Tasmanian Parliament agrees to wipe clean records of historic homosexual offences

Ruth Forrest
Ruth Forrest

The state’s upper house has passed amended legislation that will clear the records of people convicted of homosexual acts when it was outlawed in Tasmania.

Before the historic moment, Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest said the government had missed a number of recommendations presented to them in a 2015 report on the matter by former Anti-Discrimination Commission Robin Banks.

Ms Forrest said it was with regret that men were driven to ostracism or their deaths as a result of the state’s laws against homosexual activity and cross-dressing until they were repealed in 1997 after several attempts at reform.

With many others in the chamber, she offered an apology to the people and families impacted by the laws.

People will now be able to make applications to the Justice Department to have offences involving homosexual activity wiped from their records.

If incapacitated, applications can be made on their behalf and a person will have the opportunity to resubmit if their first application failed.

But Ms Forrest said the bill did not acknowledge offences that may have occurred after police interaction as a result of a person’s homosexuality, like public disorder charges and resisting arrest.

She said there needed to be a clause within the bill that required an independent review.

Ms Banks and gay rights activist Rodney Croome were present in the chamber at the time.

Mr Croome said Tasmania was a better place for having decriminalised homosexuality 20 years ago.

"Gay and transgender Tasmanians who were convicted under our awful former laws will no longer have to endure the stigma and disadvantage of having a criminal record,” he said.