Tasmania’s LGBTIQ community is mourning the death of one of its greatest allies and supporters, former Mayor of Devonport, Mary Binks OAM, who died on Tuesday at age 84.
Mary Binks was horrified by the pain and trauma experienced by young LGBTIQ people on Tasmania’s North West Coast during the bitter debate around the decriminalisation of homosexuality – finally achieved in 1997 – and she was critical to establishing the LGBTIQ support and education organisation, Working It Out.
Working It Out, which is funded by the Tasmanian Government and celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, went on to save the lives of many young LGBTIQ people and keep many families together.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome said it was at a time of division and pain in the community, that Mary Binks “stepped up, brought people together, and made our Island a better place.”
“She might have come across as a prim and proper, but underneath she was a force of nature who achieved what many thought was impossible – establishing an LGBTI support organisation in what was then still Australia’s most homophobic state,” he said.
“Mary was a role model for all those heterosexual people who want to support inclusion and equality for the LGBTI community because she was at once polite and tenacious, brave and kind, strategic and outspoken.
“If you fly a rainbow flag, lower it to half mast in honour of Mary Binks.”
Following a spate of suicides of young gay men on the North West Coast during the decriminalisation debate, Mary Binks obtained funding for a study into the prejudice and discrimination faced by North West LGBTIQ youth.
The resulting “Working It Out Report” lead to funding for Working It Out as an organisation from the state and federal governments. Mary chaired a steering committee of service providers and community leaders to establish the new body.
Working It Out executive officer Susan Ditter paid tribute to Mary and offered their deepest condolences to her family.
“Many LGBTI Tasmanians survived and thrived, and many families are proud of their LGBTI members, thanks to Mary’s vision, hard work and huge heart,” she said.
“Mary’s leadership on LGBTI support at a time when it very hard has inspired many other people to put aside their fears and take a stand for inclusion.”
Croome said the initial Working It Our Report inspired rural communities across Australia to do more for their LGBTIQ youth.
It led to subsequent initiatives on the North West Coast including “Signpost”, an LGBTIQ support and information website established by the Cradle Coast Authority under then director and now State Government Minister, Roger Jaensch, he said.
In last year’s marriage law postal survey the North West seat of Braddon, for many years labelled Australia’s most homophobic electorate, returned majority support for marriage equality.
“Sometimes a single person’s courage, compassion and foresight changes the course of history. For the North West Coast and for Tasmania’s LGBTI community, Mary Binks was one such person,” he said.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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