Here to Help: Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force SA
The idea of travelling overseas, falling in love, and bringing your partner back home to Australia might seem like a fairytale to most modern queers, but for a few, it’s more of a bureaucratic nightmare. Luckily, GLITF SA is there to help.
Established in a time when securing a partnership visa for your overseas companion was unimaginable, the Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force, GLITF, had the task of fighting on behalf of same sex couples, being the advocates our community sorely needed, and providing the social support that was missing. Simply put, they fought hard to have your overseas partner be able to move here to live with you, and it’s all done by volunteers and pro bono work.
Speaking with Charles Lloyd, current secretary of the SA branch of GLITF, he explains, “The first group was in 1983, a time when we didn’t have the government’s anti-discrimination laws we have today. The formation of the group was about providing equality for gay and lesbian people.” He points to their constitutional objectives which are broken into three main parts: to achieve equality, to act as advocates, and to provide social support.
With little to no anti-discrimination laws, meaning the government could simply deny visas on the basis of same sex couple application, it wasn’t until around 1997 the Government changed the laws and created interdependency visas, and started to recognise same sex couples. Even more recently, these visas were removed and same sex couples began being viewed as de facto relationships, meaning they had the same visas as heterosexual couples. In 2009 the Government redefined de facto partner legislation to include the words “whether of the same sex or a different sex”, meaning a small win for our community.
Lloyd himself went through this process with his partner: “In 2005 I met my partner, and in 2007 thought I would like to bring him over here. I was looking at the Department of Immigration’s website. “There is no way on this planet I’m going to get my partner over here, I might as well forget it” I thought to myself. I went to GLITF and they gave me the support and confidence to say “It can happen, this is going to happen”. Getting that support is a massive thing. It allows you to say, you know what? I can do this.”
For GLITF, a group that began to fight for equal recognition in visa legislation, it seems one of their goals has been achieved. “GLITF has gone over a cusp,” Lloyd says, “but haven’t gotten there yet”. With the fight for marriage equality only beginning to ramp up now in Australia, each state is doing what they can to recognise same sex unions, but this leads to a non-homogenous approach to recognition. In some states same sex couples can register their relationship with the government, while in others they can’t. When proposing their case for a visa to bring one partner in from overseas, a couple listed on a government register may have more footing than a couple that doesn’t.
The fight for equality isn’t the only task GLITF takes on: they also establish themselves well within the queer community, and provide a level of support those settling into Australia cannot find anywhere else. They pass on a lot of information through providing community forums with lawyers, migration agents, and Department of Immigration and Border Protection officials. Then there’s the Helping Hands program which connects people with information and others in similar situations, and helps with the application process.
Like any community group, GLITF is at the mercy of available resources and funding. Until recently, GLITF SA operated out of the AIDS Council of South Australia (ACSA), but as community members may remember, financial difficulties led to ACSA closing down in 2013. GLITF SA is now housed at Relationships Australia SA (RASA) in Hindmarsh. “We used to get a lot of benefit from the AIDS Council, we could use their facilities for our meetings, forums, groups,” Lloyd says. “It’s very difficult providing all these services without a dedicated location. We’ve been quite lucky that we’ve been able to move across into RASA.”
Talking about the future of GLITF SA, Lloyd is sure of one thing. “We’re certainly not going away, and there will always be a need for GLITF SA,” he says. “We’re in a good state, and we’re strong. They key thing we provide is support for people, the social aspect.”
For a small community group few people may have heard of, the help and relief these volunteers give to those in need of support is immeasurable. So next time you’re backpacking in Florence or scooting around Kuta and your eyes lock with some cute local, think, will you ever need the help of GLITF SA?