Australia: High Court decision welcomed

Published: October 5, 2011


Thursday, 6th October 2011: A consortium of organisations representing transgender and intersex people around Australia today welcomed the High Court of Australia’s decision to uphold the appeal of two trans men who challenged the interpretation of the West Australian Gender Reassignment Act (2001), saying that they hoped the decision would set a precedent for the way similar laws around the country would be applied.

Sally Goldner, spokesperson for TransGender Victoria said “The High Court ruled that the law should be applied in a beneficial way that makes life easier, not harder for people, and therefore that there was no justification for requiring people to have costly and unnecessary surgeries in order to have their sex recognised.”

Goldner added that the decision “is in line with the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Files Report in 2009 which recommended that surgery should not be considered a necessary pre-requisite for the legal recognition of a change of sex.”

Aram Hosie, spokesperson for the WA Gender Project said “Previously transsexual people in Western Australia, as in other parts of the country, have been unable to legally amend their sex without invasive, medically unnecessary surgeries that may be unwanted, impractical or unattainable.”

“This has resulted in difficulties in proving ones identity on essential documentation, a loss of privacy, and the risk of exposure to discrimination, harassment and sometimes even violence.”

Hosie added that “in Western Australia in particular, a person’s inability to legally amend their sex leaves them without any legal discrimination protections.”

“The High Court’s decision will now make it much easier for transsexual people in Western Australia to obtain documentation that accurately reflects their identity and physical appearance. In turn, this will further help those same people to more easily obtain discrimination protection under West Australian law.”

Peter Hyndal, spokesperson for A Gender Agenda said he hoped that the decision would “set a precedent about the way that laws governing the recognition of sex in Australian should operate, and so help make life easier for transsexual men and women in Western Australia and the rest of the country.”

“To this end, we call on other State and Territory Governments around Australia to reflect the High Court’s decision in their interpretation and administration of the law and to act on the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission Sex Files report” Hyndal added.

“We would also like to acknowledge that this historic case would not have been possible without the generous pro bono support of Freehills. Freehills commitment to this case over more than three years demonstrates their support for human rights in Australia, and we are very grateful for their efforts. We congratulate AH and AB – and also people like Conor Montgomery in NSW – for their courage and determination in tackling unfair situations. They make a huge difference for the lives of many other people in standing up for what they believe.”

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