Survivors of LGBTQA+ conversion practices have applauded the passage of the Victorian Government’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill, saying that it is a hard-won legislative change that will save lives.

The long-awaited legislation outlines prohibitions for any person who delivers conversion practices to another person, with a range of criminal penalties attached. The legislation also creates a new civil scheme, giving investigative powers to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Nathan Despott from Victorian survivor support group Brave Network said that the legislation sets a new global standard due to its inclusion of recommendations from Australian survivors.

“These legislative changes have been hard-won, with survivors of conversion practices re-living their trauma in order to secure passage of this world-leading legislation. The ground-work often involved painfully sharing our stories and insights repeatedly over several years,” Mr Despott said.

Global research has found that conversion practices cause significant trauma to participants, with increased suicidality, decreased vocational success, and increased risk of homelessness.

“Conversion practices research released by La Trobe University earlier this month overwhelmingly demonstrates that conversion practices primarily occur in informal, religious spaces, grounded in an ideology of ‘brokenness’ and often cloaked as ‘pastoral care’,” Mr Despott said.

“By addressing these settings, this law will set a new global standard.”

Chris Csabs from survivor-led advocacy group SOGICE Survivors said the new legislation was developed with detailed input from survivors of LGBTQA+ conversion practices, and is deeply grounded in the latest Australian research.

“This legislation has utilised many of the recommendations in the SOGICE Survivor Statement, which means that it is largely survivor-informed,” Mr Csabs said.

“It is beyond exciting that this has resulted in gold-standard legislation that will act as a powerful deterrent, ultimately saving lives.”

The bill’s introduction was met with a substantial misinformation campaign mounted by conservative religious groups, due to the bill’s focus on practices occurring in religious contexts.

“Survivors are so pleased that the Victorian Parliament and broader community have rejected the myth that the bill was vague or excessive. In reality, a ban that did not cover informal, religious practices would not have been a ban at all, but rather an endorsement for the conversion movement’s activities to flourish,” Mr Despott said.

Some health professionals expressed confusion about the bill’s impact on their practice, despite the bill giving broad exemptions allowing health practitioners to exercise their professional judgement in line with legal and regulatory requirements, including the Code of Ethics maintained by AHPRA, which provide significant room for exploratory treatments in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The passing of this legislation sends a strong message that fear-mongering, which LGBTQA+ people have been forced to endure every time protective or equalising legislation has been debated, will no longer fool, or be accepted by, the Australian public,” Mr Csabs said.

“The quietest voices have spoken the loudest.”

SOGICE Survivors and Brave are currently advocating for similar legislation to be adopted in every state and territory.

“The goal of both Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors is to see an end to the harm that conversion practices cause, so that all Victorians, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, can live authentically and with pride,” said Csabs.

“We now call on all other Australian states to follow Victoria’s lead and pass legislation that is equally effective in ending conversion practices.”

Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors have expressed gratitude to Freedom2b, the Australian Medical Students Association, the University of Divinity, Jewish Care, Rodney Croome AM, survivor advocate Anthony Venn Brown AM, Equality Australia, the Australian GLBTIQ+ Multicultural Council, Thorne Harbour Health, the Australian Psychological Society, and signatories of the SOGICE Survivor Statement for their support of the groundbreaking survivor-led campaign that resulted in the Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill.