Gender-neutral bathrooms in crisis evacuation centres and tailored support services to address perceived discrimination against homosexual and transgender communities are being canvassed under a push to develop “LGBTI-inclusive” emergency management policies in Victoria. Victorian government funded researchers will investigate the specific experiences and needs of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) communities in the event of an emergency, such as a bushfire or flood, amid broad questioning about the Andrews government’s increasingly radical social agenda. The initiative follows research commissioned by several women’s health organisations claiming that disaster impacts are “heightened for LGBTI people”.

The decision to investigate these issues in the context of disasters such as the 2009 Black Saturday bushfire catastrophe and the 2010-11 Queensland floods has raised questions about the qualification of some academics to inform emergency services social policy. The new research project will be managed by La Trobe University’s Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and the Gender and Disaster Pod, an initiative of Women’s Health Goulburn North East and Women’s Health In the North. Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Jeremy Sammut said the concerning issue with such projects was that they were often run by academics with limited frontline experience.

Dr Sammut cited the example of the 2014 Sydney Lindt cafe siege, in which Muslim radical Man Haron Monis took 18 people hostage. Monis and two hostages were killed. A recent inquest heard evidence that the NSW police command was concerned with the social and political ramifications while trying to secure the release of hostages. “The risk is they can end up diverting crucial services from the core mission, which is to protect the safety of everyone in the community,” Dr Sammut warned. Noel Ashby, a former assistant commissioner for Victoria Police who forged strong links with the LGBTI community during his 35-year career, expressed concern that policies singling out special-interest groups could have a negative impact on the ability of emergency services to respond to a critical incident.

“Operational matters should never be coloured by sexual orientation or race or gender,” Mr Ashby said. “In an emergency scenario, time is often critical and to have further considerations can only prolong decision-making and can hinder the response. “The key issue must always be the broader issue of safety of all.” Emergency Management Victoria commissioner Craig Lapsley received a backlash on social media after he promoted the study, which is seeking survey participants. Mr Lapsley said research in NSW and Queensland had indicated that LGBTI community members caught in an emergency had difficulty in accessing emergency and support services and faced marginalisation or exclusion.

“Our interest in this Victorian research is in understanding if this is the same here and how we can better understand and improve the health and wellbeing of LGBTI Victorians after emergencies,” he said. According to the explanatory statement accompanying the study, “understanding LGBTI marginality, vulnerability and resilience helps contribute to inclusive and effective emergency management policies”. The survey will ask participants about their experiences in an emergency; what assistance they needed and what was offered; whether they felt their sexual orientation or gender identity had an impact on the quality of service; and whether they felt discriminated against. Respondents will also be asked to comment on “an ideal response”.

Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria chief Liam Leonard says that in an emergency there is often a blanket assumption that victims are heterosexual or, if not, they have family support. “For many LGBTI people, that’s not the case,” he says. The project comes off the back of research that found disaster impacts were heightened for LGTBI people. “The usual procedures to secure residences and rehouse those affected by disaster are accompanied by additional privacy concerns and risk and experience of discrimination,” says the report, Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines: A Literature Review, which was released this year. “The space of evacuation centres, for example, may be experienced as a space of risk by same-sex couples who fear homophobic responses from personnel or other evacuees.”

The lack of privacy in these centres, particularly in bathroom facilities divided only into a male/female binary, is often highly problematic for transgender individuals. The review pointed to previous research that found LGBTI victims of the Queensland floods reported exacerbated anxiety resulting from having to hide their sexual or gender identity from emergency workers and volunteers, or stay with people who were not accepting of them. Victorian Emergency Ser¬≠vices Minister James Merlino defended the initiative. “We need to make sure all members of the community are prepared and supported when a disaster or emergency strikes,” he said. The research project was dismissed by the state opposition as another example of the Andrews’ government “dividing communities”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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A raft of ideologically-motivated rainbow legislation passed the South Australian Upper House in a pre-Christmas blitz on human dignity. Two unethical bills passed by the South Australian Parliament now deny children their right to a mum and dad.  Same-sex couples will soon have access to children through surrogacy and adoption services in South Australia. Also passed was a bill that recognises same-sex marriages performed internationally as well as a gender-identity bill that allows a person to change their ‘sex’ on their birth certificate without the need to undergo sex-change surgery or hormone treatment. it is disappointing that the Labor Government has focused its energies on passing contentious laws that alienate large sections of the community, particularly when the interests of women and children are at stake.

It is unconscionable that parliamentarians have prioritised the desires of same-sex attracted adults over the right of a child to a mother and father. Adoption has always been about the welfare of children who, for reasons not of their own making, are in need of the complementary care, where possible, of a mother and a father. In allowing surrogacy for same-sex couples, the Labor Government has turned the right of a child on its head by making it all about the rights of adults to access children. The surrogacy bill, which not only allows same-sex couples to access altruistic surrogacy but also gives them access to assisted reproductive technology, now means that children will be intentionally created to miss out on having a father or mother.

We empathise for children who unfortunately miss out on a mother or father because of tragedy or desertion. However, this new surrogacy law deliberately ensures that a child misses out on either the love of a father or a mother. Nature dictates that men and women are required to produce a child. Men and women then go on to provide unique, complementary roles, both of which are important in the development of children. We also know that children are best served when they are raised by their mother and a father, wherever possible. This is why the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the rights of children to a mother and a father.

The Convention says, “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”. The majority of South Australian parliamentarians obviously disagree and blatantly denied that mothers and fathers are important for children. This contravenes international conventions, is unjust, and as we know from the stories of many children who have grown up not knowing their mum or dad, lacks compassion for the child. Disturbingly, the Parliament also ignored the concerns of women and girls to feel safe and with haste passed the birth certificate bill in the same week.

Women have been worried by the thought that any biological male who identifies as female will have the right to access sex-specific spaces like bathrooms, domestic violence shelters and dormitories. It will be interesting to see if this birth certificate bill will be used by rainbow activists as a way to establish same-sex marriage.  For the first time in Australia, any person can change their sex on their certificate without any physical justification.  Once notionally changed, it is then assumed the person would have the ability to marry.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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The Primate of Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, has joined other religious leaders in Australia in calling for a new law to tackle modern slavery. He has co-signed a joint open letter asking the country’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to introduce a Modern Slavery Act. “As faith leaders united against modern slavery, we express our concerns about the welfare and human rights of thousands of migrant workers who are either at risk of or are experiencing forced labour in Australia,” the religious leaders say in their letter. “We believe it is vital that Australian governments and businesses take all reasonable steps to ensure their procurement activities ensure the people producing the goods or services have decent jobs and are free from forced labour or human trafficking.”

They say: “Australia has robust legislation criminalising the spectrum of slavery and slavery-like practices and we believe a Modern Slavery Act would be a vital next step. Australia has an opportunity to lead and an opportunity to learn from what has worked and not worked in other countries to identify, mitigate and eradicate modern slavery.” Commenting on the letter, Archbishop Freier said: “We join together to recognise the God-given dignity of each human person to know freedom, to live without their lives being owned by others, and to express themselves to the fullest potential that God has given them.” He added: “Every person deserves to live a life of freedom. As people of faith we have pledged to work together to overcome this terrible evil still being suffered by so many of our fellow human beings.”

Archbishop Freier went on “The eradication of modern slavery needs to be a national priority for all of us, Government, business and civil society. It’s only by working together that we can succeed in abolishing slavery.” In addition to Archbishop Freier, the letter was signed by Australia’s Roman Catholic Leader, Archbishop Denis Hart, as well as Baptist, Salvation Army, Presbyterian, Coptic, Lutheran and Hillsong churches, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders acting through the Australian Freedom Network. The network was launched last year to work towards the eradication of slavery, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labour and forced marriage.

Source: Anglican Church News Service

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The National Day of Prayer and Fasting will be held this Saturday 25 February 2017. The observance of the National Day of Prayer & Fasting will take place in public halls and churches across Australia in the different time zones from 10AM to 4PM. The National Day of Prayer & Fasting is taking place on a Saturday this year in the hope that it will allow more churches and more people to take part in sustained prayer and even fasting. For information on the day go to www.nationaldayofprayer.com.au  

Source: National Day of Prayer and Fasting Committee

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