Spoken at Government House on May 15 2017.
I acknowledge that we are standing on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present – and particularly acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and the close cousins of the Bunurong, and just reflect – ever so momentarily – that our Indigenous LGBTI friends, brothers and sisters are amongst our crew tonight, and play a huge part in our journey towards equality.
Thank you, Governor – you are a first in many areas of your distinguished career – and now another the first Vice Regal LGBTIQ reception in Australian history! Your home is a place for all Victorians, and the fact that you have been so inclusive and embracing of Victoria in all its diversity reflects well on this place, the office that you hold, and of course LGBTI communities are a glorious part of that diversity.
I would like to acknowledge the MP’s, allies, friends, and leaders from the LGBTI community who are with us today.
Governor, I can I take this opportunity to acknowledge your leadership in initiating and hosting this IDAHOBIT event here at Government House. It’s a pleasure to be here for this important occasion – which is clearly the LGBTIQ event of the week!
We come together this evening as Victorians – people who are proud of contributing and belonging – whilst we acknowledge the journey the so many have been on to overcome exclusion, discrimination, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia has achieved much, it still has such a long way to go.
We come together as proud members and allies of Victoria’s diverse LGBTI community. We have different cultures, backgrounds, abilities, ages and a multitude of different stories represented in the room tonight.
We are here to celebrate just how far we have come – to remind ourselves of the journey ahead – and to remember those who have been fundamental leaders in this community, many who are no longer with us – for truly we all stand here today on the shoulders of champions of humans right and equality, without whom we would not be doing the important work that falls to us.
This year’s IDAHOBIT theme is ‘families’ – something that means different things to different people – the beautiful diversity we see in LGBTI families that comes together from relationships, shared life experiences, and that broad definition of what falls under the rainbow families network.
In 2016 we achieved adoption equality – and we continue to work to change the culture to reduce the discrimination some families continue to face.
We will continue to stand by outstanding organisations such as Rainbow Families, Parents of Gender Diverse Children and a multitude of grass roots organisations that touch the lives, through their hundreds of volunteers, – to support the wider and ever-increasing diversity of families.
It’s all about building a Victoria that has a place for everyone.
A future where the Minister for Equality is not needed – acceptance and equality is a value embedded in all we do.
As a Government – we will continue to lead that change – by our actions – but as a society, as a community, that equality will only happen with your advocacy, activism and passion.
It was just a year ago – our Premier apologised for unjust laws that criminalised homosexual acts. The apology followed the introduction of a scheme to expunge historical convictions for homosexual activity that took place under these laws.
I want to recognise the bravery of those who have come forward to have those convictions expunged – your graciousness in helping us to right a wrong – has been extraordinary is beyond admirable. We want to make sure that we not just reflect on the achievements of the past, but that we build for an equal future.
Future Pride marches will see us marching by a Pride Centre – which will further strengthen this community in Fitzroy St in St Kilda, but also have ties to the whole Victorian community.
We also have a lot more to do – standing and working with each and every one of you and the multitude of organisations that you are part of. We will do this on the basis of acceptance, celebration and embracing diversity is something that lifts us all – LGBTI equality not to be tolerated but to be accepted and valued.
We will continue to lobby to ensure the Commonwealth legislate for marriage equality.
We will continue to challenge homophobic attitudes and to confront those who oppose equality policy and plans– which doesn’t see us move forward but backwards.
We will ensure every young person who goes through our education system – that we are with them – no matter who they are or where they are…that cultural wars should not use LGBTI kids as cannon fodder.
We will continue to stand with those beyond metropolitan Melbourne – because equality doesn’t just follow the tram line – and I thank those who have travelled far tonight from right around Victoria.
Today is also an international day, as the Governor indicated. The first letter of IDAHOBIT stands for an International day of recognition and support.
And we will continue to advocate for equality globally – Orlando, Chechnya, St Petersburg, Archya, Uganda or too many other places around the globe – that is also a part of the work we are all engaged in.
But tonight we recognise and thank you for being part of this great community – an ally, a supporter, crucial to our future work.
Because our journey of ensuring equality as, as the Premier likes to say, being non-negotiable, has a long way to travel. If the opposite of shame is pride, then this group is bursting with pride.
Enjoy the evening – and I am particular proud to introduce Victoria’s – and indeed Australia’s – first Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Ro Allen.