July 11 2021
Aleph Melbourne notes that on June 8 in a speech calling out racism and antisemitism, whilst invoking survivors of the Holocaust, NSW MP Walt Secord used a derogatory term used to shame effeminate and gay men.
Calling a response “limp-wristed and totally inadequate” only serves to further shame men for their mannerisms. This is an example of toxic masculinity at its worst, and contributes to the negative mental health outcomes many same-sex attracted men experience.
Perhaps Mr Secord is unaware that gay men, some Jewish, also survived the Holocaust. Being effeminate may have been a reason they came to the attention of the Nazi regime.
Mr Secord has form in relation to making homophobic comments. In 2017 he was reported to have made a similarly unacceptable remark in Parliament.
People who stand up for human dignity must not pick and choose who they stand up for. Standing up for Jews must not come at the expense of gay and bisexual men.
Aleph Melbourne calls on Mr Secord to reflect on his behaviour and issue an apology for his unsatisfactory choice of words.
The Hon. WALT SECORD (17:03): As the acting chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel and the patron of the New South Wales Labor Israel Action Committee, I comment on the inadequate answer given by the education Minister in relation to a shameful anti-Semitic incident involving an employee of the education department. The Minister’s answer was woefully inadequate and did not respond appropriately to the seriousness of the matter. The Minister said that she and her department reject all forms of racism, but she refused to say whether that person is still employed in her department. I am referring to an article entitled “NSW government staffer behind Hitler slur”, which was published in the 4 June edition ofThe Australian Jewish News and was penned by senior journalist Gareth Narunsky.
The incident relates to an employee of the education department posting on Facebook a photograph of Adolf Hitler with the words “It’s such a shame he didn’t finish his job.” Such a posting is reprehensible for anyone, let alone an employee of the education department. To give an illustration of the community concern about this, as at 4.00 p.m. it was the fourth most-viewed news item onThe Australian Jewish News‘ The Times of Israel website. The incident is deeply offensive to the Jewish community, especially survivors of the Shoah, those who fought Nazism and fascism and any sensible member of the community.
I also concur with the Australasian Union Of Jewish Students activist Gabrielle Stricker-Phelps, who called on the education department to take action. Sadly, the response from the education department has been limp‑wristed and totally inadequate. The education department would only say, “Our code of conduct outlines the expected behaviour of staff,” and “We cannot comment on the particulars of any case.” You have got to be kidding. The education department and the Minister should have condemned outright the actions of the departmental employee in unequivocal terms. I have witnessed and seen this Minister for several years and I am absolutely surprised that she would let this go through to the keeper. I thought that she would have taken action on this and condemned it in unequivocal terms. I am deeply disappointed.
To assist honourable members, I seek leave to table a print out of the offensive social media post, which I referred to in my question and supplementary question for written answer.
I am deeply grateful to David Southwick MP for personally extending an invitation to Aleph Melbourne to provide a submission to the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections. I am also grateful to the committee of the inquiry for accepting our submission.
For many years I have witnessed vilifying comments originating within the Jewish community, directed at Jewish LGBTIQ+ people. These hateful comments, which appeared in Jewish print, broadcast, online and social media outlets, formed the basis of Aleph Melbourne’s submission to the inquiry.
The committee found our submission sufficiently compelling that they quoted from it in their report.
The Jewish community does not tolerate an iota of hate directed at it, and it should not tolerate an iota of hate emanating from it.
The committee recommended strengthening anti-vilification laws, including adding protections for LGBTIQ+ people and those with HIV/AIDS. Doing so will make Victoria a safer place for all people, whether they are Jewish, LGBTIQ+, or any other category.
Michael BarnettAustralian Jewish News, March 19, 2021, page 19
Co-convenor, Aleph Melbourne
In addition to commentary on race, religion and ethnicity, the Committee also heard evidence that disproportionately negative media commentary has serious consequences for various other groups, such as the LGBTIQ community. For example, in its submission, Aleph Melbourne stated:
Since 2001 there have been numerous hateful and vilifying attacks on LGBTIQ+ people in print and social media, originating in or closely connected to Melbourne’s Jewish community. Had such attacks been anti‑Semitic in nature it is likely there would have been justified outrage from the Jewish community and attempts made to seek legal remedy under anti‑vilification legislation. At present there is no equivalent protection available for attacks on LGBTIQ+ people.64
6.1 Adapt school curricula across the disciplines from years K-12 to include:
- in primary school, the development of a respectful understanding and de-stigmatising of difference (eg race, religion, disability)
- from Year 7 in high school, addressing specific forms of racism and bigotry eg anti-Jewish, anti-Indigenous, anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, anti-LGBTIQ; and teaching students to self-reflect about their own prejudices
- from Year 10, focusing on the destructive effects of racism and bigotry both in Australia and in other parts of the world, both historically and in contemporary society
- in Years 11-12, reinforcing those themes in more depth in optional subjects.
Join us in calling for an end to violence and criminalisation against LGBT+ people and for a global ban on conversion therapy.
We recognise that certain religious teachings have, throughout the ages, been misused to cause deep pain and offense to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex.
This must change.
That is why we have launched the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives, which aims to provide a strong and authoritative voice from religious leaders across the global faith community who wish to affirm and celebrate the dignity of all, independent of a person’s sexuality, gender expression and gender identity.
Australian Jewish organisations demand end to cruel treatment of ‘boat people’
Seven years have now passed since the then Australian government announced that all people seeking asylum who arrived on unauthorised boats would be processed offshore and that none would ever be resettled in Australia, a policy that has been continued by all Australian governments since.
A July 2020 report by the Refugee Council of Australia shows again the immense suffering thus caused for thousands of despairing men, women and children, including self-harm, 12 deaths offshore, by suicide or for want of medical care, and other deaths while in limbo in Australia. Despite the passage of seven long years and expenditure of $7.6 billions of taxpayers’ money, hundreds of people still remain trapped in Papua New Guinea or Nauru or, having been brought to Australia for proper medical care, are in detention and not receiving it.
Only last century, thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in Europe were denied entry to other countries, or escaped only by recourse to ‘people smugglers’. As a result, all states, including Australia, now have obligations under the Refugee Convention of 1951, its 1967 Protocol, and international humanitarian law, to receive people who claim asylum because of well-founded fears of persecution and to process their claims expeditiously and compassionately. Australia has repeatedly breached those obligations and shamefully continues to do so in respect of the asylum seekers still in Papua New Guinea and Nauru or evacuated for medical reasons and detained in Australia.
Together with many fellow Australians, we demand that our Government take immediate and effective action to resettle these people safely and give them some hope again in what remains of their interrupted and damaged lives.
Signed as of 30 July 2020
Aleph Melbourne | Ameinu Australia | Australian Jewish Democratic Society | Betar Australia | J-Greens (Vic) | Jewish Labour Bund Melbourne | Jewish Lesbian Group Victoria | Jews for Refugees (Australia) | Jews for Refugees (Sydney) | Jewish Voices for Peace & Justice (NSW) | Kehilat Koleinu | Habonim Dror Australia | Hashomer Hatzair Australia | Inner West Chavurah | Meretz Australia | Music for Refugees | NIF Australia | Progressive Judaism Victoria | SKIF
Aleph Melbourne is a signatory to the sections of this report that address sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).
SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY AND EXPRESSION, AND SEX CHARACTERISTICS
Since 2016, Australia has recognised marriages between two people regardless of gender.52 States have amended laws to make it easier for legal gender to be changed,53 to allow adoption by couples regardless of gender,54 and to expunge convictions for historical homosexual offences.55 Some states may soon prevent so-called ‘conversion’ practices which seek to eliminate or suppress the affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities.56
Despite such reforms (and sometimes accompanying them57), discrimination, harassment and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and bodily variations in sex characteristics, remain prevalent.58
Within 18 months, Australia must:
- advance reforms in remaining states which impose unjust hurdles (including requirements for surgery) on people seeking official identity documents reflecting their gender;59
- implement recommendations on ending harmful practices (including forced and coercive medical interventions) to ensure the bodily integrity of children with intersex variations;60
- ensure access to redress, independent affirmative peer support and psychosocial support for people with intersex variations and their families;61
- capture SOGIESC data62 in its 2021 national census and other significant collections to provide a robust evidence-base for future public policy and government interventions; and
- implement effective measures to reduce SOGIESC-based bullying, harassment and violence, particularly targeted at youth.63
EQUALITY AND NON-DISCRIMINATION
Australia protects against discrimination through multiple inconsistent and overly technical anti-discrimination legislation. Australia’s piecemeal approach does not provide remedies for intersectional discrimination, and creates significant exceptions and barriers to individuals bringing complaints.
Australia must enact a comprehensive Equality Act that addresses all prohibited grounds of discrimination, promotes substantive equality and provides effective remedies, including against systemic and intersectional discrimination.
Religious discrimination is not currently addressed by standalone federal discrimination law. In 2019 the federal government released a draft Religious Discrimination Bill. The proposed Bill goes far beyond protecting against religious discrimination and provides people and faith-based institutions with a licence to discriminate on religious grounds, including when delivering healthcare. The Bill privileges religious views over patient health needs, and removes existing anti-discrimination protections, including for women, people with disabilities, SOGIESC, and people from minority faiths.
Australia must not enact the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.
Voice, Treaty, Truth – Jewish organisations reaffirm support for First Nations Australians from the heart
We recognise the deep moral and political significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in our own hearts.
Jews have also experienced the deep silence that follows atrocity and genocide, the experience of being abandoned by humanity, the struggle for recognition of confronting truths, and the tormenting powerlessness of not being heard.
In this year of 2020, which marks the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the British in Australia and dispossession of its original inhabitants, it is very important to recognise how much work and structural change is still needed to heal the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The health crisis this year in Australia is but one of many issues that highlight the continuing vulnerability and powerlessness of First Nations in their own country.
We reaffirm our full-hearted support for:
- amendment of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the Constitution;
- establishment by legislation or letters patent of a Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of truth-telling about our history as a path to reconciliation between First Nations and other Australians and to oversee the making of agreements between First Nations and Federal and State governments.
Despite what has happened over the past 250 years, the First Nations of Australia have shown great dignity, patience, tenacity and generosity of spirit, inviting all Australians to walk with them to create a fuller expression of our shared nationhood.
We accept the invitation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart with gratitude and pledge to work with First Nations, all Federal and State politicians, local and city authorities, religious, ethnic and civil society organisations, business leaders and our fellow citizens in moving together towards a better future.
All Australian Jewish organisations are invited to declare their support for this statement during 2020 and the following have done so as at 27 May 2020, the 53rd anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and three years after the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart:
ALEPH Melbourne, Ameinu Australia, Australian Union of Jewish Students, Betar Australia, Emanuel Synagogue, Habonim Dror Australia, Hashomer Hatzair Australia, Inner West Chavura, Jewish Labour Bund, Jewish Voices for Peace & Justice (NSW), Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria, Jews for Refugees (Victoria), Kehilat Nitzan, Meretz Australia, Music for Refugees, Netzer Australia, NIF Australia, North Shore Temple Emanuel, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Progressive Judaism Victoria, SKIF, StandUp
View statement PDF here.20200604-Voice-Treaty-Truth-Jews-support-First-Nations-Australia
The third potential outbreak which concerns me is anti-LGBT vilification. That is, attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – and the LGBT community more broadly – claiming that we are somehow responsible for promulgating the coronavirus, or deserving of infection because of our supposed ‘sinful lifestyles’.
This is not a hypothetical fear, either. At the start of April, Melbourne Jewish radio station J-AIR broadcast the following homophobic and transphobic comments from a Rabbi Kessin:
But there is also no anti-LGBT vilification coverage in Victoria[iii] (meaning the earlier comments on a Melbourne Jewish radio station were likely lawful), or in Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory.“Discrimination Under the Cover of Corona” by Alastair Lawrie; May 16 2020