Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024

Published on: March 2024

Record: HANSARD-1323879322-139912

Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024

Second Reading Debate

Business resumed.

Ms JO HAYLEN (Summer HillMinister for Transport) (18:44:32):

— I speak on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. This bill has been a long time coming. I acknowledge the many survivors, advocates and organisations that have fought for us to be debating the bill today. I thank the Attorney General for his diligence and attention in bringing this bill to the Parliament, and especially acknowledge the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, the Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC; the Minister for Health, the Hon. Ryan Park; and the member for Sydney for their work to bring an end to conversion practices in New South Wales. I note that prior to the 2023 New South Wales State election there was bipartisan support for ending conversion practices. I hope that bipartisan support will continue throughout this debate.

Preventing Harm, Promoting JusticeResponding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia

The bill prohibits practices directed to changing or suppressing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. It creates criminal offences where substantial harm is caused and establishes a civil complaints scheme in relation to conversion practices. Amnesty International references the Human Rights Law Centre report: , which indicates that 10 per cent of the LGBTIQA+ people in Australia are "vulnerable to harmful conversion therapy practices" and that currently at least 10 organisations are publicly advertising conversion practices in Australia. While conversion practices have a long history in New South Wales, today this House will deny them a future.

The Sydney Morning Herald

It is important to dispel the misconception that conversion practices do not occur in New South Wales. Eamon McCaughan, a survivor of the practices, shared his story with last week. He explained how at the age of 17 his family took him to a psychologist who claimed he could "fix" his homosexuality. He explained how he was asked to listen to meditation music, recalling the first time he was attracted to a man. He said:

They'd get you to focus on particular moments in your life and then try to unpack it and twist it …

They'd say this is not actually how you felt... this is just unnatural.

He explained how, two years after participating in the sessions, he attempted to take his own life, noting that he is now being treated for bipolar disorder, which he attributes to the sessions. He said, "My brain was at war with itself." Earlier this month Samuel Johnson, a constituent, wrote to share his own story. With his permission, today I share with members his brave and beautifully written letter. Samuel wrote:

If my 16‑year‑old self had anything to do with it, this letter wouldn't exist. But as your constituent and a Marrickville local, I wanted to share my personal experience of surviving conversion practices with you, in the hope of illustrating the urgency of reforming NSW law to protect LGBTIQA people.

As an adolescent, I became fearful of a difference I felt deeply but could not consciously acknowledge.

I sought help at church and found it in the form of a pamphlet and website from a conversion organisation. It contained advice on how I could be free of sin: by praying to God to make me normal.

I did so discreetly and precautionarily, to mitigate against the prospect of spending an eternity in hell away from those I loved. By age 15, I raised my hand to be prayed over during a youth service at a Pentecostal church I attended with friends.

The pastor relayed that homosexuality was curable with prayer and that there was hope for transformation.

Initially, the tactics seemed innocuous, even vital; I wanted to be a good person and I thought conversion practices offered a path toward achieving this objective.

When they didn't work, I descended into dysphoria. My ability to lead the fulfilling life I wanted for myself gradually collapsed.

I last attempted conversion twelve years ago as a politics student at the University of Sydney. Starting uni, I wanted to perform with SUDs and run for the SRC. But I was so wound up in a cycle of fear that I would take a rubber band to class and whip myself upon observing a desire I determined was incompatible with a good life.

Shame and suppression derailed my mental health thereon, spurring a chronic avoidance of my peers and the opportunities I craved.

In May this year I will be 32. Privately, I continue to bear the consequences of conversion ideology across multiple domains of life. Recovery began when I came out over six years ago, and it has been long and costly: I spend up to $6,000 on therapy annually. I otherwise struggle to quantify my losses.

My twenties came and went without the joy of a romantic relationship.

I lost years of income and career advancement to the symptoms of complex trauma. I endured periods of paralysis in connecting with friends and family. I developed an eating disorder to cope with the pain.

But there's been immense joy and healing since coming out, too. I've had the privilege of a second adolescence, the opportunity to unwind years of self-abnegation to explore who I am outside of a relentless struggle to survive. I entered a loving relationship last year and introduced my partner to my family over Christmas.

Last weekend I marched for the first time in Mardi Gras; an experience of profound acceptance that once seemed as impossible as writing this letter.

And I have rediscovered the energy to be had in acting not out of fear (as conversion ideology rewired my brain to do), but out of conviction.

It is with conviction that I believe LGBTIQA people deserve to be treated with dignity, that our laws should protect us from harm.

Samuel concludes his letter by saying, and I think this is a call to all of us:

Like many in the LGBTIQA community, I believe religious freedom is to be cherished and protected in this wonderfully diverse country of ours.

I also believe it can coexist with protections for LGBTIQA people that would help to consign experiences such as mine to the past. Indeed, in banning conversion practices, the Bill includes important measures to protect religious expression.

The sense of loss I carry today is compounded by the knowledge that the longer we wait to legislate protections for LGBTIQA people, the longer young lives are subjected to a harm that is unseen, unquantifiable, and unnecessary.

I had the opportunity to speak again with Samuel this week, and I am incredibly grateful to him for sharing his story. His is one of many stories that have motivated people to work for such a long time to bring us to this bill today. Like other members have acknowledged, I have also been contacted by residents, churches and organisations with concerns about the bill. I assure those residents that I have read and contemplated those concerns.

This bill is considered. It has emerged from detailed consultation led by a joint working group with over 150 stakeholders, eight stakeholder round tables, and following over 130 written submissions from the health, education, legal and government sectors, faith and multicultural organisations, LGBTIQA community advocates and victim-survivors. The bill seeks to strike a balance in recognising the rights of individuals to religious expression and to be free from harm from practices that seek to suppress a person's sexuality or gender identity. But as Samuel's story demonstrates, LGBTIQA+ people of faith are the most vulnerable to these practices. The driving principle behind the bill is that conversion practices have no place in modern Australia. The driving principle is that LGBTIQA+ people are owed acknowledgement and dignity and that those LGBTIQA+ people who are of faith are also entitled to safety and to life.

The 2020-2022 National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing reveals that 74.5 per cent of lesbian, gay and non-heterosexual people have experienced a mental disorder in their lives, as opposed to 41.7 per cent of heterosexual Australians; 41.2 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people have reported attempting self-harm in their lifetimes, compared with 7.4 per cent of heterosexual people; 85.2 per cent of non-binary people in Australia have experienced a mental disorder, with almost 80 per cent reporting that they have seriously considered taking their own lives; and 70.6 per cent of transgender people report having experienced a mental health disorder in their lifetimes. A peer-reviewed study published in 2021 suggests that 63 per cent of transgender Australians reported previous self-harm and 43 per cent had attempted to take their own lives.

Discrimination and stigma have a real cost. We have come a long way in recognising the fundamental rights of LGBTQA+ people, and I acknowledge we still have a very long way to go to deliver equality and to ensure that all LGBTQA+ people are able to live free from discrimination. But today is a good day. It is an historic day. I said earlier that, with the passing of this bill, we can deny conversion practices a future in New South Wales. I am proud that a New South Wales Labor government is finally getting that done. But, more importantly, today we deliver a brighter future for young LGBTIQA+ people in New South Wales who may have otherwise been subjected to these practices and told that who they are is wrong. Today we say to them: You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You do not need to be anything other than who you are.

Ms KELLIE SLOANE (Vaucluse) (18:54:42):

I contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I briefly reflect on the very moving speech by the member for Summer Hill. Samuel is heard by everyone in this Chamber. He is brave and he is acknowledged. I wish him so much happiness. I ask that the member for Summer Hill pass that on to Samuel and thank him for his story. I thank everyone who has sent their stories to members. We are reading them and taking them seriously, and I hope we have a good outcome for those people. Tonight I offer some personal reflections and I hope to offer the reflections of the many constituents who have written to me and represent a broad church of views. They are views from all sides of the social spectrum but they are united in the goal of preventing harm and doing it right.

I had great joy, a bit like Samuel, in joining the Mardi Gras parade two weeks ago. I marched down Oxford Street and it was a night of inclusion, celebration, equality and love. It was a demonstration of our State at its best, of the power of respect and inclusion that we clearly cherish in New South Wales and of the power of freedom, to live a life free from discrimination and to be authentic to oneself. As I marched among the glitter and the wonderful costumes, I saw the joy on the faces of the countless members of the LGBTQI+ community. All of them were enjoying a night with friends, family, children and colleagues. I know the joy and freedoms of a night like Mardi Gras for the LGBTQI+ community were not easily won. It was the result of decades of campaigning. It was the result of struggle and working from grassroots to government, of turning the community's eyes and ears to the undisputable truth that there is nothing wrong with LGBTQI+ people. They deserve to be afforded the same rights and freedoms as anybody else.

In supporting this bill, if the bill is supported, we will help to make New South Wales a safer place for LGBTQI+ people. We are saying that they do not need fixing, that they are not broken and that it is not okay to try to change them. Victim‑survivors of conversion practices have been found to have poor mental health, including depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, heightened suicidal ideation and a higher number of suicide attempts in comparison with other LGBTQI+ people. The practices also perpetuate a broader damaging narrative, and lead to societal prejudice and even family rejection. Harmful gay conversion and suppression practices should be banned. As simple as that statement sounds, it is not easy to draft legislation because we must carefully navigate the definitions of what constitutes conversion and suppression practices, not just the obvious but at the fringes, including how we protect religious speech and teachings and how we make sure that natural and often imperfect conversations between parents and children delivered with love and the best of intentions are not prosecuted.

There are important safeguards for parents, faith communities and health professionals within this legislation. But they should be afforded adequate scrutiny. It is unfortunate that such an important piece of legislation—one that is not clear cut to many people, a bill that is challenging for many faith groups—was announced via news conference and delivered in the House without any consultation with the Liberals and The Nationals and the constituents we all represent. In this place, that is more than two million people who should be afforded that opportunity on such an important social bill. In the words of the Attorney General, "This is a complex and delicate area of law reform," yet the Coalition has only had a matter of days to reach out to our own community groups and stakeholders to discuss this very important piece of legislation to make sure that it is a journey for good together.

I support amendments to the bill to strengthen protections for all. I also support time for further consultation. It is my sincere hope that members can work together constructively on behalf of our communities to achieve a positive result, because it is not just the legislation that is important; it is the message that we are sending. In banning harmful gay conversion practices we are saying that it does not matter who you love or how you identify, you are okay just as you are. There is nothing that needs fixing, and anyone who tries to do that or tries to harm you will be accountable under law. You should be immensely proud of who you are. Live your authentic life and don't go changing.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (19:00:21):

I make a brief contribution to the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. From the outset I acknowledge the varying views of the people who have come into my office. I also acknowledge that the Government's approach to the bill recognises that this is a complex area of law reform. It is important to balance prohibiting these harmful practices with protecting things like freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief. Hearing the information and the views that have come to my office I can say that there has been a lot of misinformation in our communities about the bill, so I think it is important to put on the record what the bill is not. The bill does not prohibit general expressions of religious belief, principles or teachings; private prayer, including personal prayer reflection; an individual by their own consent seeking guidance through prayer; general rules in educational institutions—for example, general requirements in relation to school uniform; or parents having discussions with their children related to sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion.

Conversion practices violate basic human rights, but they also perpetuate harm and suffering. It is crucial to recognise that being gay or queer is not a choice. Sexual orientation is a fundamental aspect of who we are as individuals, and at a bare minimum it should be respected and not subjected to attempts to change. Forcing someone to deny their true self can lead to profound psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and suicide. No-one should have to endure such anguish simply for being who they are. Conversion practices lack scientific legitimacy. Major medical and mental health associations have condemned conversion therapies as ineffective, unethical and harmful. There is no credible evidence to support the notion that sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed through these methods. In fact, attempting to do so can cause severe psychological trauma and damage. These practices violate the basic principles of autonomy and consent, but also perpetuate stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community.

The bill is about protecting vulnerable individuals from harm and ensuring that everyone has the right to live authentically and without fear or discrimination. By outlawing these harmful practices we send a clear message that gay and queer rights are human rights and that no-one should be subjected to discrimination or abuse based on their sexual orientation. Banning conversion therapy practices is a matter of human rights, compassion and evidence-based policy. It is about standing up for the dignity and autonomy of LGBTQIA+ individuals, ensuring that they are treated with the respect and acceptance that they deserve.

It is essential to recognise that being gay and queer is not wrong, and that banning conversion practices is a matter of dignity and their human rights. Queer individuals deserve the same respect, acceptance and freedoms as anyone else. No-one should be subjected to conversion practices that deny their true selves and inflict psychological harm. There is nothing wrong with being gay or queer. You are not broken, you are not doing anything wrong and you do not need fixing. We should all affirm the inherent dignity of every person and stand in support of equality and human rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation. I commend the bill to the House.

Ms KOBI SHETTY (Balmain) (19:04:46):

I speak on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. The proposed bill is welcome and long overdue. As my Greens colleague the member for Newtown outlined in her speech, and as the member for Ballina will also speak to, The Greens have long been advocates for the queer community, and we unequivocally support the banning of conversion practices. I have heard directly from queer people in my electorate of Balmain who have suffered because of conversion practices and the dangerous falsehood that suggests that queer sexuality and gender diversity are disorders that require treatment. Those dangerous falsehoods cannot be allowed to persist and harmful conversion practices must not continue. We must acknowledge that queer people in our communities have a right to equality, without exception. We have a duty to ensure that members of the queer and gender-diverse community are safe and do not face discrimination and harmful practices. To fulfill this duty, we must ensure that our laws are fit for purpose and align with evidence‑based best practice.

Outlawing conversion practices in this State is long overdue. New South Wales lags behind others, including Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand, which have all outlawed conversion practices. New South Wales must act now to avoid falling further behind in this critical area. As my colleague in the other place Dr Amanda Cohn said, "New South Wales still has the worst laws in the country for LGBTIQ+ people." Shamefully, New South Wales is the only jurisdiction that still requires people to have invasive and medically unnecessary genital surgery to change their gender on official documents such as driver licences. We also have an Anti-Discrimination Act that protects trans men and women but fails to protect non-binary people. It protects homosexuality but not bisexuality or asexuality. Our anti-discrimination legislation should offer protection and equality, again without exception. While the current proposals are a welcome step, it is clear that so much more work needs to be done to ensure equality for all.

Looking at the detail of the bill, I raise several concerns, as my colleague the member for Newtown has done. In particular, I share the concerns regarding exemptions in part 2, clauses 3 and 4 of the bill. These clauses explicitly prevent a number of acts from being deemed a conversion practice, including parents discussing matters relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion with their children, or general rules in educational institutions. Expressions of belief or principles, including in prayer, that are "not part of a practice, treatment or sustained effort, directed to changing or suppressing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity" are not considered conversion practices under the bill. The Greens believe that this exclusion is a significant cause for concern, given that survivors of conversion practices have stressed that homophobic or transphobic beliefs or principles expressed during sermons can cause the same harm as practices specifically directed at an individual. Those expressions can be just as damaging to queer and gender-diverse people and they should not be the subject of an exemption.

Last week we were privileged to listen to survivors of conversion practices who were brought to Parliament by Equality Australia. Many of them discussed how the influence of sermons since their early childhood had heavily influenced their belief that they were broken, damaged or evil, and that they needed to seek help to fix themselves. Those stories were incredibly harrowing. The bravery of these survivors recounting their deeply personal experiences to strangers time and again is nothing short of remarkable. I thank them for their care about others' suffering and for being willing to speak up about these issues. It is truly remarkable, considering everything they have been through.

In addition, I draw attention to section 47 of the bill—as my colleague the member for Newtown did—which currently requires that an impacted individual makes a complaint themselves or that a third party identifies the affected individual for whom they are lodging a complaint. Victoria and New Zealand have an alternative system in place that allows third-party complainants to lodge complaints without identifying the affected individual. This would be preferable to the current proposal, as it would offer better protection without placing all of the burden on individual victims.

To conclude, while improvements should be made to this legislation and further changes to New South Wales anti-discrimination laws should be pursued, this legislation is a good start. I hope to see further action to help end discrimination and ensure equality for all, without exception. I acknowledge the incredible work and advocacy of groups like the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts Survivor group, the Brave Network, Equality Australia and others who have continued to advocate for these changes, and of my colleagues in this place who have continued to advocate strongly for these changes, such as the member for Sydney and my Greens colleagues. I will continue working alongside my Greens colleagues to deliver this for our community in New South Wales.

Dr MICHAEL HOLLAND (Bega) (19:09:59):

I speak today in support of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I am proud to be part of the New South Wales Labor Government, which has made a commitment to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices, which are harmful formal or informal practices based on the ideology that LGBTQ+ individuals have a disorder or require treatment. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 prohibits practices directed to changing or suppressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill creates criminal offences for persons when substantial harm is caused and creates a civil complaints scheme in relation to the practices.

The bill makes it clear that general conversations around religious beliefs or how religious beliefs might be reflected in a person's life are not conversion practices. This includes personal prayer, seeking spiritual guidance or stating religious teachings. It satisfies the general requirements of religious orders and membership of a religious community and protects parents' rights to discuss with their children matters related to sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion. The bill provides that a conversion practice does not include the expression of a religious belief or principle, or the expression that a belief or principle ought to be followed or applied, if those expressions are not part of a practice, a treatment or a sustained effort directed to changing or suppressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill strikes a balance between an effective prohibition and respecting freedom of expression and religion. This is a sincere attempt to balance the rights of faith groups.

The bill defines a conversion practice as a practice, treatment or sustained effort that is directed to an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity to change or suppress that individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. From a clinical and healthcare perspective, the bill makes it clear that clinically appropriate health care provided by a registered health practitioner, facilitating genuine identity exploration and development, including providing acceptance, support and understanding, and expressions of beliefs or principles are not conversion practices.

The bill explicitly provides that a health service or treatment which is assessed by a registered health practitioner as clinically appropriate and which complies with relevant professional, legal and ethical requirements is not a conversion practice. The legislation also has a non-exhaustive list of examples of what these health services or treatments might look like. These include genuinely assisting an individual exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity, or considering or undergoing a gender transition; genuinely assisting an individual receiving care and treatment relating to gender identity; and genuinely advising about the potential impacts of gender‑affirming medical treatment.

While these examples are demonstrative, no matter what kind of professional service or treatment, if it is not assessed as clinically appropriate in the reasonable professional judgement of the registered health practitioner, it will not be covered by this exclusion. Health care should be provided on the basis of clinical judgement. Health care is patient specific, but it must be provided within an appropriate ethical framework, with registered health practitioners complying with relevant standards and guidelines. Both the Australian Medical Association and the Australian psychological association oppose LGBTQ+ conversion practices. Health practitioners are bound by the principles of medical ethics: beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice.

As a medical professional, one has the privilege to be involved in the most sensitive and confidential elements of human existence. And one learns that the expression of human identity, through sexual orientation, behaviours, preferences, gender identity or spirituality, has an infinite spectrum. The concepts of personal identity and the self are central to understanding individual consciousness, personality development and social interaction. They involve acknowledging the diversity of experiences and the importance of respect, consent and communication in all forms of relationships. They encompass the internal, reflective aspect of personal identity. They include one's awareness of one's own existence, traits, thoughts and emotions. Shaped by a complex interplay of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors, they highlight the multifaceted nature of human identity. This bill protects LGBTQ+ individuals from the trauma caused by harmful practices which threaten this existential core.

Conversion practices lack a scientific basis, cause psychological harm, are a violation of human rights and perpetuate social and cultural stigma against LGBTQ+ individuals. Conversion therapy is based on the discredited belief that being LGBTQ+ is a mental disorder that can be cured. As I mentioned earlier, major medical organisations, including the World Health Organization, have rejected this notion and affirm that being LGBTQ+ is a natural variation of human identity and not a disorder. Same-sex attraction and gender non-conformity are not signs of psychopathology. Rather, individuals of sexual and gender minorities should be supported in embracing their own identities.

There is a significant lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of conversion therapies. Many who have gone through these practices report that their sexual orientation or gender identity did not change. Providers of conversion therapy often make misleading claims about the success rates of their methods, which are not supported by scientific evidence. You cannot make better a person who does not have a problem. Medically, I learnt that the only thing you will create by trying to treat someone without a problem is a problem. There is substantial evidence to show that conversion practices can lead to severe psychological harm. Individuals subjected to these therapies often experience increased anxiety, depression and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts. The emotional and psychological stress induced by trying to change one's innate identity can have long-lasting negative impacts.

The majority of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer individuals lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. However, studies have found that non-heterosexual individuals face up to twice as much abuse or violence, including physical, mental, sexual or emotional, as their heterosexual counterparts. This prejudice and discrimination adds an additional layer of risk on top of biological, social, environmental and psychological factors which can lead to depression, anxiety and suicide. Research and real-life experiences have found that, when compared with heterosexual individuals, same-sex attracted and transgender individuals have higher psychological distress, significant levels of anxiety, substance abuse, self-harming and suicidal thoughts.

Conversion therapy practices are considered a violation of human rights. Being LGBTQ+ is a part of human diversity, and attempts to change or suppress it through psychological or physical interventions are unethical. These practices are often performed without the individual's consent, particularly in the case of minors. Conversion practices perpetuate the stigma against LGBTQ+ individuals by implying that their identity is undesirable or abnormal. This stigma can lead to increased discrimination and marginalisation in society. LGBTQ+ conversion practices are not only scientifically unfounded but also cause significant harm to individuals. They perpetuate harmful stereotypes and violate basic human rights, making their use and promotion a serious concern from both a psychological and ethical standpoint. Many LGBTQ+ youth are still forced into harmful so‑called treatments with devastating mental health consequences. Although sexual orientation change efforts have been widely discredited, they remain legal and continue to be practiced with lesbian, gay and bisexual children and adolescents.

Extension of time

Furthermore, as the past 20 years have seen an increase in gender‑nonconforming and transgender individuals, there has been a similar rise in efforts to socially reprogram gender‑nonconforming children and adolescents. []

Managing gender dysphoria, which is the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth, involves a multifaceted approach. It is important to emphasise that the goal is to support and affirm the individual's gender identity rather than trying to change it. The management should be evidence‑based, multidisciplinary, holistic and age‑appropriate and it can often include psychological support, social transitioning, medical interventions and continuous care. The bill fulfils the Government's election promise to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices by introducing a scheme that is right for New South Wales. The bill sends a powerful message that there is nothing wrong with LGBTQ+ people and they do not need to be fixed. I commend the bill to the house.

Mr RAY WILLIAMS (Kellyville) (19:20:58):

I have a serious problem with some aspects of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. Firstly, no-one has ever raised conversion therapy with me. However, I do not support any kind of therapy that attempts to alter a person's gender. I have said many times in this House, and I say again, that I was raised to treat everybody equally regardless of their background, race, colour, religion or gender. I stand by that and they are the values that I have instilled in my children and hopefully they will be the values that are instilled in my grandchildren. My opposition to the bill is partly due to the limited time we parliamentarians have had to digest the different aspects of the bill—only a few days. I find it particularly egregious that the Labor Government and Attorney General are avoiding greater scrutiny of the bill by the general public that could easily be done by sending the bill to a parliamentary committee.

While the Government will proclaim that it has consulted widely with church and religious school leaders, the broader community has had no opportunity to voice its support for or concerns with the bill. It has slipped under the radar and no legislation that impacts parents and families should be treated in such a flippant manner. The Labor Government talks a big game in terms of transparency but hides from the public when the going gets tough. For example, I am sure the definition of the term "suppression" contained in the bill would alarm most parents with children. The bill is ambiguous about the term, to say the least—it is undefined in bill. In the second reading speech, the Attorney General suggested that suppression is defined to mean "keep in repress" or "put an end to activity". What is the bill trying to keep in repress and what activity is to be suppressed?

Does it include a church leader talking to a parishioner who is celibate, in line with church teaching, but is seeking guidance and support because they are struggling to come to terms with their gender and are frightened to raise it with their family? In that instance, a church leader may be one of the most compassionate people for a person to talk to outside their family. Under the bill does suppression restrict a parent wishing that their child not act in a way, such as having a sexual relationship at a young age, which may be in contravention to their own family values and standards? Crucially, will this bill mean that a parent will be punished for having discussions with their adolescent child about their sexuality and for suggesting that their child should not make any decisions until they are older? Parents of adolescents who would have had discussions about a myriad of different topics will be constrained or acting illegally due to the bill. As I said, the term suppression is ambiguous at best. A parent should always have the right to discuss any topic with their children at any time and governments should stay the hell out of the family home. However, the bill will allow the Government to raise a case of a parent suppressing their children and will punish them, which is absurd.

The bill attempts to legislate a gender affirming model. But, given the wide definition of suppression, any medical, religious or parental advice given to an adolescent child that opposes the gender affirming model of care is deemed suppressive. The entire gender affirming model needs tearing up. Why is there a focus on affirmation rather than inquiry or neutrality? No other form of psychiatric or psychological care operates that way. No decision should be made without a widespread and holistic psychiatric approach to a patient's entire circumstances, including their upbringing, environment and relationships. The gender affirmation model is the attitude held by people who have never known what it is like to raise adolescent children. I wonder how many members in this Chamber voting on the bill tonight have raised adolescent children?

Ms Anna Watson:



Everyone in the Chamber?

Ms Anna Watson:

At least 95 per cent of members would have raised adolescent children. Their own and other people's as well.


I acknowledge the interjection by the member for Shellharbour but say that there would not be too many regarding the aspects of the bill. Parents of adolescent children will know only too well the many issues that their children deal with and the complexities of helping them deal with those issues on a daily basis. A child may want to get a tattoo or drop out of school and a parent will put their foot down, much to the chagrin of the child. We discuss with our children voting, why they should not smoke, drink or take drugs and many other decisions about their health and their looks. Loving, caring discussions about any issue between parents and their children should always be encouraged, not suppressed. But the bill would make it a crime for a parent of a child who is young, inexperienced and naive to discuss openly with them a declaration of something as fundamental as their sexuality or gender.

We have heard horror stories from overseas of drugs being prescribed to young adolescents after only one or two psychiatric assessments because the stated goal of the treatment is affirmation of gender. The gender affirming model is slowly being rejected overseas. Just last week, the United Kingdom banned prescribing puberty blockers due to recent research that they slow the brain's development, harm bone development and result in infertility. It is happening to children of 11 or 12 years of age when, let us be totally honest, the brain is not developed enough to make complex decisions around sex and gender. There is so much contradictory research and thought regarding those issues. There is an array of opinions and studies, many of which are being published daily.

I make my view on the matter overwhelmingly clear: I never want to see a child become infertile due to irreversible decisions that they make before they are even teenagers. I will vote against any bill that restricts or, in the wording of the bill, suppresses parents playing a loving and supportive role when discussing their children's needs, sexuality and health. The bill impacts the rights of parents to raise their child as they see fit. The former bill from the member for Sydney was a disaster. It defined gender identity, and therefore the suppression of gender identity, as including dress, mannerisms, names, personal references and speech. The bill does not make it clear that those are not included in the definition of suppression. Indeed, given the definition of gender identity as gender‑related identity—and identity can easily be expanded to include the aforementioned characteristics—I therefore argue that the bill, even in its current form, supports the inclusion of those characteristics by excluding reference to them.

The bill only provides parental exemptions for discussion but it needs to be expanded to include setting family rules and behavioural standards, which are basic discussions in any household between a parent and their children. The bill still has the potential—and in my opinion is likely—to criminalise the enforcement of a suggestion by a parent to their child about what dress, mannerisms, names, personal references and speech the child uses.

As a parent, and speaking on behalf of other parents, a parent should not be forced to accept whatever style of dress their child wishes to wear. A parent should not be forced to accept whatever mannerisms a child wishes to demonstrate. A parent should not be forced to accept whatever name a child wishes to be called. They should also never be forced to accept whatever personal references a child wishes to use, including pronouns. A parent should not be forced to accept whatever style of speech a child wishes to use. In short, a parent should not be forced to become woke in the way they raise their own children.

Extension of time

In terms of what parents can say to their children, recently I was interested in learning about what identity‑affirming speech was recommended for transgender children. I visited, partially funded by the New South Wales Government, and discovered the following expressions. Some suggestions for speech that affirms one's gender identity includes using "front hole" instead of vagina, "girldick" or "T-dick" instead of penis, "chest" instead of breasts and "the bloodening" or "Auntie/Uncle Flow" for a monthly period. They are included on the website, which is partially funded by the New South Wales Government. []

The bill seeks to criminalise a parent instructing a child not to use such terms, given that would be putting an end to activity that affirms their gender and would potentially satisfy all three limbs outlined in the Attorney General's second reading speech. In my opinion, never has there been a bill in this House that was a greater attack on parental rights. I will always stand up for the right of parents to discuss whatever issues they wish in regard to their children's health, wellbeing, sexuality or gender.

Finally, the bill contains insufficient religious exemptions. The bill needs to be expanded to include exemptions for religious services provided to the individual. The current bill contains exemptions for "genuinely facilitating an individual's coping skills, development or identity exploration to meet the individual's needs". That needs to be expanded to include "needs or requests" such that it is up to an individual which facilitations they need, via a request, rather than what a court later determines to have been the individual's need at the time. The provision as it stands is far too determinative in a matter such as this. As I said, the Government should stay out of the family home. I certainly would never support conversion therapies, but there are many aspects of the bill that I do not agree with. I oppose the bill.

Ms ANNA WATSON (Shellharbour) (19:32:35):

I start by addressing a few of the issues raised by the member for Kellyville. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 is in no way a suppression bill; it is a human rights bill, and I am alarmed by what I heard. Nowhere does the bill take away the rights of parents to discuss anything with their child, so in my view the former speaker has misled the House. I speak in favour of the bill, and I thank the Attorney General for bringing it to the House. I also thank the member for Sydney for his unwavering advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community and his amazing work in this area of law reform. It is well overdue.

I start by supporting the statements made by the Attorney General in his second reading speech essentially stating that conversion practices are founded on the idea that LGBTQ+ people are broken and need fixing. I agree with the Attorney General that there is nothing wrong with LGBTQ+ people and that they do not need to be fixed. The bill aims to stop conversion practices, which are essentially a treatment or sustained effort directed to an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity to supress or change their sexual orientation or their gender identity—again, opposing what the former speaker has just said.

This area of law reform is complex, and I have listened to views on both sides of the debate from members of my community and beyond. The bill has been developed following extensive and targeted stakeholder consultation by a joint working group from the Department of Communities and Justice and the Ministry of Health, and today the Minister for Health spoke at length about that working group. It liaised closely with the health, education, government and legal sectors; faith and multicultural organisations; LGBTQ+ community advocates; and victim-survivors of conversion practices. Importantly, the bill considers those different views and strikes a balance that will protect religious freedom whilst still protecting vulnerable people.

Those dangerous and harmful practices need to be prohibited whilst still protecting freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief. Anybody is entitled to speak to their faith leader at any time about anything, as children are able to speak to their parents and parents to speak to their children. In circumstances where people have suffered substantial harm, the bill provides a targeted criminal response for the most serious conversion practices. The bill clearly defines conversion practices and includes carefully considered exclusions and exceptions. Importantly, the bill does not prohibit general expressions of religious beliefs, principles or teachings that are not directed to change or supress sexual orientation or gender identity. It does not prevent parents from having discussions with their children related to sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion.

I am supporting the bill to protect vulnerable people from psychological and physical harm. Nobody should be told that they are broken just for liking someone of the same sex or identifying as a certain gender. It is obscene that people would seek conversion therapy as an option, and it absolutely sickens me. People should never be made to change or suppress their identity to conform with heterosexuality; nor should they have to accept a gender that corresponds with their sex as designated at birth.

Victim-survivors of conversion practices tend to have poorer mental health in comparison with other LGBTQ+ people. They have higher rates of anxiety, higher rates of depression, poorer self-esteem and higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. It must be stopped. It is inhumane, cruel and ignorant. The Minns Labor Government went to the 2023 election with a commitment to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices in New South Wales, and the bill offers a much-needed change to our current legislation. It will protect vulnerable people right across New South Wales, and I absolutely commend the bill to the House.

Ms TAMARA SMITH (Ballina) (19:37:58):

I contribute to the debate on the Conversion Practices Bill 2024. The Greens wholeheartedly support legislation to ban LGBTQIA+ conversion practices—harmful and outdated practices that deny the rights of a person to be non-heterosexual, deny a person's worth and identity, and place cruel and inhumane pressure on people because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, asexual or queer. It is hard to comprehend that those practices are still happening in our country, and I want to say to every LGBTQIA+ person in this State and in my electorate that The Greens are sorry for the discrimination they still face in our society. To every person that has been subjected to those practices and ideologies, we are so sorry, and we will do everything we can to ban those hateful and harmful practices.

I acknowledge the incredible work of Equality Australia and organisations like Amnesty International. I also acknowledge Queer Family in my own electorate for the work that it does as one of the only support services for LGBTQIA+ people and families in the Ballina electorate—a big shout-out to them. I acknowledge The Greens spokesperson for LGBTIQA+, Dr Amanda Cohn, MLC, and the former spokesperson, Jenny Leong, the member for Newtown, for their work over many years. I acknowledge the member for Sydney for his advocacy, and I thank the Labor Government for having the courage to introduce this legislation. I also thank the survivors of conversion practices who I was privileged to meet with last week. I thank them for sharing with members of this place their lived experience and trauma—such a challenging and brave thing to do—so that things can truly change for people from this point onwards. It is incredibly selfless to talk about deeply traumatic experiences in order to help others.

I understand that there are diverse views on this subject. My community includes Byron shire, which is very progressive, and Ballina shire, which has an older population. I respect people's views. But when it comes to compassion, I feel that my community is absolutely united. We were a standout on the subject of marriage equality, because we know that punishing people and believing that they are somehow wrong is absolutely inhumane. What are conversion practices? Amnesty International states:

Conversion practices, also known as Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE), are formal therapeutic and informal practices which target LGBTQA+ people of faith with the false ideology that their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender and sexual expression can be changed or suppressed.

As we have heard many times today, the underlying premise is that a person is somehow wrong. It is so deeply shaming to say to a person, "You are wrong. Your identity, your attractions, who you are is wrong." Amnesty International has outlined the history of conversion in this country as a movement that started in the 1970s with what was called the ex-gay movement. It operated under the belief that same-sex attraction or transgender identity or expression was unnatural and could be altered through prayer, personal effort or through celibacy or heterosexual marriage.

We have seen the impact of that over the past 50 years. People were told that if they just tried hard they could somehow deny who they actually were. It was not only a refusal to celebrate who the person is in all their glory; it was worse than that. It was to actually say, "There is something wrong with you." In the 1970s, conversion was more about psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and what I call "spiritual bypassing": spiritual practices with a deeply conservative and fundamentally flawed approach. By 1985, conversion practices had become quite formalised, with a coalition of ex-gay organisations deeply connected to some of the more fundamentalist evangelical religious moments.

Amnesty International states that in the 1990s, when social attitudes started to shift, the language of conversion practices became more implicit. Conversion practices were often described as "freeing" LGBTQA+ people from experiencing "unwanted" same-sex attraction or gender divergence. That has been very sinister, very deep and very covert—and, in many instances, very overt. Last week I was incredibly moved to hear from survivors of those practices just how devastating the experience was. People of faith, deeply connected to their churches and their beliefs, were told by church elders that there was something wrong with them and that they could not possibly be accepted—that they would not be accepted by their God unless they changed.

I also heard the deep grief of survivors who had not lost their faith but who had to move away from their church because of those practices. It is heartening to see so many church leaders acknowledge that this was a fundamental wrong that has no place in modern society. I attended Catholic schools and saw for myself the pervasiveness of conversion ideologies. I was distressed to hear a member suggest earlier that this law somehow penetrates the family home and speaks to parents talking to their children about anything and everything. That is absolutely absurd. That argument is fear based and ignorant. The legislation does not touch the subtle methodology of conversion by religious organisations, schools and institutions, and that is of concern to The Greens. Queer children in religious schools get that messaging every day. The bill does not touch that all. Religious schools can still discriminate against queer teachers and students.

Banning conversion practices in New South Wales was a commitment made by both major parties before the 2023 State election. The bill bans conversion practices, defined as a practice, treatment or sustained effort that is directed to an individual on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity with the intention of changing or suppressing that sexual orientation or gender identity. That will be quite a high bar—but we will see. I believe that the fears we have heard about families, for example, are unfounded. The legislation may give some organisations and religious groups cause to pause, but it will still very much be up to the individual to pursue. That will not be easy. Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand have already enacted legislation to ban conversion practices. Tasmania and South Australia are exploring potential reform, and Queensland has banned conversion practices within healthcare environments.

Extension of time

The strengths of the bill are that it covers both sexuality and gender identity. The Greens are very grateful for that. It is a very important protection for trans and gender diverse people. The bill covers practices intended to convert or suppress, which is important, because many modern conversion practices promote chastity for same‑sex attracted people or the idea that it is okay to be same-sex attracted but not to act on it. The bill has specific exemptions for religious activities—I have a problem with that, but it is what it is—but has not provided a broad exemption for religious organisations or all religious activities. []

I thank the House. The Greens also see some weaknesses in the bill. Some victim‑survivors have strongly advocated that sermon can be harmful in and of itself, and have argued that the definition of conversion practice should not be limited to practices directed to an individual. That will be the subject of a Greens amendment to be moved in the other place. The civil complaints mechanism requires the identification of a named complainant, limiting the ability of third parties with resources or capability to engage. The bill sets out an alternate power for the Minister to refer a practice, alleged practice or proposed practice to the board, which must subsequently conduct an examination under clause 48, and for the board, by resolution, to carry out investigations, research and inquiries.

To anyone who thinks the legislation will be a magic thing, there will still be many hurdles for anyone experiencing conversion practices to move forward in raising it, and for it to come under the scope of this law. The Greens will move an amendment in the other place to respond to concerns that homophobic preaching—not only practices directed to an individual—is harmful in and of itself. We will continue to pursue other reforms in this space. As education spokesperson for The Greens, I add that we absolutely must end the discrimination in religious schools towards LGBTIQ+ teachers and students. However, The Greens welcome this bill, which is overdue. It is very progressive. I am grateful to be a member of a Parliament with a Labor government that is actually undertaking this reform. I know that it is hard. Many constituents are people of faith. But The Greens are grateful. This is brave work. We commend the bill to the House.

Ms LIZA BUTLER (South Coast) (19:49:24):

I speak in support of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. Conversion practices are based on the idea that LGBTQ+ people are broken or wrong and need to be fixed. There is nothing wrong with LGBTQ+ people. They do not need fixing. Conversion practices are dangerous, and there is no room for them in New South Wales. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 has three key elements: It defines what a conversion practice is; it creates a principal criminal offence of engaging in conversion practices that cause mental or physical harm and ancillary offences; and it creates a civil regime for dealing with complaints that an entity, including an individual, has provided or delivered a conversion practice.

From the outset, the New South Wales Labor Government recognised that it is a complex area of law reform. It is important to balance prohibiting those harmful practices with protecting freedom of expression and freedom of religious beliefs. There have been strong and polarised views about the reform, but the bill represents a careful, balanced approach that takes into account those views. The consultation process carefully considered the best way to ensure that the ban would be consistent with the Premier's commitments. In 2023 a joint working group led by the Department of Communities and Justice and the Ministry of Health undertook targeted consultation with the health, education, legal and government sectors, faith and multicultural organisations, LGBTQ+ community advocates and victim-survivors. Almost 150 stakeholders were engaged, over 130 written submissions were received and eight stakeholder round tables were held. The consultation informed the underlying policy positions adopted in the bill.

The Government has never intended to ban the teachings of religious leaders or the expression of religious belief through sermon, and the bill does not ban those things. It is a New South Wales bill, and it is fit for purpose for this State. The bill provides for a graduated response to LGBTQ+ conversion practices. It is educative, it clearly defines conversion practices and it carefully sets out exemptions and exclusions. The bill provides for a civil complaints scheme and also a targeted criminal response for the most serious conversion practices, where people have suffered substantial harm. The bill does not prohibit the general expression of religious beliefs, principles or teachings if such an expression is not directed to change or suppress sexual orientation or gender identity, and it does not include private prayer, including personal prayer and reflection.

The bill allows an individual, of their own consent, to seek guidance through prayer and allows parents to have discussions with their children about sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion. The bill is aimed at stopping conversion practices on the basis of suppressing or changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The Illawarra Shoalhaven Gender Alliance is a group of psychologists, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers and allied health professionals. Many of the trans and gender-diverse people that they see have experienced terrible discrimination and, in some cases, abuse in health services, including denial of care, attempts to change gender identity, inappropriate genital examinations and untrained practitioners.

As professionals working in the area, they have told me that they see firsthand the health benefits and positive life trajectories associated with having access to local and timely gender-affirming care and experiencing broader health care in an environment of non-discrimination, respect and safety. Many people that they see are living with the legacy of being survivors of conversion therapies in their earlier lives. It is State‑sanctioned harm that has been allowed to occur in this country and other countries, and it must be outlawed and legislated against to protect LGBTQIA+ people in this State. That group of health professionals acknowledge that ending conversion practices will save lives and save many people from harm and violence at the hands of others.

I acknowledge the member for Sydney for his important work and advocacy in this space. His bill was closely considered during the development of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill. This bill reflects a legislative response that is suitably tailored to the New South Wales community and legal system. The Government's in‑depth consultation process, which included faith and multicultural organisations, parents' rights and LGBTQ+ community advocacy organisations and people with lived experience, has informed the model contained in the bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr MATT CROSS (Davidson) (19:55:08):

I contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. Firstly, I thank the hundreds of constituents from the Davidson electorate who have contacted me about the bill since the day that I was elected in March 2023. I have read their correspondence, and I thank them for engaging with me as their representative in the New South Wales Parliament. At the 2023 State election, the Liberals and The Nationals agreed to an election commitment to ban conversion practices. I note that this has the most impact on those who identify, publicly or privately, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning or asexual. In February 2023 then Liberal Premier, the member for Epping, said:

When the parliament returns, my government will provide in-principle support for legislation that brings an end to any harmful practices.

He also said:

This is a complex matter and in working through it with parliamentary colleagues we will carefully consider the legal expression and effect of such laws,

He said further:

I always encourage people to work through those issues and treat everybody with respect, understanding and tolerance.

An election commitment was also made by the current Premier, the member for Kogarah, when in opposition. Today the Labor Government is exercising its election mandate. Every single person that I meet agrees that action on this issue is required to protect individuals against harmful conversion practices. Individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ are our friends, our family and members of our community. They always deserve love and respect. I also make some remarks as a practising Christian. Sadly, some sections of the community attack religion, faith and worship. I believe that religion, although not always perfect, has been a force for good in the world.

As a legislator, I believe that legislation should, first, defend and champion freedom of speech. That is central to our liberal democracy. I note that freedom of speech does not include hate speech; there is a clear difference. Second, it should defend and champion freedom to practise faith, worship and religion. As a practising Christian, I am a believer in encouraging love and compassion in our lives. Third, it should defend and champion parents, families and carers. They play a crucial and important role in raising and supporting children. Fourth, it should protect the most vulnerable in our society. Gandhi said it best when he said, "The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members." Sadly, conversion practices have caused mental and/or physical harm to the most vulnerable members of our community. I am sorry that has happened. And fifth, it should promote inclusion. In my first speech to the New South Wales Parliament, I spoke about "the need to exercise the politics and leadership of inclusion".

The best way that we, as legislators, can agree to positions is through our values and by listening to our communities. Disappointingly, I saw the bill for the first time only one week ago. I note that the New South Wales Government has undertaken a targeted and confidential consultation with almost 150 organisations, including 134 submissions and eight targeted stakeholder-sector round tables, and I welcome that consultation. However, that consultation should be the start of the conversation, not the end of it. I believe the current consultation has not been sufficient. More needs to be done so everybody in our communities can have their say. As such, I supported the call for the Legislative Council to undertake a parliamentary inquiry with a robust submission process. That would have enabled everyone, whether they agree or disagree with the bill, to have their views listened to and considered. The inquiry would have taken place in March and April for the bill to be debated in this place in May. I also note the Liberals and The Nationals in the other place will move several amendments. I believe the bill should be clearer on parental, family and carer rights, and on practising faith, worship and religion. But it is time to ban harmful conversion practices. I return to where I started and thank the hundreds of Davidson electorate constituents who have contacted me about the bill.

Ms JULIA FINN (Granville) (20:00:24):

The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 intends to ban practices directed to changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of individuals by creating offences and a civil complaint scheme in relation to those practices. That was an election promise of the now Labor Government, and it is long overdue and very important. The bill has been a topic of much discussion, and I understand there are strong feelings on both sides, particularly within faith communities. There is also much confusion about the bill's content and focus, which is on extremely harmful and, thankfully, rare practices. At the outset we should be clear about what the bill is not. As the Attorney General said, "The Government does not intend to ban the teachings of a religious leader or expression of a religious belief through sermon."

The bill does not penalise prayer, religious advice and biblical teachings about sexuality. In their feedback, multiple members of my community raised that issue. I am pleased that community views and traditional practices have been respected in the preparation of the bill. Discussions by parents with their children are protected by the bill, although that protection does not cover the extended family. Medical practitioner services that are considered clinically appropriate are also excluded. The bill is not modelled on similar laws in other jurisdictions such as Victoria. As the Attorney General has said:

It is a New South Wales Government bill, and it is fit for purpose for New South Wales. It takes from those other models what the Government considers to be the most appropriate elements for New South Wales and, in some cases, it charts a different path altogether.

Before I delve into the specifics of the bill, I take a moment to acknowledge the human stories at the heart of the issue. LGBTQ+ people deserve to live authentically and free from the fear of being pressured to change who they are. Conversion practices—also known as conversion therapy—are a range of harmful and discredited interventions that attempt to change a person's sexuality or gender identity. They do not work and they are extremely harmful. Those practices can take many forms, from so-called talking therapies designed to convince individuals that their LGBTQI+ identity is wrong to more extreme methods like electroshock therapy.

The research is clear: Conversion practices cause significant emotional distress. They can lead to depression, anxiety and even suicidal ideation. LGBTQI+ people are not broken and do not need fixing, and treatment does not work anyway. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill is a step towards creating a society where everyone feels safe to be themselves. Conversion practices cause lasting harm and find no support among any mainstream medical or psychological professional community. There is scientific consensus that conversion therapies are not effective to change someone's sexual orientation or gendered identity and risk causing mental health problems. Overseas studies have found exposure to sexual orientation change efforts is consistently linked to a higher likelihood of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts compared with LGBTQI+ people who have not had conversion therapy.

Leading mental health organisations support the proposed New South Wales ban on conversion practices. Organisations including the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses, BEING - Mental Health Consumers, Black Dog Institute, Mental Health Carers NSW, ReachOut, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Suicide Prevention Australia and WayAhead have jointly said:

We support the legislation to ban conversion practices in NSW on the basis that these practices have:

1.Significant prevalence in the NSW community;

2.Been shown to be highly correlated with negative mental health outcomes;

3.Been shown to exacerbate stigma and discrimination against LGBTQA+ people, which are determinants for increased mental health risk, especially for young LGBTQA+ people.

The head of government relations at the Black Dog Institute, Lawrence Muskitta, said:

There is nothing therapeutic about conversion practices. The evidence is clear: these practices have a devastating effect on the mental health of the people subjected to them. We urge politicians in NSW to listen to the data and to the stories of victim-survivors, and to vote to ban conversion practices in NSW.

I recognise the concerns raised by some faith communities that view the bill as an infringement on their religious freedom. Many faith traditions hold specific beliefs about sexuality and gender identity. Those beliefs are deeply held and deserve respect.

Let us consider a hypothetical scenario: A teenager confides in a religious leader about their same-sex attraction. The religious leader, instead of offering support and understanding, subjects the teenager to conversion practices. This can lead to a deep sense of alienation from their faith and their community. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill aims to prevent such scenarios and ensure that religious settings remain a source of comfort and guidance, not fear and manipulation. Many people in my electorate have contacted me about the bill. Some are very supportive, but some are not. I thank them all for taking the time to contact me and tell me their views. I also thank the local churches that took the time to meet me last year to discuss their concerns, including Guildford Anglican Church, Merrylands Anglican Church and Merrylands Baptist Church.

I will address some of the concerns about the bill raised with me by constituents. Some said the bill is not clear. However, some of the key elements are, in my view, very clear. I note that in the second reading speech the Attorney General said:

Macquarie Dictionary

Suppress is defined in the as "to keep in or repress" something or "put an end to activities". Ultimately, whether something is a conversion practice as defined under clause 3 (1) requires all three limbs that I have outlined to be satisfied. That is a question of fact, and it will depend on the particular circumstances.

"Practice" means a habitual or customary performance. It requires some degree of formality or established form. "Sustained effort" means conduct kept up or kept going over a period of time. If it is not a practice, treatment or sustained effort, it is not a conversion practice and the scheme in the bill does not apply. The definition excludes expressions at large or generally, such as sermons, general requirements in relation to leadership or membership of a religious community, and general school rules. It also excludes parents discussing matters regarding sexuality, sex, gender and religion with their children. It also excludes stating what relevant religious teachings are or what a religion says about a topic.

Some have told me they are concerned that prayers would be banned. I note that the Attorney General has said religious leaders are not banned from preaching generally about their views on the issue. He said:

Stating what relevant religious teachings are or what a religion says about a topic is not [gay conversion].

Going so far as to say for example, that in our faith, being a homosexual is wrong and it's a sin and you can go to hell … that's not a conversion practice.

The Conversion Practices Ban Bill is the result of extensive consultation, with not just LGBTQI+ advocates and legal experts but also faith-based organisations and the Faith Council. Open dialogue allows us to find common ground so that we can protect vulnerable individuals while respecting religious freedom. The bill is not an attack on religion but a step towards a more just and compassionate society. It can help foster a spirit of inclusion across all religious settings. I note that Faith NSW CEO Murray Norman is reported as saying, "While the bill is not perfect, our communities' concerns have been heard."

The Catholic Weekly

Monica Doumit, director of public affairs and engagement for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, said that religious exemptions in the bill were a qualified victory for common sense. She told :

While this bill has not addressed all concerns put forward by faith communities, it is a sincere attempt by the Minns government to balance the interests and concerns of many parties and to meet the commitments to protect prayer and preaching made prior to last year's election.

I note that the Uniting Church supports the bill. In an open letter to the Premier, 37 clergy—including from Parramatta, Parramatta‑Nepean and Wentworthville—wrote:

As Christian ministers, we support this legislation. The Scripture speaks of all living creatures being given life by God's spirit…

Our identity is shaped by God in that process of giving life, of bringing to birth the identity of a new human being. Furthermore, all creatures are sentient beings—we have a soul, a state of being, a life that is fully formed and given by God.

All human beings are created with the spirit of God within us…

All human beings exist within this understanding.

Our human identity is grounded in the creative work of God's spirit.

Extension of time.


Who we are is how God has made us to be—each human being is made in God's image.

There are no exceptions to this in biblical understanding …

"Conversion therapy" provides a direct challenge to such acceptance.

It seeks to intervene and "change" the way that an individual identifies.

Because we believe that who we are is a gift from God, we therefore believe that we are called to accept the identity of each individual, as they perceive and understand themselves.

Conversion therapy survivor Eamon McCaughan was a 17‑year‑old Catholic when a family member took him to a psychologist in Western Sydney who claimed he could "fix" his homosexuality. It would be the first of three sessions of what he now knows was gay conversion therapy. Within two years of participating in the therapy, he attempted suicide. Mr McCaughan has no doubt this bill will save lives. He said:

For people like me who grew up in a religious setting and are put through conversion therapy, there is now a distinct opportunity for them to have a choice.

What choice is there for people whose only options are conversion therapy, or burning for an eternity in hell?

The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 presents an opportunity for progress, for a society where compassion and respect for all individuals prevail. Let us engage in constructive dialogue, ensuring the bill protects the vulnerable while upholding religious freedom. Together, we can create a safer and more accepting environment for everyone. We can build a future where everyone in our society can thrive within their faith communities, and where all people feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Mrs TINA AYYAD (Holsworthy) (20:11:50):

I contribute to the debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I start by outlining the need for balance to ensure parental rights are respected. While governments have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing and safety of children, excessive interference in parental decisions can undermine familial autonomy and breed mistrust. Parents are the primary caregivers and educators of their children, possessing unique insights into their needs and values. Striking a balance requires nuanced policies that protect children from harm while respecting parental authority and cultural diversity.

The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 has been put forward by the Government with the objectives of making it an offence to engage in conversion practices with the intention of changing or suppressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, and to establish a civil complaints scheme to provide avenues and processes for redress for individuals and representative bodies if they have a complaint. I agree with the need for criminal and civil recourse for the offence outlined in the objective, especially for instances of electroshock therapy and other serious practices. However, I would like to focus on what is defined as a conversion practice. I am concerned with the current wording of the bill, particularly with the definition of a conversion practice.

Clause 3 in part 2 of the bill defines a conversion practice and outlines what is not considered a conversion practice. Subclause (3) (b) stipulates that it is not a conversion therapy practice if an individual genuinely facilitates another's coping skills, development or identity exploration to meet the individual's needs. However, I agree with and will foreshadow the Opposition's amendments. I believe that this subsection should include an individual's request for assistance, as a request can be considered as permission to help. This will ensure that a conversation between two friends on the topic, if it is a genuine attempt to help, is not considered a conversion practice. This will protect a person who is trying to help a friend to explore their feelings.

Subclause (3) (c) stipulates that prayer or a religious belief or principle, and an expression that a belief or principle ought to be followed, is not considered a conversion practice if it does not form part of the aforementioned definition of conversion therapy. I believe the intent of paragraph (c) is to protect religious organisations and the leadership of religious groups to ensure the teachings of their faith are not contrary to the bill. However, in the spirit of balance and good faith towards these groups, I believe it should be changed to explicitly state that a practice is not considered a conversion by itself.

Clause 4 of the bill outlines specific practices to avoid any doubt of what does not constitute a conversion practice. It is comforting to many in my community, particularly religious leaders and their respective adherents, to make clear that stating what relevant religious teachings are or what a religion says about a specific topic is not a conversion practice. The clause also stipulates other protections for religious communities and educational institutions, as well as parents. However, it is of significant concern that these protections are not extended to other family units, and they fail to recognise the role of siblings and any other decision‑making authority over an individual. It is not right that a parent is protected under this clause but a conversation between siblings or with a guardian is not. In many families, older siblings play a crucial role, nearly as important as the parents, in personal development. In some instances, siblings may be better placed to have delicate conversations.

This change would also acknowledge that parents and guardians do more than have discussions. They set rules for behaviour, which is one of the critical points in determining whether this bill has passed the threshold of impinging parental rights. A parent's right to raise their child in a way that aligns with their moral and religious beliefs should be unimpeachable. Whilst the current drafting of the bill provides some cover, I believe this can be expanded in good faith to ensure a balance. I also raise a key concern that many constituents have expressed to me, where suppression is not defined within the contents of the bill. The bill currently leaves the word suppression undefined. The Attorney General stated in his second reading speech that suppress has the ordinary dictionary meaning, being "to keep in or repress". Many in the community, including myself, are concerned that this is too broad and may capture communicating personal restraint to another individual as suppression of their sexuality.

For example, there are concerns that the statement of telling a young person to reserve sex until marriage could be seen as a conversion practice. I would be more comfortable with the bill if it was amended to include a stringent definition of suppression as meaning "an attempt to eliminate". I believe the bill is well-intended and many faith groups across New South Wales have stated that they were consulted in good faith to ensure there is a balance. However, it is incredibly disappointing that the Opposition was not consulted throughout this process whatsoever. This bill is incredibly controversial. Government members in the other place refused to send the bill to a standing committee where the bill could be forensically assessed for its impacts. The second reading speech by the Attorney General was delivered only seven days ago and now we as an Opposition are expected to review, deliberate and analyse the impacts of the bill. Given there is no consensus, many components in the bill will be left to the judiciary to interpret, which undoubtedly creates a risk of acting contrary to the objective and essence of the bill.

I do not understand why the Government wants to rush this bill through. We need to make sure we get this right and we cannot leave it up to chance. I do not accept that the bill sufficiently and effectively protects parental rights, unless the aforementioned amendments are adopted. Upholding these rights acknowledges the importance of familial autonomy and the diverse beliefs that contribute to the fabric of society. By safeguarding parental and religious rights, societies foster environments where families can thrive, and individuals can express their beliefs without fear of discrimination or oppression. Parents should expect that the changes within this bill do not infringe on their right to raise their child in the way they believe is right. At the end of the day, that is what tolerance is, and the foundation of what makes our multicultural and multifaith society such a success in New South Wales. I thank the House.

Mr PAUL SCULLY (WollongongMinister for Planning and Public Spaces) (20:19:15):

— I contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. A number of my colleagues have contributed to debate on the bill. I acknowledge those contributions, many of which come from long-term supporters of the principles behind the legislation. It would be remiss of me, Mr Temporary Speaker, not to acknowledge your own longstanding contribution to the debate and your advocacy for the legislation. Similarly, I recognise the tireless work on this matter, within and outside the Labor Party, of my colleague in the other place, Penny Sharpe. I look forward to hearing her contribution to debate on the bill in the other place.

In his second reading speech, the Attorney General laid out in great detail the provisions of the bill, including what will and will not be considered a conversion practice and how the legislation will function in practice. The Attorney General also said that this is a matter of the heart for the Labor Party, and I want to stress that. The importance of legislation like this bill being introduced in this Parliament, and hopefully passing with strong support, cannot be understated, because for the people to whom it makes a tangible difference, it truly is a matter of the heart. The legislation will make a world of difference for many people in my personal life and my community. It could have prevented harm for many more, had it been introduced earlier. As a society, historically, we have not done enough to protect and support people in the LGBTQ+ community. I am glad that that has changed in recent years and that it continues to change with the bill.


I was proud to stand with the LGBTQ+ community, as well as many others in the Illawarra, for the marriage equality plebiscite a few years ago. I am proud to continue to stand with that community in the Illawarra and support the bill. In deciding to speak on the bill, I asked a member of my staff if there was anything she would like me to say. The staff member has been with me since day one. As a young gay woman, this issue is important to her. We have had many lengthy and truly heartfelt and thoughtful discussions about the matter. I read the following statement into on her behalf, because these sentiments strike at the heart of this discussion. She said:

I'm lucky to have never had any kind of experiences of explicit conversion. I'm lucky to have always had such a supportive family. And everything following this, is said from a position acknowledging that privilege.

I grew up going through Catholic schools at a time where they still actively taught heaven & hell, and with the explicit mention that gay people go to hell.

I went to an all girls Catholic high school, where being labelled as a lesbian and a dyke was the worst thing that could happen to you.

I changed social groups a number of times, and lost a lot of friends throughout high school and into the early years of university not because I was out, but just because other people decided I was gay.

At a time when I hadn't made that decision, hadn't had that realisation even for myself, other people around me decided that and decided that it was okay to ostracise me for it.

Through simply being a young person, questioning their sexuality, in that context and at that time in a regional area, I was implicitly told that there was something wrong with me, and that I should be ashamed of that.

That shame is something that didn't come from a particular person, or a particular institution for me—it was a pervasive underlying commentary for society at the time.

That shame was something that I've struggled to deal with as a young adult and even moving further into adulthood, despite now having a strong sense of my identity and worth.

I came out to my family when my youngest sister was 10 years old, and I told her at the time that she shouldn't tell other people at school.

I was worried that my sister would be bullied for telling other kids that I was gay.

But at 10 years old, my sister told me that she didn't care.

And the same high school that when I graduated, wouldn't entertain the idea of a girl taking another girl to the formal—was accepting of openly gay & non-binary students by the time my sister graduated.

The change that can be seen, and has been felt by many of the millennials in the queer community over the last 10 to 15 years, is immense in so many ways.

This legislation brings NSW into 2024. It's long overdue, but I'm glad that it's here.

And its importance is not for the people who've been through these experiences.

Its importance is in protecting the next generation of young people to make sure that everyone feels that they can be who they are, and discover who they are, free from fear of harm and prejudice.

The importance of this legislation is in the message it sends to every 13 year old kid in NSW, who might be wondering what it means if they have a crush on someone the same sex as them.

That they're okay, that there is nothing wrong with them, there is nothing wrong with what they're feeling, and that no one can force them to feel otherwise.

As the member for Wollongong, I hope that all young people in my electorate can feel that same way: that there is nothing wrong with them, that there is nothing wrong with what they are feeling and that no-one can force them to feel otherwise. I believe the bill holds particular importance for young people in the Wollongong electorate. Obviously, the bill holds particular significance for all the victim-survivors of conversion therapy, and I acknowledge the attendance of many of those people in the Chamber over the course of the debate. The bill also holds significance for all the other people who have been impacted, or have loved ones who have been impacted, by conversion practices. I do not understate the importance of the legislation for the memory of all the people who have taken their lives, in no small part due to their experience with conversion therapies. As much as many of us—including everyone in the LGBTQ+ community—wish that we could go back and change things, regrettably, that is not possible.

That leads me to the greatest significance of the bill—what it means for younger generations in the LGBTQ+ community. As the Attorney General said, the bill makes it clear that in New South Wales it is unacceptable to conduct any activities that aim to convert or suppress a person's sexuality or gender identity. Young people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and those who are discovering their own identities, deserve our protection, support and acceptance. Pleasingly, younger generations will not need to be told that. They have led, and continue to lead, the charge not just for tolerance but also for outright acceptance for themselves and their friends, siblings and schoolmates.

I recognise the work of the Young Mayors of Wollongong on this issue. While that youth forum was only established in September last year, they immediately identified issues facing LGBTQ+ youth in the Illawarra as among their top priorities. Their vision for Wollongong includes a city where all young people feel welcome and safe, physically and mentally, regardless of their identity or presentation. I share that vision with the majority of people in Wollongong. I am pleased that, with the bill, we send a signal to all LGBTQ+ young people across New South Wales that their safety and wellbeing are a priority not just for this Government but also for this Parliament. They can feel safe, accepted and respected to discover who they are, who they love and the way they want to exist in the world most comfortable for them. The legislation shows that the New South Wales Government, and hopefully the New South Wales Parliament, will support young people to do that. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr MICHAEL REGAN (Wakehurst) (20:27:09):

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.

Ms DONNA DAVIS (Parramatta) (20:33:46):

I join in debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024, which will prohibit practices directed to changing or supressing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill creates criminal offences for persons when substantial harm is caused, and a civil complaints scheme in relation to the conversion practices. The Minns Labor Government made a commitment prior to the 2023 election to ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices based on the ideology that LGBTQ+ people have a disorder or require treatment. A joint working group, led by the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice and the New South Wales Ministry of Health, was established to lead development of the legislation and consult with survivors and key stakeholders. Like every other member in this place, I received scores of emails, phone calls and letters in response to this bill—and I thank people for those—and in response to the member for Sydney's private member's bill. I have met with faith leaders, parents, LGBTQ+ friends and members of the community, those with lived experience of conversion therapy practice, and other stakeholders. I have spoken to my sons, their friends, my work colleagues, my straight friends and my queer friends. These conversations have been invaluable.

I have chosen to speak on this bill because I have been elected to this place to represent the people of Parramatta—a diverse community, but also one with a changing face that represents a diversity of culture, religion, age, ethnicity, mobility, education, income, language, ability and gender. My role as a member of Parliament is to represent everyone in the Parramatta electorate and be a member of a government that legislates for all residents across New South Wales. That requires navigating a path through challenging issues that have the potential to divide our community but also have the opportunity to make our State a better, stronger and more tolerant place in which to live. They are issues that attract varying political, philosophical and religious views. I believe this bill seeks to achieve a balance that acknowledges and respects our community's diversity. It carefully navigates and protects the concerns of those with religious beliefs while ensuring protections for the critical legal, social, physical and mental health of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

From the outset, the Premier made commitments that this bill would not impact religious practice prayer. The consultation process carefully considered the best way to ensure that the ban would be consistent with these commitments. During my discussions with stakeholders, concerns were raised about the potential impact of the bill on the expression of religious belief through sermons and teachings. My response to them is true. The Government has never intended to ban the teachings of a religious leader or expression of a religious belief through a sermon, and the bill will not ban those things. Clause 3, subclause (3), paragraph (c) of the bill makes it clear that general conversations around religious beliefs, or how religious beliefs might be reflected in a person's life, are not conversion practices. That includes things like personal prayer or seeking spiritual guidance. Clause 3, subclause (4) also includes examples of what are not conversion practices, some of which are specific to religious practice.

This reform is about tackling practices that we know cause harm because they seek to force LGBTQ+ people to change or supress their sexual orientation or gender identity—if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Conversion practices can include conduct that ranges from secular or religious behavioural and talking therapies, formal workshops, camps and programs, spiritual deliverance practices and exorcisms, or abusive aversion therapy, such as electro‑shock therapy or inducing nausea and other forms of physical abuse. Different forms of conduct can also be used in combination with each other as part of LGBTQ+ conversion practices. Australian studies indicate that LGBTQ+ people in Australia continue to be exposed to conversion practices.

A 2019 study of 6,142 LGBTQA+ Australians under 25 found that 249 people, equating to 4 per cent, attended counselling, group work, interventions and programs aimed at changing or suppressing sexuality or gender identity. Greater exposure was observed in trans and gender-diverse people and people from faith communities. In a qualitative study undertaken between 2016 and 2021 of 42 Australian victim‑survivors, one‑third experienced conversion practices through formal therapy with a registered psychologist or counsellor, and every participant had experienced spiritual conversion practice.

These practices are ineffective and cause significant harm to those subjected to them. Documented harms include heightened suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in comparison with LGBTQ+ people not exposed to conversion practices; poor mental health, including depression, anxiety and poor self-esteem; alienation, loneliness and social isolation, including the loss of support networks; and physical injury where conversion practices use physical or sexual violence or aversive techniques such as electroshock therapy. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that conversion practices not only do not work but also result in such extreme damage to victim-survivors that they often spend the rest of their lives recovering from it, with ongoing trauma, post‑traumatic stress disorder, self-esteem issues and relationship difficulties. Tragically, many individuals have taken their own lives as a direct result of these practices, which makes them fundamentally unacceptable.

These practices usually take place within a religious framework that has been used as a fraudulent justification for practices which in any other medical setting would be deemed archaic and torturous. A narrative saying that people should have the option has been presented, but the reality is that those who undergo these practices do so almost exclusively under the coercive influence of others. These practices are also inflicted on minors who cannot give consent. As our society has progressed, so has our understanding and acceptance of the diversity within our communities. It is horrific to think it was once an acceptable treatment for queer individuals to be lobotomised. We have a responsibility to protect our citizens from harm. That is what this bill seeks to achieve.

During my discussions with the community, there were questions about how the bill would compare with the Victorian legislation. My response was that the definition of "conversion" was key. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 establishes that conduct will amount to a conversion practice only if it meets all three limbs of the definition, as set out in clause 3 (1) of the bill. In addition to meeting the three limbs of the definition, the legislation also makes clear, at clause 3 (3), that certain practices are not conversion practices. Another question raised in correspondence and conversations was about the potential impact on parents' ability to speak to their children about their sexuality in context with their held religious beliefs. The legislation makes clear, under clause 3 (3) (c), that an expression of a belief or principle or an expression that a belief or principle ought to be followed or applied is not a conversion practice if it is not part of practice, treatment or a sustained effort directed to changing or suppressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. This exclusion extends also to religious expressions, including prayer, sermons and one-on-one conversations.

Extension of time

However, the legislation is clearly intended to prohibit a practice, treatment or sustained effort that is directed to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. An invocation of religious belief or principle is not enough on its own to have the exclusion apply. The bill provides, in clause 3 (4), some examples of what does not constitute a conversion practice. These include specific examples relevant to religious beliefs and principles. These examples are not exhaustive. Whether something is a conversion practice is a question of fact, and it will depend on detailed consideration of the factual circumstances. The fact is that this bill is explicit in saying that parental discussions about sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion are not conversion practices. []

Last week I sat in a room with survivors of conversion therapy. I thank them for sharing their stories with us. They made me sad and mad. But then I felt glad because I am a member of a government that has committed to ending these heartless, heinous conversion practices so that we may save others from mental and physical anguish and also save lives. I thank all who have advocated for this bill over a long period, including my parliamentary colleagues the member for Sydney and the indefatigable defender of LGBTQI+ rights, Penny Sharpe, from the other place, along with members of Rainbow Labor. I also commend the Premier, the Attorney General and Ministers Park and Kamper, who have contributed to bringing people together so that the conversations could be had and we could get to where we are today. This is an important bill about human rights, and I commend it to the House.

Mr GARETH WARD (Kiama) (20:44:53):

The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 seeks to ban practices directed at changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of individuals, including by creating offences and a civil complaints scheme in relation to the practices and for related purposes. As outlined in the overview of the bill, the bill seeks to prohibit practices of change or suppression, establish a civil response scheme, and ensure that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, feel welcomed and valued in New South Wales and are able to live authentically and with pride. The bill seeks to protect the vulnerable who are harmed by practices that cause lasting effects, and no-one, religious or otherwise, wants to see those things occur.

I said at the outset I would have preferred that the bill be referred to a parliamentary committee so that all stakeholders could provide feedback and have their say in that forum, just as this Parliament has done with other important reforms. That a bill of such significance did not follow this normal approach is troubling. However, I acknowledge that the Government engaged with a range of stakeholders and note your engagement, Mr Temporary Speaker, in this issue too. At the last election I was asked about the bill. While I had not seen the text of any bill to ban conversion practices, I made clear that I would support outlawing harmful conversion practices. I have met people who were subjected to those practices and reject the notion that there is something wrong or broken with a person because of their sexual orientation.

In the year 2024 the concept of attaching electrodes to genitalia to change a person's sexuality, to conduct a harmful exorcism or engage in subtle yet harmful psychological control is cruel, crude and crackers. I commend the bravery of those who have come forward to share their stories as part of the development of this bill. Whilst the sharing of these stories returns their memories to trauma and pain, without them the people of New South Wales may not know what has happened to them and many others in relation to conversion practices. Banning harmful conversion practices is as much about this Parliament making a statement about this obscene approach as it is the law proposed in the bill. I thank those of my community who have contacted me to share their views on the bill. As a candidate and as a member of Parliament, I frequently reiterated my philosophical position that guides my decision-making in all forms.

As a philosophical Liberal, I believe in small government but not government so small it fits into people's bedrooms. This bill is clearly not small government. But, as a philosophical Liberal, an article of faith for me is my commitment to free speech, and that includes the freedom to choose your religion and practise your beliefs so long as this does not interfere with the rights of others and their beliefs, including the right not to hold any belief at all. Whilst I appreciate that some people believe in the notion of emotional philosophy about all things, for me, your emotions need to be balanced against the notions of logic, reason and rationale. It is virtually a truism to say that laws should protect the vulnerable, but you can do that without transcending other important rights or even diluting rights, which may have unintended consequences.

This bill is far from perfect. I do not want to see people harmed, but I have genuine concerns about freedom of speech and parental rights. Frankly, I think it is high time that we considered a parents' bill of rights to protect the rights of parents to raise their children in accordance with their values and the law. I am aware of the Opposition's amendments, and I support them. As the member for Wakehurst said eloquently, if the bill is improved in the other place I will support those changes as well. I appreciate that the amendments will be moved in the other place, and I look forward to seeing debate in the other Chamber. I place the House on notice: I reserve the right to correct unintended consequences such as infringement of parents' rights and free speech should this legislation pass without amendments.

I note the civil complaints in the bill. Whilst a complaints process is obviously necessary, it can cut both ways and I am concerned that, without the right safeguards, any complaints process can also be weaponised. That could have been the subject of a committee inquiry process but the Government decided to oppose that approach. I did not raise any of my concerns lightly. I maintain my commitment to my electorate that harmful conversion practices should be outlawed and the bill certainly does that. Whilst the detail of the bill is well‑intentioned, it will be up to the Parliament to guard against good intentions being turned into something that they were never intended to be.

I acknowledge the faith groups that have respectfully raised their concerns. I acknowledge many groups that have met with me, both from my electorate and from around the State, and I thank them for their genuine advocacy and concern to try and get the balance right. I also acknowledge the survivors of harmful conversion practices. Those people are real. They have real stories and real lives, and the impacts have been long‑lasting. No‑one should be harmed because of their sexual orientation. This Parliament is duty‑bound to bring those shameful practices to an end.

Mr TIM CRAKANTHORP (Newcastle) (20:50:21):

I speak in support of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024, which seeks to put an end to the inhumane and damaging LGBTQ+ conversion practices that look to change or suppress one's sexual orientation or gender identity. Ten per cent of the national LGBTQ+ community is vulnerable to harmful conversion practices. Whether they come in the form of behavioural manipulation and religious interventions or horrific acts of physical violence such as electroshock therapy, the practices are discriminatory, harmful and have no place in our communities. Today we have the opportunity to stop the detrimental impacts of those practices. It is undeniable that conversion practices can have both a physical and mental toll on the participants. Victims of conversion practices are more likely to struggle with mental illnesses and often face an increased risk of self-harm and taking their own life.

The bill has been developed in consultation with major stakeholders from a range of faith groups and the result is a piece of legislation that protects our LGBTQ+ community and respects freedom of expression and religion. The bill does not impede upon an individual's freedom of expression and it protects the expression of religious beliefs by protecting the right to pray, private conversations had at home between families and the rules of religious orders and teachings. The bill has received support from local religious leaders in the Hunter including the Very Reverend Katherine Bowyer, Dean of Newcastle at the Christ Church Cathedral. Dean Bowyer is passionate about making the cathedral an inclusive and safe space for the LGBTQ+ individuals and has been a great supporter of the bill.

There has been some concern in my electorate about the scope and definition of conversion practices and whether the legislation would inadvertently ban genuine and clinical counselling and identity exploration assistance. Part 2 of the bill clearly outlines what is and is not considered conversion practices. Under the legislation, clinically appropriate health services provided by a registered health practitioner will not be considered conversion practices. That includes advising individuals on the impact of gender-affirming medical treatment and genuinely assisting and providing care to individuals exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our health professionals are not afraid of the bill. They are not at risk of potential criminal sanctions. They are encouraged to support, advise and care for people exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity or are considering or undergoing gender-affirming treatment.

The legislation will make it a criminal offence to deliver or provide conversion practices to an individual with the intention of changing or suppressing that individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, which carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. It will also make it a criminal offence to take an individual out of New South Wales with the intention of delivering or providing a conversion practice outside this State, which carries a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment. The bill not only makes it a criminal offence but also sets up a civil complaints scheme in which the president of the Anti-Discrimination Board will investigate and attempt to resolve complaints in cases where an entity delivers or provides conversion practices.

Newcastle is very supportive of our LGBTQ+ community. The 2017 Federal same-sex marriage plebiscite received support from 75 per cent of Novocastrians. The Conversion Practices Ban Bill has created a lot of conversation throughout the State and it has been welcomed by an overwhelming majority in my electorate. I cannot discuss the widespread community support for putting an end to conversion practices without mentioning the amazing LGBTQ+ advocates. I thank the Newcastle Pride president, Lee‑Anne McDougall, and her team for their enduring spirit and constant support for Newcastle's LGBTQ+ community. It was wonderful to see them waving the flag high at Mardi Gras just a few weeks ago.

I thank the fabulous team at Hunter Gender Alliance, who have had many a meeting with me about the bill and seeing conversion practices banned. Their passion and drive are inspirational. I thank the Attorney General for introducing the bill and I thank the member for Sydney for introducing the now-lapsed Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill and for being such a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. People should not be forced to change. We should all be supported to be exactly who we are.

Mr GURMESH SINGH (Coffs Harbour) (20:56:22):

I make a short contribution to the debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. Firstly, with regards to some of the processes that got us here, Labor did rush this bill, only giving us a week to take it out to our communities and the citizens of New South Wales. Then, in rushing it though, lazy Labor decides to call it a night at 6.00 p.m. and go home. It is very disappointing. We would have liked to have had more time to consult with our communities on this, at times, controversial topic. We would also have liked for it to be taken to a committee so the Government could hear the thoughts and reservations about the bill from members of our community.

I believe the bill has some room for improvement and it has been foreshadowed that the Opposition will be moving amendments in the upper House. I acknowledge the work that the Attorney General has done to get the bill to this point. I hope he is able to consider some of the amendments, particularly one that addresses parents discussing those matters with their children. The bill allows that at the moment, but I ask that the Attorney General and the Government consider amendments that would widen the scope of family members being able to be involved in those discussions, particularly in ethnic families where such conversations might not be comfortably had between parents and their children—in fact, in all families. Rather, they might go to an aunt, an uncle, a cousin or another trusted family member. We will certainly fight for that amendment. Another amendment is the one that addresses the definition of the word "suppression". There is certainly room to tighten that definition up. I do not think I need to say anymore because plenty has been said on the bill. I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on it.

Ms LIESL TESCH (Gosford) (20:58:32):

For me, the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 is about Luden, celebrating Luden's life and everything Luden chooses to live for. It is amazing to be able to come to the Parliament and know Luden can live their life free of discrimination in the future, which is sadly not the life that other people from the LGBTQIA+ community have been able to live across New South Wales. All people should be able to live without discrimination but that right has not been extended to the LGBTQIA+ community. Constituents have reached out to me, describing their experience of being harassed constantly, being the subject of a trendy discussion topic or being called controversial, or disgusting or filthy predators. Their identities are questioned daily; they are deemed to have a disorder that needs to be "fixed", which is not the case. These people are people. People should be accepted as they are without qualification, including their sexual orientation and their gender identity. What needs to be fixed are the conversion practices, which must be banned after detrimentally affecting so many lives. The bill will do just that.

I celebrate a group of young people in our community called YAAS—Young, Authentic and Social. It is so exciting to know that because of what we are doing in Parliament tonight, those young people can live different lives to their predecessors on the Central Coast and across New South Wales, and so too the people from Central Coast Pride. We have a very strong pride community on the coast, and knowing that the bill is passing the Parliament will give them a sense of satisfaction, although it will not heal the harms that have happened in the past.

I wholeheartedly and proudly support the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024, and I am proud that the New South Wales Government has made a commitment to ban LGBTQIA+ conversion practices as abuse masquerading as care, which has no place in our State. The bill gives effect to that commitment by criminalising conversion practices that seek to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, which causes serious mental or physical harm, and by providing a civil scheme to ban people from providing or delivering a conversion practice. First, part 2 of the bill defines a conversion practice as a practice, treatment or sustained effort that is directed to an individual on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to change or suppress that person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

I refer to a beautiful gentleman whom I met in the Parliament this afternoon. Anthony was part of our Kids Helpline presentation, and he was really grateful to Kids Helpline because it saved his life. As a young gay man growing up in a private school and playing rugby, he said he did not consider it as conversion therapy at the time but that he lived nearly every day of his life trying to be converted from who he was on the inside. Kids Helpline gave him a place to make anonymous calls and get support for the person he knew he was within and the life he wanted to live. I thank Anthony for sharing that story and for the continuing work he does with Kids Helpline. Let us hope that, with conversion practices banned, that pressure will change for young people like Anthony in the future.

It should also be noted that conversion practices do not include appropriate clinical care, genuine facilitation of an individual's coping skills or development, or identity exploration such as parents discussing matters with their children. Nor does it include religious expressions like prayer that are not directed at changing or supressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. Part 3 provides that it is a criminal offence to deliver a conversion practice to another person with the intention to supress or change their sexual orientation or gender identity, which causes physical or mental harm.

I thank Anthony Venn-Brown, OAM, who was voted one of the 25 most influential gay and lesbian Australians. His journey began in 1972, when he became one of the first individuals worldwide to be subjected to what would later be termed conversion therapy in a church's residential program in Sydney's south. Anthony underwent public shaming, endured exorcisms and was coerced into conforming to societal expectations of traditional masculinity—all to alter his sexual orientation and make him "acceptable" to the church and society as heterosexual. Anthony went on to marry and have children, and he became well known as a Pentecostal preacher. However, his sexual orientation remained unchanged, with the anguish over his internal conflict often leading to dark places, and he considered ending his life. He resigned from the ministry in 1991, came out and wrote his autobiography.

Sharing his experiences provided a catalyst for a lot of other people who had had similar experiences, who had been told they were abominable or broken and who had sought solutions through prayer, counselling and even exorcisms. Yet change remained elusive, resulting in deep mental health issues, anxiety, depression and often post‑traumatic stress disorder. One of the people who wrote to Anthony was Matt, who confirmed that it was positive and life changing just to hear the story of someone who had had a similar experience. He said that he made a lot of friends in his years of conversion therapy, but only six of the 40 people are still alive. That shows how important it is to make this change, and I thank Anthony for being such an important advocate for the change that is needed.

I sincerely thank all of the advocates who have fought this fight for so long, and I feel proud to be part of a government that committed during the election campaign to make this change. It is a monumental step forward in ensuring equality and a life free from discrimination for all of our LGBTQIA+ community. I thank and commend the Government, the member for Sydney and the almost 150 stakeholders from health, education, legal and government sectors; faith and multicultural organisations; LGBTQIA+ advocates; and victim-survivors for their time and work putting together the bill. I also thank the Naughty Noodle Fun Haus in my community, which makes the Central Coast a fantastic place for—

Mr Michael Daley:

Naughty noodles?


The Naughty Noodle Fun Haus. The Attorney General should come up and enjoy some of our frivolous fun and joy. It has really changed the nature of the Central Coast community, making it a safe place for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Alongside them, I will continue to celebrate the diversity of people in New South Wales. May we all live safely.

Mr JUSTIN CLANCY (Albury) (21:05:26):

I make a short contribution to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. We come to this moment through advocacy and through the commitments made by the then Premier and Leader of the Opposition prior to the 2023 election. We come to this place seeking to act compassionately for the most vulnerable in our community. I hoped we would all agree that coerced conversion practices such as electrotherapy are abhorrent and that it is appropriate that steps are taken to outlaw them. However, when government steps into people's personal lives, it ought to tread with due caution and without haste.

I acknowledge the work that the Government has done in terms of consultation. But it has been made clear to me through discussions with organisations such as the LGB Alliance that, whilst the Government has engaged in a level of consultation, it and a number of other parties were not privy to that consultation. As a parent, I also acknowledge where ambiguities may arise, particularly when we talk about government being involved so intimately in the relationship between parent and child around parental rights. I express my concern about the broader consultation with the community, and it is for that reason I feel a referral for inquiry is a fit and proper approach. I cannot help but reflect on the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control in the last Parliament and the approach taken to that significant piece of social policy.

I acknowledge the faith groups that have urged the Opposition to support the bill lest a more radical bill be adopted by Labor and The Greens. It does not bode well to see the tool of legislation used to plant one ideology on top of another. It is a familiar failing of humanity to see one contemporary view as in all ways superior to an existing view—for the wellbeing of others, of course. It is the territory of belief, whatever else members might think is at work. LGBTQ+ conversion practices stand out as unfair and cruel. No-one should be told that they are broken because they do not conform. Hopefully, by working together in this place, we can strike firmly against abuse while supporting families to communicate fairly and sensitively about identity, sexuality, gender and love.

Another word on communication, if I may. Like the member for Sydney and many other members, I have received correspondence from constituents. While they almost uniformly support elements of the legislation, there remains some ambiguity and uncertainty about how its rules and its sanctions will play out in their work or at home. One constituent wrote:

It concerns me that the bill is very unclear about what one is permitted to do and say when talking to someone about the important issues of identity and sexuality, even within families, and important personal relationships.

Can I respond to genuine requests for support and advice without fear of being prosecuted by providing such support?

Can parents and caregivers or responsible guardians set standards for their family and only "discuss" sexuality rather than purposefully guiding their children?

I give those quotes because, if we stop for a moment to contemplate, it means there are still ambiguities and concerns around understanding. Parliament has an obligation to provide not just a change of law, but workable pathways for compliance and social acceptance when passing laws that regulate the very act of conversation. Communication, education and clear support documentation would be invaluable in delivering the positive outcomes that I hope will emerge from such laws as this. I reiterate my concerns about the Government's block of the referral of the bill to inquiry, and in that sense a conversation with the broader community. I look forward to the strengthening of the bill in the other place through amendments. I recognise that what we seek is to act with compassion, respecting individuals and their life choices and acknowledging that there must be a better way forward.

Ms JENNY AITCHISON (MaitlandMinister for Regional Transport and Roads) (21:10:38):

— I make a very brief contribution to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I have previously made my apology in this place to the '78ers, and I unequivocally support this bill. We are each of us who we are. We love who we love, and that is a massive part of our identity. That is enough for all of us. We are all enough. I say to everyone in my community and across the State who has struggled with the trauma of being coerced, bullied, discriminated against, or forced into renouncing that fundamental part of self, their sexuality, that I am sorry. To those who have lived a life they never wanted because of the social pressures that forced them to be ashamed of who they are, I am sorry. To those who have tried to take their own lives, or who we have lost because they could not live a life which was not true to themselves, I am sorry.

To say sorry, we must really mean it—and to mean it, we must do all we can to stop the same injury, the same harm, from happening again. For that reason, I congratulate the Government, and particularly the Premier and the Attorney General, on taking the initiative to address the issue by bringing this bill to the House. I thank the member for Sydney for pushing us, at times, to this place. I thank all the advocates for their care, compassion and grace in their struggle to save lives and to make those lives liveable. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr TIM JAMES (Willoughby) (21:12:19):

I contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I do so driven by the core values that guide me now and always: all of us are of equal human value, we all have and should be afforded dignity and we all deserve respect. For roughly 30 years I have actively participated in our democracy and public policy making. Throughout that time, I have always believed that a flawed process leads to a flawed outcome. Regrettably, that is the case here. A far from optimal process to bring a bill in turn brings forth a far from optimal piece of legislation. The Minns Labor Government must own this, explain this and be held accountable for this. That is the central premise among my fundamental concerns with respect to this bill, as I will set out.

I say at the outset that harmful conversion practices should be brought to an end. That is common ground, and it was the commitment of then Premier Dominic Perrottet early last year. To be clear, conversion practices that cause harm have no place in New South Wales. The reality is that there could barely be coercive and harmful conversion practices like electric shock treatment, drug treatment or other such unacceptable physical or psychological interventions in this State today. They are wrong and of the past. I am advised that in the past 20 years the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission received 18 complaints about conversion practices that related to three individual health practitioners. Again, and I say this unequivocally, all harmful conversion practices should cease. Both parties share that commitment.

Legislating such a ban requires a very thoughtful, thorough, understanding and cooperative approach in order to strike the balance needed and to serve our community as a whole. Any such legislation necessarily strikes upon fundamental human freedoms: freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of belief and freedom of association. These are the foundations of our civilisation upon which our democracy has been built. There is a lot at stake here. Again, a careful balance must be struck. Such weight and significance warrants an exhaustive, highly effective, very human and inclusive policy-making and law-making process in which all people and communities can be heard and respected and in which all are afforded dignity. That has not been the case here.

Last year, then Premier Dominic Perrottet rightly said on this topic, "This is a complex matter, and in working through it with parliamentary colleagues we will carefully consider the legal expression and effect of such laws." Those words are key. "Working with parliamentary colleagues" has not happened. My colleagues and I, on this side of the Chamber, first saw this bill last week. We had no prior role or engagement with respect to it. Returning to the former Premier's words, "carefully considering the legal expression and effect of such laws" has not happened either. The bill opens a raft of legal questions—matters of interpretation that the courts will need to address and definitional issues requiring clarification. To be crystal clear, and as the former Premier's words spell out, the Coalition would have gone about this very differently to Labor. Let that be clear.

Labor's approach has been to conduct its own closed-door secretive consultations with a targeted group of stakeholders of its choosing. The Attorney General, in his second reading speech, referred to 150 organisations. Notably, he also said that there are "strong polarised" views on these reforms. There were, he said, 134 submissions and eight roundtable sessions. There are eight million people in this State and countless groups—hundreds of them—that would seek to be engaged on these issues. Labor did not conduct true, open, genuine consultation that passes the test of public interest. This was a process from which the New South Wales public has been, in effect, shut out.

I do not know which groups were consulted by Labor, but I understand there are many groups that sought to be included and were not. I am aware of at least ten such groups being excluded, and there would be many more I do not know of. That is before we even get to the millions of ordinary people—citizens, residents, individuals, mums and dads and people of all backgrounds—who could be affected by this bill. The reality is that we have a bill that was intended to root out bad practices, but which now, in effect, regulates how parents may parent, talk with their children and practice their faith as a family.

Not surprisingly, I have received many hundreds of letters to my office about this bill just in the past week. Overwhelmingly, by a factor of about 20 to one—yes, we have read them all—they raise concerns, doubts, questions and dismay that this may be about to become law when people have just had it brought to their attention for the first time. Just imagine how many ordinary people out there do not even know of the existence of this bill. How could they, in just one week? Yet they could soon be subject to its provisions and penalties. Those residents of New South Wales have not been engaged, and will not be engaged, by the Minns Labor Government. Their voices will not be heard under Labor. Their concerns will not be addressed under Labor. Their doubts cannot be dealt with under Labor.

The Labor approach has been, first, a closed-door, selective, exclusive, secret stakeholder engagement. Second, killing off a much-needed parliamentary inquiry sought by the Coalition and crossbench members in the Legislative Council. Third, opposing any amendments—as the Attorney General has made clear. Fourth, rushing the bill through the Parliament in one week. In short, little or no real scrutiny by the Parliament—Labor has done this; so little time before the Parliament—Labor has done this; no real consultation by the Parliament—Labor has done this; no real engagement of millions of residents—Labor has done this; and no real community debate—Labor has done this. It is a sad reflection upon this Parliament, upon our democracy and most of all upon the Minns Labor Government.

It is remarkable and ironic, given the predisposition of this Government to call for and conduct so many reviews and inquiries, some lasting over a year, that this will likely be wrapped up, in a public sense, in just one week. It smacks of politics and game playing, never mind the people or the purpose for which the Parliament was established—to represent the people and keep government accountable to the people. Labor has commenced one such review into the Anti-Discrimination Act. That review will take well over one year and will be live for many months to come. Some elements of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill hinge upon that law, yet it will be passed well beforehand, in one mere week. That smacks of hypocrisy and undue urgency.

The people of New South Wales will not forget this, nor should they. Time will not permit me to traverse the many substantive issues that I, and so many of my constituents, have about the bill. I concur with the many concerns and matters raised by my colleague the member for Wahroonga, as well as the amendments that have been foreshadowed and will be moved in the Legislative Council. The amendments are essential. I have read the bill. It casts the net widely and broadly in scope as to what is considered a conversion practice and provides few exemptions. One problem is that exemptions are framed in a circular and confusing fashion. As all members know, exemption by example, as we have here in front of us, can never cover the field. There will always be examples that go beyond but were not foreseen nor detailed. Therefore, the unamended bill would have major consequences for many people going forward. In conclusion, the people of Willoughby and New South Wales deserve so much better than this Labor rush job on something that matters to millions of residents of our great State. I will continue to fight for better for my community and the people of this State. I thank the House.

Mr NATHAN HAGARTY (Leppington) (21:21:08):

I speak in debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. As someone who has lived my entire life in the area that I now represent, my links to my community run deep. They are not merely transactional. People of faith are my family, my long-time friends and my neighbours. They are not just constituents. They also include many people from various faith communities. As such, I am in a unique position to consult genuinely and widely with a diverse array of faith communities, and I have done so on this bill.

Just this afternoon I was on the phone with the principal of a faith-based school in my community. He emailed me earlier in the week, and I emailed him back. He raised concerns that had come through to him about the bill. We had a good chat, and I told him that I had been consulting and speaking with the Minister, the Minister's office, peak bodies and other faith groups. By the end of the conversation, he was comforted and assured that he would be able to continue to be a principal at a school that practises and teaches faith. That right will not be impinged on. Those discussions have not just taken place today; they have taken place over a long period. Essentially, that is how democracy should work.

For too long the tone on these kinds of issues has been unhelpful. All too often, stakeholders on both sides go to their corners, throw pejoratives at each other and do not progress any further. We end up with a society that is probably a little bit more divided than it should be. I did not get elected to this place to play those kinds of politics. For all the pompous bluster of those opposite, that is not what I have been elected to do. During the election campaign, Freedom for Faith held many forums throughout New South Wales about the bill and many other issues. In my electorate, that took place at Hoxton Park Anglican Church. It was not a "meet the candidates" event because I was the only one who turned up. The Liberal candidate did not turn up, and neither did the other two or three candidates. It was essentially a conversation with me and the pastor. It was well informed, and I still receive positive feedback about that forum to this day.

I have regular discussions with Freedom for Faith, with that church and with the pastor from that church, and I will continue to do so. I have an open-door policy to any group on any issue. That is the way that I do politics. For many in my community, religion and faith are central to their identity. I represent a diverse multicultural community. Many of them have fled as refugees from war, from genocide and from other atrocities, and their faith is integral part of who they are. They were persecuted because of their beliefs. They have come to New South Wales for a better life, and they continue to practise their faith in a country that allows that. Like many members of this place, I have received emails from all corners of my electorate over many months. I have had conversation after conversation with people in my electorate, be they faith leaders or constituents who attend church on a Sunday or the mosque on a Friday, or even be they agnostic or atheist.

While the bill is likely to work its way through Parliament this week, conversations about the bill and the issues it raises will continue for a long time. As the member for Leppington, I will continue to have those conversations. I have raised my concerns and questioned some of the issues about the bill on behalf of my constituents. I have made sure that south-west Sydney is represented as part of the consultation process. I have spoken to multiple Ministers, their staff and peak bodies. To take one faith as an example, all Catholics are not Catholics, so to speak. There are Roman Catholics but, in my community, there are Chaldeans and many other people who adhere to the Catholic faith who are not the run-of-the-mill Roman Catholics. It is important that people from south-west Sydney are consulted and get to have their say. People like me are in this place to represent those people.

The answer that has come out of over 12 months of consultation is that, regardless of what side of the fence a person is on, it is clear that conversion practices are harmful and must be banned. It is also clear that people of faith must be free to continue to practise their beliefs, free from undue intervention from the State. The bill is not perfect. It is likely that no group is 100 per cent happy with the result. But there will be 12 months or so to educate and inform the community about any concerns and to dispel any misunderstandings. The process of development and consultation on the bill has been extensive, and the public discourse has been civil. The process as a whole has run more smoothly and been more inclusive than previous attempts on issues of conscience and faith in the past.

I congratulate the Attorney General for his work. I thank all stakeholders for their productive contributions to the debate over many months. This time, the Government has got the bill right. The Government has consulted widely and struck the right balance between the diverse views of the New South Wales community and my community in Leppington in particular. I note that the bill is an election commitment and has been through a long and thorough process of development and consultation. From the outset, it was made clear by the Minns Labor Government that this is and always will be a New South Wales bill. It is a bill by and for the people of New South Wales. It will not incorporate some of the concerns from other jurisdictions that have passed similar legislation. It addresses the unique issues and concerns of this State. I commend the bill to the House and look forward to a future for New South Wales where both harmful conversion practices no longer take place and people of faith continue to have their views respected.

Mr ADAM CROUCH (Terrigal) (21:29:19):

I speak on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I firstly thank the many community organisations, faith groups and members of the Terrigal community who took the time to reach out to me and my office with their concerns, interests and positions and passions regarding this piece of legislation. I also thank the amazing team in my office: Jack, Deborah, Donna and Julie spent a lot of time with the people from our community who took the time to write to, call or drop into my office to raise their points. It is important that they know that, as their MP, I am here to speak on their behalf in this Parliament.

It has been acknowledged by pretty much every member who has spoken tonight that there is a bipartisan commitment to outlaw harmful conversion practices. It is important to lay that out at the beginning. I have been listening intently to all of the eloquent speakers who have put their points forward, and it is important to put that on record. However, it is also important that we strike the right balance with the bill and ensure that all stakeholders are heard and consulted. That is why the Opposition supported the establishment of a parliamentary committee in the other place. It is disappointing that the Government and The Greens refused the request to establish a committee that would have enabled genuine community consultation to provide feedback to the bill. One of the concerns that many Opposition members raised this evening is that the committee opportunity has been lost. That is very sad.

Government members on the Central Coast will no doubt be questioned by community members who have taken the time to contact them. They will want explanations as to why they were denied that process. Of course, I fully support the sensible amendments that the Opposition has foreshadowed it will move in the Legislative Council. I call on the Government and the crossbench in the Legislative Council to support those amendments, which were done in consultation with key community and faith stakeholders. They were not just whipped up at two minutes to midnight; a lot of work went into them. I acknowledge the speech on those points by the shadow Attorney General this evening. Should those amendments not pass in the other place, I would strongly encourage our community stakeholders who reached out to me to seek an explanation from the member for Gosford, the member for The Entrance and the member for Wyong as to why the Government did not support those very sensible amendments.

I am proud to represent the schools, faith-based groups, individuals and community organisations of Terrigal who reached out to me and who know they have a member that listens to them and passes their feedback on in this place. That is what we are elected to do. It is disappointing that the Government saw fit to deny those people an additional say through the committee process. Yesterday—and we have heard it tonight too—was an indictment of the fact that the Government runs everything through committees when it suits it but, sadly, this was not one of those cases. The member for Leppington admitted that no bill is perfect. That is why we have the committee structure: to make a bill as perfect as we can as it progresses through the Houses.

I reaffirm that I fully support the amendments foreshadowed by the shadow Attorney General that will be moved by the Opposition in the Legislative Council, and I urge the Government and the crossbench to take them seriously, because they will be asked to justify their decisions. The local members representing the electorates of Gosford, The Entrance and Wyong will have to answer to the people of the Central Coast as to why those sensible amendments were not supported, and I will encourage my community members to contact them directly seeking a response on that. I look forward to seeing the passage of the legislation through the Legislative Council.

Ms STEPHANIE DI PASQUA (Drummoyne) (21:34:28):

I make a brief contribution to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. It is important to acknowledge that banning harmful conversion practices has bipartisan support from across the Chamber. We are all in favour of ensuring that people from the LGBTQIA+ community are respected and have the right to live their lives in freedom—not to be forced to change who they are. That goes for all people in our community. I was raised to give all people the highest respect, but this is not about that. It is about whether the bill strikes the right balance.

I have engaged and listened, and my community has told me that family life and faith is important to them. I would have hoped that the Government would have supported a parliamentary inquiry on the issue. I think it is a reasonable and sensible request to invite community consultation and to give all people the opportunity to contribute to the debate. That would ensure that the bill considers, and is in line with, community sentiment. Given that the Government has not supported a parliamentary inquiry, my colleagues in the other place will seek to make amendments to the bill. I ask the Government and the crossbench to support those amendments.

I thank everyone who has contacted me with their diverse views on the bill. I have appreciated the respectful manner in which we have been able to discuss the bill. I particularly acknowledge Mr Darryl Soh, pastor at Abbotsford Presbyterian Church; Murray Norman and parishioners of Abbotsford Presbyterian Church; Mr Joel Radford, pastor at Drummoyne Baptist Church and his parish community; Father Michael McLean and parishioners of the St Mark's Drummoyne parish; Father Michael Lanzon of Our Lady of Assumption parish; Dr Duncan Chang and the congregation at the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church at Rhodes; Father Tom Stevens and parishioners at St Patrick's Mortlake; and Father Chaminda Wanigasena and parishioners at St Ambrose Concord West, all of whom have taken the time to engage with me on the issue. I thank the House for allowing me to contribute to debate on the bill.

Mr ANTHONY ROBERTS (Lane Cove) (21:37:08):

I speak on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024, which will have wide-ranging ramifications for the State. Yet it is a bill that the Government and The Greens seem intent on ramming through this place without any genuine consultation with the broader community. It was greatly concerning that yesterday in the other place the Government and The Greens did not support the referral of the bill to a public inquiry. If the proponents of the bill were serious about representing the public interest, a public inquiry would have been the most positive and logical step. An inquiry would have allowed members of our constituencies to voice their immense concerns about the potential unintended consequences the legislation.

I take this opportunity to thank the many members of my community and community groups who have approached me with concerns about their ability to give the Government feedback on the bill, yet the Government has been hellbent on silencing dissent and forcing this rushed piece of legislation through. The fact that the Government has already said that it will not accept amendments to the bill and will not be open to a public inquiry shows a level of arrogance towards the people of New South Wales and, indeed, the Government members' own communities. Massive changes require thoughtful and inclusive participation from the communities that we represent. I want my constituents to have the opportunity to participate through a public inquiry in addressing their ideas and concerns on the bill. Open government is good government. The bill can be addressed by this Parliament in a reasonable time but with engagement from the broader community and not just interest groups hand-picked by the Government.

I urge the Government to support a public inquiry, to give a voice to the voiceless. Until there is such an inquiry I cannot, in all good consciousness, support this bill in its current form. I firmly believe that, at the very least, the bill should be referred to the Law and Safety Committee for inquiry and report. It will be a year before this legislation comes into effect. That allows more than enough time for dealing with such a complex piece of law reform by way of open committee. This legislation was brought to this House without the level and depth of consultation that a bill such as this merits. The Government needs to ensure that the people of New South Wales have their voices heard. I urge the Government to support the Opposition's amendments in the other place, for the betterment of New South Wales and our communities.

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (21:40:02):

I contribute to the debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I recognise the member for Sydney, who is in the Chamber this evening, and acknowledge that he was the catalyst for this bill, through the bill that he introduced in this term of Parliament last year and also by the work that he did leading into the last election to advocate for the rights of survivors of conversion practices. I thank him for the work he was done, and I welcome the bill the Government has put before the House.

The objectives of the bill are to make it an offence to engage in conversion practices with the intention of changing or suppressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, and to establish a civil complaints scheme to provide avenues and processes for redress for individuals and representative bodies if they have a complaint under this bill. A lot of work has been undertaken to get to this point. I particularly acknowledge the work of Equality Australia in developing this important legislation alongside the member for Greenwich and the Government. Conversion practices are an insidious issue that continue to affect many LGBTQ+ people in our local communities. The bill characterises conversion practices as those that seek to suppress or change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. Contemporary forms of conversion could include counselling, psychology or psychotherapy, formal behaviour‑change programs, support groups, prayer‑based approaches and exorcisms.

First and foremost, let us recognise that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not a disorder or defect that needs to be remedied. It is a natural aspect of human diversity, and every person has the right to live authentically and without fear of judgement or discrimination. As a Liberal, I believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples, and conversion practices aim to limit and attack the rights and freedoms that LGBTQ+ people have to be themselves. The notion that sexual orientation or gender identity can be altered through therapy is scientifically unfounded and ethically reprehensible. Conversion practices are not only ineffective but also harmful, perpetuating stigma, discrimination and mental anguish amongst LGBTQ+ individuals. Moreover, gay conversion practices perpetuate harmful stereotypes and reinforce societal prejudices against LGBTQ+ individuals. Promoting the false idea that being LGBTQ+ is something to be ashamed of or corrected fosters a culture of discrimination and intolerance. It sends a dangerous message to young people in particular that they are not worthy of love and acceptance unless they conform to outdated and harmful norms.

According to research undertaken by the Human Rights Law Centre and La Trobe University, almost 4 per cent of LGBTQ+ Australians aged 14 to 21 years of age have experienced conversion practices. Last week, in this place, I was fortunate enough to hear directly from survivors of conversion practices thanks to the Parliamentary Friends of LGBTIQA+. What we heard was nothing less than heartbreaking. I have also heard from many people in my local community who have offered support for this bill. Some of them have shared stories of their own personal experiences or those of family members, and all have asked me to ensure that we in this place do not miss this opportunity and continue to leave our community exposed to discrimination and harm.

Last week, in this Parliament, we heard stories of those who sought out conversion practices when they were younger because they had been told, either through family, friends or their church, that they were damaged, that they were filled with demons or that they could not be a child of God unless they changed who they were entirely. What struck me about those stories was that these were often people of very profound and deep faith, who felt that their ability to practice and experience that faith had been broken because their sexuality or gender identity could not be respected. People are sometimes driven towards conversion therapy by an unwavering yearning for acceptance and validation, not only from their families but also from within their faith or their broader communities.

One of the most disturbing aspects of conversion therapy is the potential for severe emotional and psychological damage. LGBTQ+ people who undergo these practices often have high rates of depression, anxiety, self‑harm and suicidal ideation. Far from "curing" them, conversion practices frequently exacerbate the very distress it is claimed they alleviate, leaving lasting scars. Furthermore, it is essential to recognise that gay conversion practices are fundamentally at odds with the principles of autonomy and consent. Many individuals who undergo these types of practices do so under duress, pressured by family members, religious leaders or societal expectations. They are often coerced into participating in these practices against their will and with little regard for their own desires or sense of self.

I turn to some of the concerns that have been raised with me by members of my community regarding this legislation, which I hope to address and provide clarity on. I recognise that concerns about religious freedom have been surrounding the debate on this bill. We need to ensure that we are not prioritising the rights of one group over another, but rather protecting the rights of all people equally. Freedom of religion is a crucial right for people across this State and country. I have heard from faith groups in my community who are supportive of ending conversion practices in New South Wales. I have also received amendments from members in my community who have concerns with the bill as it stands. I am open to supporting amendments that will strengthen this bill to ensure the right outcome for all.

I note the bill clearly states that expressing a belief through a sermon, taking offence at religious teachings and seeking guidance through prayer are not included in the ban. To me, this responds to the very genuine concerns that people of faith in my community and across the State have about ensuring their religious freedoms and ability to worship or practice are preserved. In his second reading speech, in relation to religious beliefs or principles, the Attorney General said:

The exclusion has been carefully drafted to preserve the ability for people to express their views and their beliefs.

I understand this legislation has been considered with input from over 150 organisations, including many faith‑based organisations that provided submissions and input into the drafting. This legislative reform has been considered while acknowledging and respecting longstanding religious beliefs and practices.

It has also been suggested that the bill seeks to tell parents how or whether they should discuss these issues with their children. This is not the case. The bill clearly states that a conversion practice does not include parents discussing matters relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion with their children. I refer again to the second reading speech of the Attorney General, where he said:

This ban was never intended to stop parents from having discussions, even challenging discussions, with their children about these matters.

The Liberals believe in the family unit and the strength of it for our society, no matter its composition. We believe that parents and families are often best placed to address these issues, and that each family plays a vital role in shaping their own values, beliefs and cultural traditions. Furthermore, the issue of an individual seeking guidance through faith leaders within their community or from medical practitioners or psychologists remains protected within this bill. The bill does not impact a person's ability to seek guidance or counsel from within their faith. As outlined in the Attorney General's second reading speech, an individual would still be able to seek guidance or support from health practitioners registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW), such as medical practitioners and psychologists, who have existing obligations to act ethically and in accordance with professional codes and standards.

We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering caused by conversion practices. As a State, we have come a long way when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ+ people, but we have more work to do. We have a moral obligation to protect the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Banning conversion practices is not only a matter of public health but also a fundamental human rights issue. Other jurisdictions have implemented similar bans and New South Wales is the next piece in the puzzle. We cannot afford to wait any longer; LGBTQ+ members of our community continue to suffer in silence and so many lives have been lost. It is time for our State and every member of this place to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of dignity, equality and respect for all. I commend the bill to the House.

Mrs WENDY TUCKERMAN (Goulburn) (21:49:54):

I contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I take this opportunity to speak on behalf of the hundreds of constituents who have contacted my office to contribute to the very personal and important conversation surrounding the bill. I thank them for their engagement. I understand and reject the horrific practice of conversion therapies, and I acknowledge the appropriate steps to outlaw their practice in this State. Whilst I agree we should be taking steps to protect every vulnerable person from harmful situations, as members of Parliament we are duty bound to ensure that we scrutinise the legislation and take the time to be informed, and listen to those who wish to contribute to this important piece of legislation. I am in disbelief that this Government has failed to give the communities of New South Wales a voice, by rushing through the bill.

The Government wishes to step into the personal lives of its citizens, without considered consultation, to deny the rights of parents the opportunity to communicate with, educate and provide guidance to their children without the threat of prosecution. For that reason and many others, an inquiry would be the proper approach. It is disappointing that that has been denied by this Labor Government. I have been contacted by constituents sharing stories of their devastation and frustration when outsiders intervened in their lives, engaging with and encouraging their children to pursue a certain path of gender identification or sexual orientation at a time when their child was feeling lost and vulnerable. Through love, compassion and affirmation of family values, some families have been able to successfully navigate this period. I reiterate that for some it is a period when children are lost and vulnerable.

I am well versed in the complexities of harm to children. I worked as a detective and investigator in that field for many years. I am not oblivious to the perverseness of people trying to persuade children into acts that suit their own personal agendas. I am also acutely aware of the trauma and lifelong effects that those acts have on children. As parents, we are obliged to teach our children about protecting themselves, communicating and having uncomfortable conversations about many things. Gender, gender identity and conversion should not be excluded from those conversations.

When a government steps into the personal lives of people, it should do so with caution and respect. It is alarming at best to observe a government intruding so intimately into the relationship between a parent and child without express consideration of family dynamics. Parliament has an obligation to provide not just a change of law surrounding harmful conversion practices but also workable pathways for compliance and social acceptance. We need to communicate, educate and develop a concise document that will be invaluable in delivering the positive outcome we all need to emerge from these laws. We must respect individuals and their life choices, and enact a law that reflects that.

As has been made clear to me through discussions with LGB Alliance, faith-based schools and others, the bill combines two separate issues—sexual identity and gender identity. They also made it clear that whilst the Government engaged in a level of consultation, those groups and a number of other parties were not privy to consultation. For that reason, an inquiry is the most fit and proper approach. It is disappointing that that has been denied by this Labor Government. I acknowledge faith groups who have urged the Opposition to support the bill with amendments, lest a more radical bill be adopted. It does not bode well to use the tool of legislation to plant one ideology over the top of another.

It is the familiar failing of humanity to see one contemporary view as, in all ways, superior—for the wellbeing of others, of course—to an existing view. This is the territory of belief, whatever else one might think is at work. The Government denied an inquiry and rushed this important piece of legislation, and the very groups that participated in the closed consultation suggest that the legislation needs amending. That tells me that consultation is lacking and further discussion is needed. The Coalition has foreshadowed that it will move amendments in the upper House. I urge members to support those amendments to strengthen the bill.

Mr MARK HODGES (Castle Hill) (21:54:10):

I contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I am pleased to contribute to the debate on behalf of my community. I make it clear that I fully support legislation that will make our community safe. I make it clear that I support legislation to make the community safe for LGBTIQ+ and other vulnerable persons. Harmful conversion practices must be banned. I agree it is important to ensure that members of the LGBTIQ+ community are afforded respect. I agree with statements that the debate in this House must be respectful. I also agree that members of the LGBTIQ+ community are not broken and, as such, they do not need to be repaired. They also should not be made to feel that they are broken.

I thank every member in this House who has contributed to the debate, and every person and group, including survivors from conversion practices. However, whilst providing support for members of the LGBTQI+ community, the bill does not get the balance right. The bill constrains the free rights of individuals to obtain advice on deeply personal matters. It constrains the ability of parents, teachers and faith leaders to provide counselling, advice, care and comfort without fear of civil or criminal consequences. Many members of this House have also raised a concern that the Government has rushed the bill through Parliament without appropriate time for a full consultation process with members of our community and important stakeholder groups.

The bill follows on from two bills tabled last year by the member for Sydney—the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill 2023 and the Equality Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. The member for Sydney recently referred the equality bill to a Legislative Council standing committee for inquiry and report. That report is to be provided on or before 3 June 2024. I mention the referral of the equality bill as the position of the Opposition is that the Conversion Practices Ban Bill should also have been referred to a committee for a short, sharp inquiry and report. Yesterday in the other place, a motion was considered to refer the bill before this House to the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice for report. That motion called for a report by 14 May 2024. That date would have meant that the report would be returned to this House before the return date of the equality bill. The Government and The Greens voted not to allow this bill to be subject to the same inquiry and process afforded to the equality bill. No valid reason has been proffered by Government members.

It is clear to me, as it will be clear to members of the community in my electorate and the electorates that the Labor Party members represent, that the Government decided to rush this bill through Parliament without allowing proper time for a full consultation and report. The failure by the Government to agree to the referral of the bill to a committee simply does not pass the pub test. As correctly stated by the member for Lane Cove earlier, "Open government is good government." The Government and The Greens should have agreed to refer the bill to a public inquiry. A committee of inquiry would have allowed members of the community to contribute to the process of government and to proffer amendments to improve the bill. Sadly, the Premier chose not to send the bill to a committee.

Members on this side of the House have consulted with our communities. I listened to my community and read the correspondence, including from those advocating for amendments. I also want to thank the leaders of the faith communities who have in good faith consulted with the Government and with the Opposition. I note that many members of those faith communities have asked for amendments to this bill. I thank the many members of my own community who have written to my office concerning the bill. I will not read the extracts from the many emails I received. However, I will say that members of my own community have asked that I seek those amendments. I also thank my staff in my electorate office—Helen, Leanne, Molly and Dugald—who have read and collated those many emails.

Macquarie Dictionary

In the view of members of my community, the bill in its current form is an overreach of Government that will impact the rights of parents, teachers and faith leaders. To overcome some of the issues, the Opposition will be proposing amendments in the other place. I note that the member for Wahroonga in his second reading contribution referred to those amendments. The amendments which will be moved include amendments to define the term "suppression". The Attorney General in his second reading speech referred to the term "suppression" by reference to the . As the bill creates a criminal offence, the term should be clearly defined to give clear guidance not only to the courts, should a matter be referred to the courts, but also, more importantly, to those who may be asked to advise members of our community.

We should be making the legislation clear and not leaving important clauses and the importance of the bill to conjecture and uncertainty. The absence of an appropriate definition within the Act means that parents also may feel constrained when asked to provide guidance to their own children as to sexual identity or gender issues. I appreciate that Government members of this House have said that the bill does not stop parents from having conversations with their own children. Government members have suggested that the bill is explicit and does not prevent parents from having a conversation as to sexual identity or gender issues with their children. However, I say that parents should never have to be worried about the criminal or civil consequences of engaging in loving and caring conversations with their children.

Parents are in the best position to know the needs of their own children. The importance of maintaining the bonds between parents and their children can never be understated. A child who wants to speak to his or her parents about sexuality or gender issues may be confused when a parent does not, or cannot, provide appropriate guidance. The failure by a parent to be able to counsel, comfort and guide the growth, development and wellbeing of a child may have an adverse impact on the parental bond between a parent and a child. I believe there is a requirement for legislation to ban harmful practices which cause harm to vulnerable members of our community. But, as I have said, in my view the bill does not provide appropriate definitions and it does not provide appropriate safeguards for parents, teachers and faith leaders. I urge Government members to listen to the community. The community has asked for amendments. I urge Government and crossbench members to support the Opposition amendments. When the bill is debated in the other place, I strongly urge the Government and crossbench members to support the Opposition amendments.

Mr DAVID LAYZELL (Upper Hunter) (22:02:26):

I too wish to contribute to debate on the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. When we think about some of the abhorrent conversion practices—electric shock, nausea‑inducing drugs, exorcisms, ice baths, aversion therapies and so on—they are completely shocking. I am not aware, nor have I in my life been aware, of any such practices occurring in the electorate of Upper Hunter, but that is not to say they have not occurred. It is certainly not something we want to happen in our modern society; nor is ours a society in which we wish those things could happen. I think we all agree on that particular aspect. We all oppose coercive conversion therapy practices, including the historical cruel physical and emotional treatments inflicted on people to change behaviours and tendencies. Actions such as aversion therapy, shock therapy, lobotomies, castration and drug treatments are all terrible practices that are totally unacceptable. Of course we want to see those practices prohibited by this bill.

The bill needs close scrutiny because it seems to go a long way beyond those practices to reach into the family home by inserting legal frameworks into family units. Right or wrong, I feel that it is a huge intrusion into people's lives and therefore requires close review. I do not feel the bill has had the sufficient level of scrutiny called for. There has been a significant lack of community consultation. Members have had this bill for only a week, so I can say I have not been able to consult with my community. For that, I apologise to people in the Upper Hunter. It is a shameful position for this Parliament to be in right now when this is such important legislation.

Members have not had the time or the opportunity to receive feedback from the public. I am disappointed that Labor and The Greens have prevented an open discussion from occurring about these changes, through whatever form is suitable, whether it is in a Legislative Council committee or simply by having sufficient time to have conversations with the public. This bill will make a major change to the manner in which families talk to each other about sexuality and gender. This is an important bill which, if left unamended, could have major ramifications for our society, so it is worthy of community discussion.

I note the religious protections in the bill. There does seem to have been a concerted effort by the Government to protect the freedom of religious expression. Faith NSW, which represents various faith groups around the State, sent me a letter stating support for the bill. I thank them for that and for their guidance. But further to that, the bill becomes questionable. Government members claim there has been wide consultation on this bill but I do not feel that is the case. Rachael Wong from the Women's Forum Australia states:

We received no feedback at all on our submission and we were not invited to participate in any of the closed roundtable meetings that were conducted, despite our clear community interest regarding the proposed Bill. Unlike what has been the case for a very small select group of stakeholders. Neither were we provided with any draft bill for review. We understand that there are other women's groups, as well as children's, parents and LGB alliance groups, who similarly found themselves shut out of consultation on the Bill.

That is not the experience of a major stakeholder who has gone through a proper consultation process. Although, to be fair to the Government, it sounds like it has consulted faith groups and progressive LGBTIQ+ groups and that has been its focus. While the Government does seem to have engaged with part of the community that is very supportive, the Government has avoided other parts of the community and avoided the tough questions on the bill. The Women's Forum Australia has strongly advocated for the removal of gender from the bill. I think there is merit in their request.

There seems to be a mixing of the concepts of gender identity with sexual orientation. It is a complicated field. I do not profess to be an expert on any of this, but it would certainly be worthwhile to float it with interested parties who feel very strongly about the legislation so we can have that discussion. We have not had time to do that. There is also an issue related to the definition of suppression. The Attorney General said that the key term "suppression", which is not defined in the bill, has its ordinary dictionary meaning, which is "to keep in or repress" something or "to put an end to activities". This bill absolutely feels too general in nature. We need a very clear definition of "suppression" that can be relied upon by our judiciary when working with this bill. It seems to me that two people discussing sexuality more than once could trigger the suppression rule. As an example from a simpleton like me, if there are maybe two discussions involving non-religious people who are not the parents, they could end up in jail if relations between those parties sour and a complaint is made. We must get to the bottom of those sorts of questions and understand those scenarios.

For me the key issue in the bill is the exemption for parents, and I understand where that came from. But, when I look at family relationships, it is the aspect I feel most uncomfortable about. Some amendments will be proposed in the other place, and I ask the Government to have a close look at this one in particular. The bill exempts parents but no other members of the family. Grandparents have a special relationship with their grandchildren. It is completely reasonable that they have conversations about sexuality. Grandparents would have things to say about their grandchildren's behaviour in various ways. The bill allows an exemption for parents discussing matters relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual activity or religion with their children. But we need to look at grandparents, siblings and others who are part of that family unit.

We need further protections for behavioural standards that parents and other members of the family dictate for how the household is to run. It is completely fair that we be tolerant of the various opinions that can occur in the household and also aware of how relationships can break down in the household when you are dealing with, in my case, teenagers or grandparents who have different ideas. Those relationships can be close but fractious at times, and I fear that some of the provisions in the bill could be weaponised by angry kids at any time.

In conclusion, whilst I applaud the bill's aim to ban the horrific conversion therapies we have spoken of, it would seem that the definition of "suppression" needs more work. Most importantly to me as a legislator, we need a close look at exemptions for direct family members such as siblings, and for grandparents and other extended family members. It must be looked at more closely, and I ask the Government to look at the amendments to be moved in the other place.

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (22:12:35):

I feel compelled to speak clearly in support of the Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024. I thank the Government and the Attorney General for bringing forward this important reform. I also thank my friend the member for Sydney for his advocacy around this issue and his unwavering support for the LGBTQA+ community, and I note that he first initiated reform in this area with his Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill in August 2023. This important bill sends a clear message that practices directed at changing or suppressing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity cause psychological harm and trauma and that they are wrong, do not work and are not acceptable within our civil society. It also sends a clear message to the community that being LGBTQA+ is not shameful or wrong, that our LGBTQA+ community members are not broken and that they do not need to be fixed.

Australian studies into conversion practices suggest that around 4 per cent of LGBTQA+ Australians aged between 14 and 21 years have experienced conversion practices. That is alarming. Medical and psychological communities oppose conversion practices, and many studies have shown they are ineffectual and can cause significant psychological harm and trauma. People who have been subjected to conversion practices have suffered feelings of shame, guilt, grief, anxiety, depression and, in some cases, suicidal ideation and, unfortunately, successful suicide. The Australian Medical Association [AMA], the Australian Psychological Society, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia oppose conversion practices or practices that attempt to change or suppress sexual orientation or gender, and the AMA has called for a ban on coercive conversion practices.

I understand that for many this is a difficult and sensitive issue. I have heard from many people expressing their views—most vociferously from those who oppose this reform. Weighing these arguments against the harm that conversion practices inarguably do, I conclude that this bill strikes the right balance between protecting vulnerable persons from harmful conversion practices and balancing freedom of religious belief. It recognises clinically appropriate health care and practices that genuinely facilitate an individual's coping skills, development or identity exploration. It allows for the expression of a belief or expression that is not otherwise part of a practice, treatment or sustained effort directed at change or suppression. This bill does not restrain parents' ability to discuss matters regarding sexuality, gender or religion with their children, something that unfortunately happens perhaps too rarely.

Wide consultation has taken place with over 150 stakeholders, and the bill takes into account feedback from victims, religious organisations, advocacy groups, parents' rights groups, and health, government and other stakeholders. The bill allows for a civil redress scheme that is focused on conciliation and voluntary resolution, mirroring the existing anti-discrimination framework. It also empowers the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal with remedial powers for unresolved complaints, including limited damages. It reserves criminal offences for the worst category of conduct—intentional conduct that results in substantial physical or mental harm—recognising the level of harm and damage that conversion practices can cause.

Finally, the bill empowers the Anti-discrimination Board with an education and inquiry function, allowing it to carry out investigations and research into conversion practices, and allows referrals to other relevant industries, such as the Health Care Complaints Commission. The inclusion of a civil redress scheme is important. Limiting redress to the criminal system would force victims of harmful conversion practices into the adversarial criminal justice system in order to seek redress, potentially causing further harm and trauma.

As a society, we have grappled with behaviours that were once institutionalised, common and accepted practice but which we now abhor or have banned in law, such as the flogging or smacking of children and the use of corporal punishment in schools. Such practices are now just not accepted in a civil society, and rightly so; and that is how it should be with conversion therapy, as we look back following the passing of this bill, hopefully. Some will argue otherwise, but I truly respect people's faith. But where there is a history and clear evidence of physical and psychological damage to vulnerable people exposed to terrible conversion therapies, excuse me for siding with those vulnerable individuals. Once again I acknowledge the Attorney General, and I thank the Government for taking up this bill and my friend the member for Sydney for the work he has done to bring this bill to this place. This once again shows just how good this House can be when we work together, as we are. I trust that the bill passes this House and the other place unchanged.

Mr ALEX GREENWICH (Sydney) (22:19:04):

The Conversion Practices Ban Bill 2024 will make it clear that LGBTA+ people are not broken and do not need to be fixed, and attempts to make us change or hide who we are will be against the law. Everyone should feel affirmed and welcome regardless of who they are or who they love. For LGBTQ people there is a long history of attempts to change or suppress their sexuality or gender identity, with devastating impacts on their lives. I have heard heartbreaking stories from survivors of conversion practices. Many grew up and became aware of their sexuality or gender identity in an environment where they were told that being gay, bi or trans is a disorder that needs to be healed to avoid unhappiness, rejection and damnation.

Discovering your sexuality or gender identity when the only message you hear is that you are broken has lifelong impacts on your self‑worth and makes you want to change who you are. Most survivors voluntarily participate because they have been surrounded by the ideology that their sexual orientation or gender identity is broken and can and must be fixed. Experiences range from counselling, therapy, pseudo‑psychology, pastoral care, camps, spiritual guidance and/or deliverances. They come out of those experiences, sometimes decades later, with their sexuality and gender identity unchanged but their emotional state severely altered. I want to tell the House the story of Dawn, who told me:

I believe I have always been a person who has intrinsically felt a deep sense of religious faith or belonging. I did not grow up in a Christian household, I was never taken to Church, and yet at the age of 8 to 9, I asked my parents if they would take me to Church.

While I was not actively involved in any church during my teens, at the age of 19, I became a born-again Christian through a friend.

My life changed completely. I lived for the Church (for God), I experienced my faith intensely. Within a couple of years, I was running mid-week home church groups, heading up prayer chains, bible studies, attending part-time Bible College, followed by full‑time Ministry Training College all while working full-time as part of the administrative team within the Church itself.

Unfortunately for me, one week after becoming a Christian, I also met Judy, who impacted me with the same level of intensity. For three years, because of my Christian faith, I did everything I could to not become involved with Judy. Ours was an on‑again, off‑again emotional relationship that caused me (and her) immense pain and one which we both hid from everyone we cared about.

We lived in constant fear of being found out. My faith told me that this was "the greatest of all sins", that it was "unnatural", "forbidden", "of the devil".

It taught me that if I continued to see Judy, my destiny was hell and there was no way to reconcile the two. I learnt to hate myself. I experienced significant internalised homophobia. I couldn't sleep. I felt it hard to make friends. I felt as if I was constantly walking on the edge and being pulled in two, and very alone. I was a walking mess.

It took me almost 18 months to muster up enough courage to book a counselling session with a Pastor, predominately due to the deep shame that I felt. My confidential counselling session one Sunday morning with one of the Ministers (who had no counsellor training, no mental health training) ended up being disclosed to the entire Ministry Team (without consent) to ensure that I got the help I needed, to ensure that I was still fit to be on staff. If I wasn't traumatised enough by the words from the Pulpit, my time during and post counselling certainly made up for it.

During the period of counselling, I was told by a Pastor that they physically felt sick to the stomach after meeting with myself and a gay friend of Judy's to talk about this. They said that they that felt they had to "wash their hands", that they were so physically impacted by the abhorrent thought of someone trying to condone this relationship. I had Pastors send me books on conversion therapies showcasing people who had successfully walked away from sinful same sex relationships. I had people lay hands on me to cast out the devil.

I was told I was broken and needed healing. I had one person lay hands on me and ask me to physically cough to exorcise the demons. It became a condition of my employment that a pastor lay hands on me to pray every morning. One pastor insisted I stay over a couple of nights at their place with his family as he didn't trust me not to call Judy.

Dawn's trauma from conversion practices continues to this day. She urges this Parliament to shut down those practices. Similar stories to Dawn's are formed in New South Wales and that is why we need this bill. LGBTQ people are not broken. They do not need to be fixed. It is conversion ideology and practices that need to be shut down. The Australian Medical Association, the Australian Psychological Society, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses and all peak mental health organisations recognise the psychological and emotional trauma of conversion practices and their futility. They condemn conversion practices, with many signing a joint statement supporting the bill.

We know that conversion practices lead to poor mental health. They are associated with depression, anxiety, addiction, post‑traumatic stress disorder, social isolation and, at worst, suicide attempts. It is heartbreaking to hear survivors talk about friends from conversion programs who died by suicide. Unfortunately some elements of the community have engaged in a loud and concerted campaign against banning conversion practices in the name of faith and religious freedom. There are many LGBTQ people of faith, and the campaign has been deeply upsetting for them. Religious freedoms should not be used as a weapon to facilitate what is, frankly, torture against the LGBTQ community. The bill appropriately navigates the tension between religious freedom and keeping the LGBTQ community safe. It makes it clear that religious expressions, including in prayer or of a belief or principle that must be followed, are not conversion practices.

Conversion practices must be directed at an individual with the specific aim of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Religious organisations would still be free to denounce homosexuality, bisexuality or the trans experience if that is their ethos. Conversion practices involve a significant power imbalance that needs to be acknowledged. The ministers, counsellors and teachers who adopt practices have community respect; the gay, lesbian, bi, trans and gender diverse and asexual subject to the practices are considered by them to be broken. We make laws to protect the vulnerable from harm. LGBTQ people, in those circumstances, are the vulnerable ones.

Extension of time

The bill is simple and does three things: It defines conversion practices, creates a criminal offence and provides a civil response scheme. Conversion practices are defined as a practice, treatment or sustained effort that is directed at an individual for the purpose of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity. The criminal offence will be limited to when conversion practices result in substantial harm. This is appropriate. The bill is not about locking people up; it is about making vulnerable LGBTQ people safe. []

I thank the House. The civil response scheme is the most important part of the reforms: It is about preventing harm. The civil response scheme empowers Anti-Discrimination NSW to educate the community about the harmful impacts and unlawfulness of change and suppression practices. I hope that the education framework will reduce conversion ideology and practices. I ask the Attorney General to confirm that appropriate funding and support will be provided to Anti-Discrimination NSW to conduct community and stakeholder education before the law takes effect.

Where change or suppression practices do occur, an affected person or someone on their behalf will be able to make a complaint to the President of Anti-Discrimination NSW. The president can try to resolve the matter by bringing the parties together for conciliation. Conciliation can keep communities together, giving those who practice conversion insight into the consequences and creating options for those affected to safely stay in their communities. Where conciliation is unlikely or fails to resolve a matter, it can be referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which will have the power to issue orders and award damages.

A broad range of practices are covered by the bill. However, there is concern about referrals and advertising. Referring someone to conversion by, for example, giving them a pamphlet or sending them to see a counsellor needs to be captured, and advertising conversion practices should be banned. No-one should be able to promote or refer someone to a banned practice that is both damaging and futile. Banning advertisements would also provide opportunities to intervene before harm is done. I ask that the Attorney General clarify in his reply how referrals and advertisements will be covered by the provisions in the bill.

Many survivors will not make complaints until years after their experiences. They see themselves as broken and believe others see them as broken. They blame themselves for not being able to change. Because the bill focuses on complaints made by and on behalf of complainants, if those affected are not ready or able to go through with a complaint, a member of the community with information about high‑risk conversion practices occurring must be able to make a report that is investigated and acted upon. An example could be a teacher uncovering conversion practices at the school they work at or someone finding a pamphlet in a community hall. Anti‑Discrimination NSW needs to be able to investigate and take action in response to information from the community, and I ask the Attorney General to inform the House in his reply what options the bill provides for such reports.

There has been a push to exclude suppression practices from the bill. Suppression practices attempt to make an LGBTQ person hide who they are and live contrary to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are a growing and deceptive form of conversion. They see gay men marry women, lesbians marry men and trans people live as someone they are not. Suppression practices are as harmful as change practices. They deny people some of the fundamental parts of being human and happy, like love and meaningful connections, and accepting themselves for who they are. The harm can extend to others, including spouses, who through no fault of their own find themselves married to someone who is attracted to another sex.

There are pushes to allow someone to consent to conversion practices, but consent is not possible. Those raised under the ideology that they are broken, sinful or condemned will do anything to change. Excluding consent would do nothing but provide a blank cheque for conversion. In enacting a ban on conversion practices, this Parliament is denouncing them and recognising the serious harm that they cause. The bill tells LGBTQ people that their sexual orientation or gender identity is not broken and does not need to be fixed. It recognises that change or suppression practices are deceptive and harmful. LGBTQ people exist; they are who they are and there is no problem with that. The bill moves us forward, affirming that no sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes a deficiency or shortcoming.

I pay tribute to the survivors of conversion practices who have championed reform for many years. Their dedication to stop others suffering the way they did is admirable. They have educated the community and members of Parliament about what conversion practices entail by sharing deeply personal stories about their lives, with details about their traumatic experiences, mental health and relationships. I especially recognise the work of Chris Csabs, who established SOGICE Survivors; Nathan Despott, who established the Brave Network; and Anthony Venn‑Brown, who established Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International. Their organisations bring survivors together to provide support and healing and to advocate for reform. I have learnt a lot from them on this journey, and I hope that they are proud to see the bill before the House.

I also thank Teddy Cook from ACON and TransHub for joining me to meet the Attorney General to share the trans experience with conversion practices. I ask the Attorney General to confirm in his reply that survivors of conversion practices will continue to be consulted during the implementation of the legislation. I also thank Equality Australia—especially Anna Brown and Ghassan Kassisieh—for championing reform, working with members to explain the legal frameworks for banning conversion practices and being a powerhouse of LGBTIQA+ law reform organisation. I thank the many faith leaders who have advocated for a ban on conversion practices, particularly the Uniting Church and Dr Peter Stuart, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle. They continue to show that Christianity can be inclusive and affirming of LGBTQ people, and their work is so important to many people of faith.

Last year I introduced a bill to this Parliament. My bill and this bill both achieve a ban on conversion practices, and I am happy to support this Government bill. I thank the Government for working with me and all stakeholders to establish reform. I especially thank the Premier, the health Minister, the Attorney General, the Hon. Penny Sharpe and the Minister for Multiculturalism, as well as their amazing staff and departments for the work they have done. I thank my crossbench colleagues for their support and those in the Coalition who have engaged with me on this legislation for over 12 months. I also thank the many people in Rainbow Labor who continue to advocate for this reform and acknowledge my amazing staff member Tammie Nardone for her tireless work on this.

The bill will make LGBTQ people safer by banning harmful, traumatic and futile conversion practices. It will say LGBTQI+ people are loved just the way they are. I will be voting for Dawn, Anthony, Chris, Nathan, Teddy and Samuel, who was mentioned in the Minister for Transport's contribution, and all of the amazing survivors I have met and those I have not, and I ask my colleagues to join me. As the only openly gay member of the Legislative Assembly, I feared this debate and the things that might have been said, but I leave the debate affirmed and grateful for the respectful tone of all members. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr MICHAEL DALEY (MaroubraAttorney General) (22:35:46):

— In reply: That was quite some speech by the member for Sydney. I thank him for that. I begin by thanking all of the members who contributed to the debate, including the members for the electorates of Wahroonga, Keira, Cronulla, Blue Mountains, Dubbo, Charlestown, Hawkesbury, Pittwater, Prospect, Newtown, Summer Hill, Vaucluse, Coogee, Balmain, Bega, Kellyville, Shellharbour, Ballina, South Coast, Davidson, Granville, Holsworthy, Wollongong, Wakehurst, Parramatta, Kiama, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Gosford, Albury, Maitland, Willoughby, Leppington, Terrigal, Drummoyne, Lane Cove, North Shore, Goulburn, Castle Hill and Upper Hunter; Mr Speaker; and, finally, the member for Sydney.

Prior to the election, the now Premier as Leader of the Opposition promised that if we took government, we would ban LGBTQ+ conversion practices. This bill is a culmination of that commitment. It creates criminal offences and a civil complaints and response scheme relating to conversion practices. This bill has been the subject of significant consultation; I have hardly seen the likes of it in my 18 years in this place. It strikes the right balance in prohibiting harmful and objectionable practices while also respecting civil liberties such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of religious belief.

I address some matters raised by certain members during the debate on this bill, which has spanned many different elements of the bill. I start with the comments from several members around the consultation process which has informed the bill and comments that the bill was rushed. It was not. I take pride in the fact that I see those comments as ones that have been conjured up by certain members who could conjure up scant legitimate criticism of the bill. It has been consulted on widely for a long time. It lay on the table for the requisite period, and I reject entirely that the bill was rushed. As I noted in my second reading speech, reform in this area is highly sensitive and we know that striking the right balance is challenging.

We know there is, and remains, amongst a number of stakeholders no absolute consensus and that there are differing positions that reflect deeply held personal convictions. That is okay on this sort of subject matter. However, the consultation process that led to the bill was significant. Almost 150 organisations were engaged in the consultation work that took place between 31 July and 25 August 2023. Those stakeholders included people with lived experience, as we have heard; representatives from the LGBTQ+ advocacy groups; faith-based organisations; parental rights groups; gender advocacy organisations; and legal, government, educational and health stakeholders.

I thank the Minister for Health and the Minister for Multiculturalism, and their staff and departments, as well as my own, for the incredible role they played in the consultation. Sector-specific round tables were held during the consultation period that also provided an opportunity for views to be shared amongst stakeholders ahead of further written submissions. Stakeholders were initially identified by the joint working group with regard to the key sectors assessed to be impacted by the reform. Following that initial identification, that cohort of stakeholders also nominated other organisations as having relevant expertise or interest in the reforms. Those additional stakeholders were also included in the consultation process.

The confidentiality of the process sought to facilitate frank discussion and contributions from stakeholders on polarising issues. Some members have specifically named stakeholders that they say were not consulted. In fact, many of those stakeholders did make contributions as part of the significant consultation process that informed the policy positions behind the bill. The consultation process also allowed people with lived experience of conversion practices to share their stories and experiences in a safe and supportive environment. At the conclusion of the consultation process those stakeholders, still holding their own positions, understood the other positions that were held but also understood that the bill was in a form that could be accepted. I thank all the stakeholders for the open, genuine, trusting, confidential and respectful way that they engaged in this long and comprehensive process.

Macquarie Dictionary

The member for Wahroonga raised a number of specific issues relating to the definition of conversion practices, some of which were reflected in the comments of other members. I will deal with those in turn. First, the member for Wahroonga noted that it is not clear what suppression means in this bill. As I outlined in my second reading speech, the term "suppress" in clause 3 (1) is intended to take on its ordinary meaning. "Suppress" is defined in the as to keep something in, repress something or put an end to activities. The statutory interpretation of key terms with reference to their ordinary meaning is not at all an unusual feature of this bill; it is common in much of New South Wales legislation.

Secondly, the member for Wahroonga indicated that the religious practice exclusion was difficult for him to understand. I appreciate the member's desire for straightforward or simple legislative drafting, but that simplicity should not come at the expense of accuracy. This is a bill that, in striking its delicate balance, must be accurate. Clause 3 (3) (c) of the bill provides that a conversion practice does not include an expression of a religious belief or principle, or an expression that a belief or principle ought to be followed or applied, if that expression is not part of a practice, a treatment or a sustained effort directed to changing or supressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. That makes it very clear that general conversations around religious beliefs or how religious beliefs might be reflected in a person's life are not conversion practices. That includes personal prayer or seeking spiritual guidance.

Thirdly, I refer to comment by the member for Wahroonga about a complaint of a conversion practice arising from a discussion between two siblings under the age of 18. In the first instance, I note that the definition of conversion practices is captured at clause 3 (1) of the bill. Such a discussion would only amount to a conversion practice if it could be found to be a practice, treatment or sustained effort directed to an individual to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity. A general discussion between siblings under the age of 18 about sexual orientation or gender identity would be unlikely to meet that definition. For example, a general discussion of that nature is unlikely to be considered a practice, sustained effort or treatment.

Turning to the civil scheme as it relates to this scenario, generally a child will not have legal capacity to make a complaint due to their age. In these circumstances, a parent or guardian would need to make a complaint on the child's behalf under clause 9 (1) (b) of the bill. This is consistent with the standing requirements for complaints made under the existing Anti-Discrimination Act. I also note the concern of the member for Wahroonga that a complaint of conversion practices made in these circumstances will lead to an order for compensation being made by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

It is important to note that complaints of conversion practices are not immediately referred to the tribunal for determination. Instead, once a complaint is accepted, the president will attempt to resolve the complaint by conciliation and, if they are unable to do so, only then consider referring the complaint to the tribunal for determination in certain circumstances. ln addition, I note that the president has the discretion to decline a complaint during an investigation for specified reasons under clause 22 of the bill, including where it is not in the public interest to take further action in relation to the complaint or where the president is satisfied for any other reason that no further action should be taken in relation to the complaint. The particular circumstances of the case, including the parties to the dispute, may be relevant to the exercise of the president's discretion on these bases.

Finally on this example, I reiterate the point I made in my second reading speech for the avoidance of doubt. The criminal offences in part 3 of the bill cannot be committed by a person under the age of 18. However, victims of conversion practices will be protected by the criminal offence regardless of age. Several members have also made comments about how the definition may interact with parenting activity, such as parental discussions and household rules that are set by parents. First, in relation to parental discussions, the exclusion under clause 3 (3) (b) specifically relates to conduct that genuinely facilitates an individual's coping skills, development or identity exploration to meet the individual's needs, including by providing acceptance, support or understanding to the individual. This will, as I mentioned in my second reading speech, cover a difficult conversation had by a parent with their child, such as talking through their child's feelings and how those might relate to their sense of self or their religious beliefs to better understand them.

Importantly, this exclusion is not limited to parents. It would cover similar difficult conversations between other kinds of family relationships—for example, grandparents or even amongst friends. The Government has added clarification to this exclusion through the examples under clause 3 (4) (d) around parental discussions. This is just one example, and it does not limit the exclusion. The examples in the bill are non­exhaustive by design. It is not possible, or even desirable, to capture every possible scenario in legislation. Rather, the examples reflect what the definition of "conversion practices" and the exclusions under clause 3 achieve. Just because an example is not listed does not mean that it will not be excluded.

In relation to setting household rules, I go back to the core definition and its elements. First, it must be a practice, treatment or sustained effort. Second, it must be directed to a person on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Third, it must be directed to change or suppress that person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Just because conduct is directed towards an LGBTQ+ person is not enough. It must be directed to that person on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that rules of general application, such as rules generally relating to sexual activity in a household, are unlikely to be captured as conversion practices.

I acknowledge the comments made by the members representing the electorates of Newtown, Balmain and Ballina who expressed the view that the exclusion for expressions of belief or principle under clause 3 (3) (c) is overly broad. This exclusion reflects that the bill strikes a balance in line with the Government's commitment that this ban would not unduly limit freedoms of expression and belief, which are important. The exclusion only applies where an expression of belief or principle is not part of a practice, treatment or sustained effort directed to changing or suppressing an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. This makes clear that the exclusion extends to general conversations around religious beliefs or how religious beliefs might be reflected in a person's life. However, just because religious belief or principle is invoked does not mean the exclusion will apply.

I note that the member for Kellyville made comments about gender-affirming care models. The bill does not mandate any treatment. Rather, it bans LGBTQ+ conversion practices. A conversion practice does not include a health service or treatment delivered by a registered health practitioner that, first, the health practitioner has assessed as clinically appropriate in their reasonable professional judgement; and, secondly, complies with relevant professional, legal and ethical requirements. The bill does not prevent a clinician from deciding what treatment to provide to an individual patient based on their reasonable clinical judgement. It also does not prevent advice being given to a patient about the impacts of any proposed treatment.

I turn to matters relating to the criminal offences in the bill. Before I note comments made by the member for Sydney, I thank him for his leadership, for his example, for his assistance with the bill and for once again having the courage and leadership to bring these issues to the House. I note that the member for Sydney raised the issue of advertising conversion practices and how the bill might address that. In New South Wales ordinarily there are no offences for advertising criminal conduct. That is because advertising that a person is providing an unlawful service exposes that person to potential criminal investigation and liability. To the extent that the purpose of such an offence is to prohibit objectionable speech, the Government notes that there is existing coverage provided under both the New South Wales and Commonwealth legislation.

Depending on the facts, the offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence under section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code could be applicable. It is also an offence under the Public Health Act 2010 to advertise or promote the provision of a health service in a manner that is false, misleading or creates, or is likely to create, an unjustified expectation of beneficial treatment. There are also civil laws that may be applicable, including laws relating to false and misleading representations. However, it is important to stress that, depending on the way in which such an advertisement is delivered and used, the criminal and civil prohibitions in the bill could also apply. In cases where advertising material is directed to an individual on the basis of changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, a conversion practice may have occurred. That might be the case, for example, in targeted letterbox campaigns towards individuals who are known to be LGBTQ+.

The member for Sydney also raised the issue of referrals to conversion practices. In New South Wales, general principles of accessorial liability will apply to the offence, as they do for other offences. Those principles exist where a third party has knowledge of the essential circumstances or a third party has a state of mind or attitude that helped the main party commit the offence. A referral to a conversion practice would, as a baseline, require an intention to help a person or organisation in undertaking a conversion practice and, thereby, knowledge of a conversion practice taking place. Those factors are relevant to whether accessorial liability can be established and will be examined by a court on a case-by-case basis. The application of the general existing principles of accessorial liability, which would cover referrals, are therefore suitable and ought to be relied on for a conversion practice offence.

I turn to comments relating to the civil response scheme. The member for Pittwater queried the absence of a harm threshold for the civil prohibition on conversion practices. It is important to note at the outset that the civil law response is but one part of the response to conversion practices. It forms part of the broader, tiered response to banning conversion practices, which provides for more escalated responses as the seriousness and harm of the conduct increases. Under the civil scheme, it is unlawful for an entity to engage in a conversion practice, with no requirement to establish harm. In contrast, the criminal offence of providing or delivering a conversion practice, at clause 5 of the bill, targets more serious conduct. It requires proof of substantial harm and is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

The tiered approach is strongly supported by LGBTQIA+ groups and victim-survivors. It also reflects the approach in most jurisdictions that have banned conversion practices, including the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and New Zealand.

I also note that if a complaint proceeds to the tribunal for determination and is substantiated by the tribunal, it can make various orders, including an order that the respondent pay damages or cease continuing or repeating the unlawful conduct. An order to pay damages is for the purpose of compensating the complainant for any loss or damage suffered because of the respondent's conduct. This means that, while actual harm is not necessary for a complaint to be dealt with by the tribunal, it will have regard to whether any harm was suffered by the complainant in its assessment of damages. The member for Pittwater also raised a concern that the lack of a harm threshold may lead to frivolous complaints of conversion practices. I note that there is a range of safeguards in the bill to protect against frivolous or unmeritorious complaints. These safeguards include standing requirements and a mechanism to allow complaints that are frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance to be declined by the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board.

The member for Sydney, the member for Newtown, the member for Balmain and the member for Ballina made comments regarding the reporting of conversion practices by an individual who is not a direct complainant. Under clause 9 of the bill, only certain identified individuals or bodies have standing to make a complaint of conversion practices to the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board. This clause requires that there be a connection between the complainant and the individual alleging that they have been subjected to a conversion practice. Complaints may be brought by other individuals and bodies, not just victims of conversion practices. This ensures that it is not solely the responsibility of victims to bring these complaints. For example, under the bill, a complaint can be brought by a representative body on behalf of a named individual, provided it meets certain criteria.

Importantly, to bring a complaint on behalf of an individual, the individual or body must have the consent of the affected individual. This preserves the victim's ability to choose the reporting pathway most suitable to them and ensures that they will not be required to participate in the Anti-Discrimination NSW complaints process if they do not wish to. In addition, there are other mechanisms in the bill that would allow Anti-Discrimination NSW to become aware of and take action in relation to issues relating to conversion practices, even where a complaint has not been made. Under clause 47 of the bill, the Anti-Discrimination Board has the power to conduct investigations and inquiries relating to conversion practices. This general investigative power is not reliant on the receipt of individual complaints, nor is it limited to investigating the subject matter of a particular complaint.

For example, the board could resolve to conduct an investigation relating to conversion practices based on information that it has received in the course of conducting community outreach or as part of the complaints handling process. Action taken by the board following an investigation under clause 47 may include education and engagement with relevant individuals and bodies or reporting certain conduct to other relevant agencies where authorised or required to do so by another Act. In addition, under clause 48 of the bill, the Minister has the power to refer certain matters to the board. Once referred, the board would be required to examine the matter and report to the Minister about its findings and conclusions. The Minister also has the power to refer certain matters to the tribunal as a complaint under subclause 33 (2) of the bill.

I turn to the comment made by the member for Sydney concerning funding for Anti-Discrimination NSW to provide education in relation to conversion practices. The Government funds Anti-Discrimination NSW to fulfill its various functions. When this legislation commences, these functions will include receiving and dealing with complaints of conversion practices, as well as carrying out other complementary functions including an educative function in relation to conversion practices. Currently, Anti-Discrimination NSW's community engagement team works with diverse groups in the community to raise awareness about discrimination, its impacts and the services available to help people who experience it. This includes education work in a wide range of in‑person and online meetings and events, including conferences, workshops, training sessions and webinars. Anti-Discrimination NSW is experienced at doing this work, and it is expected that it will provide education in a similar way with respect to conversion practices.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill provides for a 12-month delay in commencement during which preparation for implementation will occur. That period will enable us to develop community education around the bill and determine how it will work, which we know is a critical element of its success. I also note the member for Sydney raised the issue of further consultation work in that implementation period. One of the key aspects of implementation will be community education and awareness. Developing effective community education will require engagement with impacted stakeholders, which includes considering the experiences and expertise of victim survivors.

Legislation Review Digest No. 11/58

Before I conclude I will address some matters raised by the Legislation Review Committee in . First, in relation to the criminal offence, the committee noted that the term "substantial harm" may be broad. As it also recognised, that term is currently used in New South Wales criminal law, and the courts have interpreted it to mean "having substance, other than trivial" but to not include things that are "transient or trifling". The courts have also found it would not include things like "the transient, or temporary, shock or fright that anyone would suffer who felt his or her safety was in peril, but which passes within a relatively short time leaving no lasting ill-effects". I appreciate that finding meaning in case law or indeed even in statutes can be challenging for the wider community. That is exactly why, as I have said a number of times, the bill has a delayed commencement of 12 months. That will enable implementation activities to occur, including training for government agencies and community education activities.

Second, the committee noted the partial extraterritorial application of the criminal offence. The primary offence under clause 5 of the bill requires at least some of the conduct to occur in New South Wales. That recognises that conversion practices can form a course of conduct over time. However, I think it is worth clarifying that this extraterritorial application will only apply where it is one "conversion practice" which is a course of conduct. The extraterritorial application would not extend to where a person outside of New South Wales provided a conversion practice and then, subsequently and without any link, a further conversion practice was delivered within New South Wales. That was the scenario raised by the committee. The approach of treating the entirety of the course of conduct as subject to the offence is consistent with other course of conduct offences such as the offence of coercive control introduced under the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022, which will commence on 1 July of this year.

Third, in relation to the committee's comments on the supporting offences of taking a person from New South Wales for a conversion practice or engaging a person outside of New South Wales to deliver a conversion practice, I confirm that, as I mentioned in my second reading speech, those offences target those who are trying to evade the ban. The conduct that those offences are seeking to criminalise is someone trying to get around the law that we are passing, rather than delivering the practices directly. That is why those offences do not require harm to have been caused.

Fourth, I note that the committee has referred four matters to Parliament with respect to the civil complaints scheme under part 4 of the bill. I will briefly address each of those matters in turn. However, it is important to note at the outset that those aspects of the civil complaints scheme have been adapted from the existing complaint handling framework under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, which has been tried and tested over many years. That reflects the approach to the development of the civil scheme—that is, to start with the existing complaint architecture under the Anti-Discrimination Act and modify it where required to ensure that the scheme is fit for purpose. I also note that the Anti-Discrimination Act has been referred to the New South Wales Law Reform Commission for comprehensive review, including its complaints framework. When the Law Reform Commission reports, there will be an opportunity to consider the relevance of any recommendations for reform of the discrimination complaints framework to the framework set out in the bill.

The committee noted that under clause 15 (5) of the bill the decision of the president of the Anti‑Discrimination Board to decline a complaint at lodgement is not reviewable by the tribunal. In response I note that, importantly, the president's power to decline a complaint under clause 15 is limited to the three reasons set out at subclause (2). This ensures that the president's power to make non-reviewable decisions under the bill is carefully confined to a limited set of circumstances. That includes circumstances where it is clearly appropriate for a complaint to not proceed any further, such as where a complaint does not disclose a contravention under the Act, or where the president is not satisfied that a complaint has not been made by, or on behalf of, the complainant named in the complaint.

The committee also commented on the width of the investigation powers of the president. With respect to the president's power to require information or documents under clause 17, I note that an entity will not be required to supply information or documents under this clause if they have a reasonable excuse. That provisions provides the president with sufficient flexibility to assess what is a reasonable excuse in the circumstances of that matter. Relevantly, when making this assessment, the president will be able to consider the relevance of recognised common law bases to refuse to provide documents and information, such as the privilege against self‑incrimination.

It is also relevant to note clause 51 of the bill in this context. This clause provides that the president must not exercise their functions under the bill in a manner that would prejudice criminal investigations or proceedings. This clause is intended to mitigate the risk of prejudice to the criminal process where an investigation into a complaint of conversion practices and a criminal investigation are concurrent and examining the same or similar facts. In those circumstances, the president may need to consider the risk of self-incrimination to a party to a complaint relating to a requirement to supply information or documents as part of the discharge of its obligation under clause 51 of the bill.

I now turn to issues raised by the committee with respect to the president's powers to assist a complaint under clause 12 and decline a complaint under clause 22 of the bill. In practice, the president's power to assist an individual to make a complaint under the Anti-Discrimination Act is limited to translation, transcription, interpretation and lodgement services. Importantly, when exercising that power, the president does not assist a complainant in formulating their complaint. It is expected that the president's power to assist a complainant under clause 22 of the bill will be exercised in the same way.

Under clause 22 (1) (b), the president may decline a complaint during an investigation if they are satisfied for any other reason that no further action should be taken in relation to the complaint. That provision provides flexibility to account for circumstances beyond those listed in clause 22 where it may be appropriate for the president to not proceed with an investigation into a complaint. A complainant can seek that a complaint declined under this provision be referred to the tribunal for determination under clause 27 of the bill. That gives the complainant an alternative pathway to seek a remedy in respect of the complaint where it has been declined by the president under this clause.

I refer to the committee's comments on the president's power to delegate their functions under clause 32 of the bill. In practice, the president's power under section 94C of the Anti-Discrimination Act—which mirrors the power in clause 32 of the bill—is limited to delegating functions to selected staff of Anti-Discrimination NSW. Those delegations are necessary to ensure that the president can effectively carry out the day-to-day functions of administering the legislation. By way of example, the president may delegate certain functions to staff, including complaint handling managers, conciliators and intake staff, to facilitate the receipt and handling of complaints.

Finally, the committee notes that clause 55 of the bill contains a power to make regulations about anything necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the bill. I note that this provision, with respect to regulation-making powers, is common across the statute book and enables matters of a machinery nature to be prescribed by regulation. As the committee acknowledges, written notice of the making of a regulation must be laid before each House of Parliament and such a regulation is subject to disallowance by either House of Parliament under section 41 of the Interpretation Act 1987. This enables appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of any delegated legislation made under the bill.

The views that conversion practices are founded on, that LGBTQ+ people are somehow wrong and need fixing, do not reflect the views of this Government. I hope they do not reflect the views of any member of either House of this Parliament. They do not reflect the standards that we want to set in our community. This is a bill which sets that higher standard. It provides protection to out LGBTQ+ community for practices, treatments or sustained efforts that are directed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Perhaps, most importantly, it is a bill that affirms that LGBTQ+ identities are not a disorder, a disease, an illness, a deficiency or a shortcoming; they are simply our brothers and sisters. I commend the bill to the House.


The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Motion agreed to.

Third Reading


I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Motion agreed to.

Stay updated about North Shore

North Shore Skyline