THE McGowan Government will aim to right a historic wrong this week when the Premier makes a formal apology and legislation is introduced to expunge old homosexual convictions.
Delivering on one of Labor’s election pledges, Mark McGowan will stand up in Parliament on Wednesday to say sorry to those who were convicted of crimes based on their sexuality. Homosexual acts were decriminalised in WA in 1990, but it has taken nearly three decades for any government to move to erase fully the last remnants of the archaic regime.
People whose lives were affected by these convictions over the decades, even if they had it spent — including possible restrictions on travel, migration, work prospects and adopting children — are finally set to get the chance to have their records wiped clean.
The Government believes 200 to 300 people are affected in WA.
“This is simply about righting the wrongs of the past. These acts should never have been considered a criminal offence,” Mr McGowan said.
“Many have experienced severe psychological trauma as a result of the old laws.
“We can’t change the past, but I hope that the apology will offer some comfort, it’s an important step for WA and sends the message that we are a tolerant State that is welcoming and proud of everyone in our community.”
Under the proposed laws, those applying for an expunged record will need to satisfy a mandatory test to ensure their conduct constituted a historical homosexual offence and would not be considered a crime if committed today. Also, consent of all parties and respective ages at the time will be taken into account.
Families of those convicted of these old crimes who have since died will be able to apply for an expungement on their behalf.
Attorney-General John Quigley hoped these reforms would help repair the damage caused by such a historical injustice.
“Expunging an offence goes further than simply making it spent. It has the practical effect of requiring that an expunged conviction be treated as though it had never occurred,” he said.
Openly gay Labor MP for Maylands Lisa Baker said it was an indictment that this “hidden and shamed group” had been neglected for so long.
Rainbow Rights WA chairman Jonathon Mann said the Premier’s apology would be a powerful moment for the broader LGBTI community that he expected would reinforce the message that “it’s OK to be gay”.
“It was State-sanctioned homophobia ... you had a criminal record just because of who you loved and that’s atrocious,” he said.
Opposition spokesman Michael Mischin stopped short of offering bipartisan support for the Labor legislation, saying it would be “considered on its merits by our party room”.