Queensland AIDS Council

The Queensland LGBTI Legal Service today announced that, following an emergency meeting, the organisation had decided to extend its operations to take on a concerted political advocacy role on behalf of LGBTI Queenslanders in the wake of the Newman Government’s decision to defund the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC).

Service President, Ms Merran Lawler said “The recent and completely unexpected defunding of QAHC is a cynical move on the part of the Newman Government.  It is designed to silence and destabilise the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans identifying people in Queensland while the Government simultaneously looks to wind back civil unions and suffocate the vibrant range of LGBTI social, health and support services currently available, many of which are run by volunteers”.

Ms Lawler noted that the Government had misrepresented HIV data in an attempt to justify its decision.  “It is disingenuous to suggest that QAHC, a body which received government funding to address HIV amongst gay men is in some way responsible for the increase in HIV infections across the entire Queensland community”.

The LGBTI Legal Service, which has been operating since 2010, did not see its expanded role as deviating from the focus of delivering legal services to LGBTI communities.  “Law is always intensely political” Ms Lawler said. “The prospect of repealing a validly enacted law in relation to civil unions impacts directly upon legal rights and entitlements even though the motivation to repeal is itself entirely political” she said.

The Service will rely upon legal mechanisms including Right to Information requests and, where appropriate, will challenge government decisions through courts and tribunals, in order to protect the fragile rights of LGBTI Queenslanders.

“At every turn we will hold the Newman Government to account for its decisions and policies where LGBTI people are negatively impacted”.

Ms Lawler noted the Service did not operate in the same climate of fear increasingly gripping other community service organisations.  “We receive no funding from the State Government that can be choked off in retaliation for advocating for our communities.  Our services are provided by a dedicated volunteer group of legally qualified practitioners, community support workers, academics and community activists who see advocacy as integral to our aims, just as it is integral to the aims and responsibilities of QAHC.

“Advocacy is not a “fling”” but a responsibility and a fundamental freedom in a democratic society” she said, referencing the Attorney-General’s recent derisive comments about the work of QAHC.