Local, Independant and Effective

Transgender - remove obstacles to show support

Posted June 17, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (09:42):  May I offer my support to you, Member for Mallee, and if I can help you in any way, please let me know. I would like to welcome to Parliament House today Isabelle Langley; her parents, Andrew and Naomi; and her little sister Hattie. They are constituents of mine from Taggerty in north-east Victoria.

Isabelle is a 12-year-old girl who was born a boy. She is a brave and courageous young person who was able to tell her family that she is a girl born in a boy's body. And her family's response was simply and lovingly: 'How can we best support Isabelle? How can we create a future that she can live in and thrive in?'

Unfortunately, not all parents respond in this positive way to their children, and nor does society. Obstacles that face transgender children include waiting lists for adolescent mental health services, particularly in rural and remote Australia; lengthy assessment processes; waiting lists for specialist treatment; and community attitudes and education.

The Victorian Government recently committed $6 million to the Royal Children's Hospital Gender Dysphoria Service. This funding will help reduce the waiting time from what is currently 14 months, and the funding is welcomed, but waiting times for treatment are still not good enough.

Another obstacle is access to treatment. Stage 1, 'puberty blockade' treatment, is prescribed by medical specialists. Stage 2, oestrogen or testosterone treatment, occurs in mid-adolescence. Currently, treatment decisions for Isabelle and other gender dysphoric adolescents need to be approved by the Family Court. Australia is the only jurisdiction in the world that necessitates medical professionals to request legal permission for this hormone treatment. The court needs to determine whether or not the adolescent is 'Gillick competent', and to determine 'Gillick competence', the court relies solely on the evidence presented by the medial specialists—and the court has never refused an application for treatment to date.

However, access to the Family Court is not an easy process. It is expensive—in excess of $30,000. The legal process is slow and time consuming, and delays in treatment can increase the risks of physical and psychological complications, including anxiety, isolation, depression and even suicide.

It is dehumanising to scrutinise one's gender identity in court and it also involves travel and time.

Last week the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report Resilient individuals: Sexual orientation, gender identity & intersex rights. It calls for options other than a Family Court order for access to hormone treatment. This is urgent for young Isabelle and transgender children just like her. I call on the parliament for a bipartisan approach to immediately address the issue of access to treatment without recourse to apply to the Family Court. I would like to thank you, the whole family, and your supporters for coming today. How proud I am to introduce you to my colleagues in parliament. Thank you for the courage that you have and the work that we are going to do together.

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