Western Australia has passed laws to allow people charged under unjust homosexual laws to have the convictions removed from their criminal records.
The state decriminalised consensual homosexual activity in March 1990 but those prosecuted under previous laws still have the convictions on their criminal records today, affecting their employment, travel and adoption.
While people affected were able to have the convictions deemed spent under certain circumstances, this didn’t provide for a complete removal of the offence from a person’s criminal record.
Western Australian Attorney-General John Quigley said on Tuesday that after the passage of the expungement scheme those convicted under these laws “will no longer need to have a criminal record hanging over their head for offences that are not illegal today.”
“While it is a shame that Western Australia was one of the last jurisdictions to consider a scheme for the expungement of historical homosexual convictions, the Government has moved swiftly to implement this important reform,” he said.
“We recognised that many members of our community continue to carry the stigma of a criminal record for consensual acts that are no longer considered a crime in WA.”
Quigley said the expungement scheme will commence on October 1. Applications will be made to the state’s Department of Justice, which will display the details on its website.
Last November, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan apologised to the LGBTIQ community “for the hurt, for the prejudice, for the active discrimination that ruined lives.”
Longtime gay rights advocate Jamie Gardiner had been campaigning for equality for more than 40 years and welcomed the “long overdue” milestone.
“Convictions of gay men or boys under bad laws that should never have existed can now be expunged,” he said.
“Even though bad, homophobic laws were progressively repealed around Australia from the 1970s the damage they did to those who were caught up in them has lived on, poisoning the lives of many and causing great loss to both the victims and to society.”
Human Rights Law Centre Legal Advocacy Director Anna Brown said the passage of the expungement legisalation was an great day for the LGBTIQ community.
“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised,” Brown said.
“By acknowledging the impact of these homophobic laws, our members of parliament have paid respect to the victims of these laws and also to our LGBTIQ community.
“Every state and territory has now recognised that punishing people for who they love was the real crime.”
Queensland’s expungement scheme for historical gay convictions came into effect on June 30.
Brisbane’s LGBTI Legal Service has offered free legal assistance to help those affected apply to have the convictions expunged.
The Human Rights Law Centre provides legal assistance to those in other states and territories who have similar criminal records.
To contact the HRLC about expunging your historical conviction, contact their Expungement Legal Service on (03) 8636 4458.
(Photo by Rainbow Rights WA)