and from their faith whilst others may have been embraced. It can be difficult to get to an understanding of the complexities of believing in your faith and trying not to feel ashamed, but instead trying to reconcile the two so that you can be a proud person of Jewish faith and a proud gay or bisexual man.

Religion can play a central role in who we are, what we believe in and how we engage with each other. So, what do we do when we feel differently and conflicted with what our religion tells us? What do we do when we feel differently and conflicted with what our community is telling us? What do we do when we feel differently and conflicted with what our family is telling us?
We persevere.
We stay authentic to our true selves.
We move forward.
We reconcile our faith and our sexuality into the being of one person. It can take some time to get there, and everyone’s journey is individual, but it is something that we can all share in. By supporting our own communities of the LGBTIQ rainbow and our faith, we can come to a place whereby we support each other and help each other through the hard times. It is that community that we create that makes a difference!

There isn’t a need to discard faith because of who we are! There is no need to disregard who we are because of our faith! We can be both people and we can become stronger because of it! It is through this strength that the Jewish community has been part of the response to the HIV epidemic, and because of community groups such as Aleph Melbourne, that we can express our true selves, both from a sexuality and faith perspective.

When we look outwards, there seems to be some contradictory things, which is not unusual when it comes to community, faith and sexuality. The Israeli Defence Force officially supports openly gay soldiers, and has done so for over 20 years. Tel Aviv is considered one of the most gay friendly cities in the world. So why is there often hate towards the LGBTIQ community from leaders of faith, including the Jewish faith? Is it just an evolving change in attitudes that leads some people to try and hold onto established beliefs? Is it through a lack of education and awareness? What do you think it is? What is your experience?

Regardless of any debate, HIV does not discriminate and it affects everyone. Unfortunately, there is a lack of more specific data in Australia around HIV and the Jewish community, but in Israel, the cases of new HIV notifications dropped from 148 in 2017 to 123 in 2018 amongst gay and bisexual men who have sex with men. In fact, the increase in the overall number of HIV notifications between those years were entirely attributed to new cases amongst women, going from 115 in 2017 to 142 in 2018.

At the end of the day, HIV and AIDS predominantly affects the most vulnerable and marginalised populations across the world, whether it be indigenous people, refugees, women, children, those living in poverty, gay men and bisexual men, migrants or injecting drug users. They are the ones who have the least power and bear the brunt of the impact.

In light of World AIDS Day, it is important to remember that communities really do make the difference. Compassion, social acceptance, advocacy and access to emotional and spiritual support are some of the ways communities could help change the landscape of HIV and AIDS across the world – things that an individual can only get from their community.

Thorne Harbour Health is very eager to work with the Jewish community, to understand better how to best serve all LGBTIQ individuals in their overall health and wellbeing and make this a reality. We have Jewish volunteers across the organisation in Peer Education, policy development as well as one off events and are always open to developing new opportunities of engagement.

Remember, communities make the difference!

For now, let us celebrate, commemorate and advocate this World AIDS Day together.

Thorne Harbour Health

Resources:

[1] HIV in Australia : Annual Surveillance Short Report, University of New South Wales, Sydney; Kirby Institute. Sydney, NSW (2018).

[2] Number of New HIV Cases Up for Second Year in a Row. Toi Staff. (Published 16th July 2019).https://www.timesofisrael.com/number-of-new-hiv-cases-up-for-second-year-in-a-row/
Accessed 27th November 2019

[3] Fact Sheet – World AIDS Day 2019. UNAIDS (2019).
https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/UNAIDS_FactSheet_en.pdf
Accessed: 27th November 2019

[4] HIV and Stigma in Australia : A Guide for Religious Leaders, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. Newtown, NSW (2013).


This article was commissioned by Aleph Melbourne for World AIDS Day 2019, and written and researched by Thorne Harbour Health Health Educator Jessie Wong.
A PDF version of this article can be downloaded here.

MEDIA RELEASE: Aleph Melbourne acknowledges Victorian birth certificate reforms

MEDIA RELEASE
Aleph Melbourne acknowledges Victorian birth certificate reforms
August 28 2019

On August 27 2019 the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill
2019 (VIC)
passed in the Victorian State Parliament.

In essence this legislative reform will allow transgender and gender diverse Victorians to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without having to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

This simple reform will make a huge difference to the lives of those people who are currently unable to easily align their birth certificate with their affirmed gender.

The Jewish community, along with other communities across the state, will benefit from this reform, as its trans and gender diverse people can start living fuller, more meaningful lives, participating in activities that other people take for granted.

Aleph Melbourne commends these reforms, but also notes they are substandard to the recent Tasmanian reforms that made gender optional on birth certificates.

More information: Ygender: Birth Certificate Reform 2019

Aleph Melbourne Contact: Michael Barnett / michael@aleph.org.au / 0417-595-541

About Aleph Melbourne: Aleph Melbourne is a social, support and advocacy group for same-sex attracted, trans and gender diverse, and intersex people (and allies) who have a Jewish heritage, living in Melbourne, Australia.

Media:

David Southwick mistakenly admits he is a champion of LGBTIQ equality

David South, self-confessed champion of equality, claims his support for the LGBTIQ community is strong, but he his actions suggest otherwise.

David Southwick, “champion of equality” and “proud supporter of the LGBTIQ community”

David Southwick voted against birth certificate reform

BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES REGISTRATION AMENDMENT BILL 2019Page 63
15 August 2019ASSEMBLYSecond readingDavid Southwick

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (12:18:48): I rise to make some comments on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2019 and note from the outset that there are many sensitivities, debate and some wideranging views in this legislation that is before the house. I also want to say that as somebody that has been a very proud supporter of the LGBTIQ community, when it comes to equality—whether it be of sex, race or religion—I have always sought to champion these causes. There have certainly been some very strong contributions made today, and very much the member for Oakleigh talked about ideally not being having labels and treating everybody as individuals, as one and all the same. I would certainly hope we get to a day when we can do that and we do not have to pass laws because of inequalities of action. But there are aspects of this bill that certainly the opposition has issues with, and there have already been contributions from some of my colleagues that have raised some of these issues. Firstly, can I say the issue of gender identification and the support for the rights of individuals to live their lives the way they wish to live according to their gender identity is certainly something that I support, but this is more than just gender identification; it does go to the crux of some of the laws that exist. As many have stated, there is a clear difference between how people identify their gender and how legal records are kept in the case of birth certificates. Birth certificates exist to record a person’s record of birth, and birth certificates are intended to record biological sex rather than gender identity. They are used for a whole range of record keeping through a number of different government agencies for a whole range of planning and so on in terms of the historical record of somebody’s sex at birth. The actual legislation is to amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 to remove the requirements for somebody that has undergone sex affirmation surgery while allowing for applications to alter birth certificates also on behalf of children. Basically what this does is allow for self-identification of gender. Essentially we debated this bill back in 2016, and there has also been some commonwealth equality legislation that has been added to since then. Clause 8 looks at a person changing their sex without having to undergo affirmation surgery and how this works, with an application done in good faith. Also the bill permits application for a child’s record of sex to be altered in their birth registration. As with adults, children are not required to undergo treatment as part of this process. Also, where there is a dispute the court will be satisfied that the change is in the child’s best interests. As part of the briefing I understand the department advised that the test used to change the sex descriptor closely follows the process used for changing your name for administrative convenience, notwithstanding the fact that changing your name or your sex are two very different propositions, particularly when you are changing legal documents. Clause 13—and this is where I want to spend a bit of time in terms of my contribution—deals with changes when it comes to both adults and juveniles in detention and under supervision, such as prisoners and parolees who make an application to alter their recorded sex. As the Shadow Minister for Police, Shadow Minister for Community Safety and Shadow Minister for Corrections, this is something that I think is very important for us to spend some time with. The only additional condition is the prior approval of the supervising authority—for example, the Adult Parole Board of Victoria—who is to consider the application’s reasonableness, including the security, safety and wellbeing of applicants and others. This is a very sensitive area. I will also say at the outset that the trans community is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to community safety, both in the community and corrections facilities. We have seen a number of incidents in corrections facilities where a trans member has been attacked. Certainly there are a number of concerns for authorities when it comes to this. Also, in terms of the changes, concerns around looking at tracking sex offenders, prisoners and those on parole have been raised. On the provisions for serious sex offenders, prisoners and parolees, the information has been vague and lacks a lot of detail when it comes to this bill. There have certainly been a number of cases that have been raised. I know the Canadian case of trans woman Jessica Yaniv, who took 16 beauticians to the Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to wax her scrotum in a Brazilian wax. I know that has been raised. But there have been some even more specific issues in terms of within the prisons themselves. I note that prisons must balance the welfare of transgender offenders with offenders, particularly women, whose safety could be threatened by prisoners who were born male. An example that I want to cite is Karen White in the UK. Karen White was a convicted paedophile who now identifies as a woman. She assaulted two prisoners while in a women’s jail in 2017. This is absolutely a case where the safety of those in the prison was certainly not dealt with well. As Richard Garside from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies says, ‘We have a clash of rights’, and it is balancing those rights which is really, really important. But community safety should always be paramount in terms of whatever we look at. The member for Ripon raised a number of issues around women’s groups and women’s rights. I also note the comments I have received from the Victorian Women’s Guild, particularly around equal opportunity and protecting single-sex spaces—very, very important issues. Also, as the member for Ripon said, there are not many jurisdictions that have gone down this path, and it is great to be a leader in some respects in terms of what you do, but when you are changing such important legislation as this, it is important to have very broad consultation. I note that a number of those women’s groups were not properly consulted on this. We just need to make sure we get things right. We talk a lot about equal opportunity in this place and we talk a lot about trying to balance things when it comes women, and I think it is important that we have that proper consultation. Back to justice, interestingly enough what the UK prison system has done since the Karen White issue is set up a transgender wing, looking to resolve the clash of women’s rights. The prison service reckons there are about 139 transgender inmates in England, and they must balance the welfare of transgender offenders with those other prisoners, particularly women, whose safety could be threatened by prisoners who were born male. It cited the Karen White incident and has gone as far as to actually look at a prison system that protects both the transgender community and the broader community as well. These are really important issues that I raise, because in the justice system we do quite often see people that are very, very vulnerable. We do need to make sure that all of those processes are properly considered to ensure that people’s safety is absolutely paramount. These are some of the things we should be exploring. We need to understand in this Parliament when we change laws what the consequences are, and ensure that those consequences are always protected in terms of community safety. There is no doubt we need to do more. We need to do more in terms of equality, we absolutely need to do more in terms of the LGBTIQ community and we need to do more in terms of discrimination in a broader sense. But the issues in terms of this bill are certainly some that need further exploring to ensure that there are those safeguards and to ensure that we have got things right, because at the end of the day, when it comes to these sorts of situations, we do not get a second chance.

Standing in solidarity with the Muslim community in Christchurch

Aleph Melbourne stands in solidarity with the Muslim community after the Christchurch shooting.

Aleph Melbourne acknowledges the unthinkable act of hate perpetrated against the Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand.  We offer our unconditional love and sympathy to the friends and families of those who lost their lives, and our deepest concerns and well-wishes to those injured.

Our communities have been inextricably united by crimes against our humanity, whether due to the religion we practice, our sexuality, our gender or gender identity, the colour of our skin, the language we speak, our country of birth, or the clothes we wear.

Orlando was an act of homophobia

Pittsburgh was an act of antisemitism.

Christchurch was an act of Islamophobia.

None of these make sense.

We must hold our governments to account.  They have used us as a political wedge to further their own agenda, creating division and fear in the broader community.

We must ensure that they collectively stand up and decry those who promote bigotry and intolerance, starting from within their own ranks.  They must also not abuse us by gaining political advantage from our pain and suffering.

Gun laws must be tightened everywhere.  Racism must be condemned.  Bigotry must be called out.

Our hearts have been broken.

Our humanity has been shattered.

Our communities have been fractured.

Please accept our hand of friendship and our love during this painful time and forever.

Jewish community responses to religious discrimination in schools

Jewish Community responses to the removal of discrimination against staff and students at religious schools.

This table will be updated as further details come to hand.
Last update: 5:54pm 04-Dec-2018

Organisation (click for statement)StateRemove exemptions
Bialik CollegeVIC
The King David SchoolVIC
Mount Scopus Memorial CollegeVIC
Leibler Yavneh CollegeVIC
Mount Sinai CollegeNSW
Emanuel SchoolNSW
Institute for Judaism and CivilisationVIC
Aleph MelbourneVIC
Sholem Aleichem CollegeVIC
Moriah CollegeNSW
United Jewish Education BoardVIC
Yeshivah & Beth Rivkah CollegesVIC
NSW Board of Jewish EducationNSW
Board of Progressive Jewish EducationNSW
Carmel SchoolWA
Sinai CollegeQLD