Victoria moves to wipe criminal records for gay convictions
Victoria will become the first state in Australia to expunge past convictions for homosexuality, in plans announced by the Premier Denis Napthine over the weekend at Midsumma festival.
Prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1981, men who had consexual sex with other men were convicted of numerous charges, including buggery and gross indecency – leaving them with a criminal record which could limit travel, volunteering and applying for jobs such as teaching.
"It is now accepted that consensual acts between two adult men should have never been a crime,'' Dr Napthine said. '"The Liberal government, led by Sir Rupert Hamer, recognised this and decriminalised homosexual sex in the 1980s. We also recognise the social and psychological impacts that have been experienced by those who have historical convictions for acts which would no longer be a crime under today's law.''
Human Rights groups have welcomed the announcement, saying the criminalisation of homosexuality placed an unjust burden on the men who were unfairly jailed for consensual sex.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy, Anna Brown, commented: “It’s extremely pleasing to see the Victorian Government showing leadership on this issue. Acknowledging these laws were wrong and legislating to abolish the left-over convictions will start to heal the harm that these discriminatory laws have caused. Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised,”
Attorney-General Robert Clark said the reforms were expected to be effective commencing in 2015.
"It is proposed that an individual who has an historical conviction for an offence relating to homosexual acts that would not be a crime under today’s law will be able to apply to have their conviction expunged," Clark said.
The announcement coincides with the release of a major research report, by a coalition of legal and community organisations, intended to guide the development of the reforms.