Labor MP calls for ban on conversion practices in South Australia

Si Gladman / 08 January 2024

A state Labor member in South Australia is calling on his own government to ban “insidious” gay conversion practices in the state.

Upper house member Ian Hunter told the parliament late last year that South Australia needed to “move in step with the other states” and territories, such as Victoria, the ACT and Queensland, to outlaw conversion practices.

He also claimed that some registered psychologists and doctors were prescribing scripture for patients.

In his speech, Mr Hunter (pictured) cited the story of a woman who visited his office and shared her experience attending a live-in program attached to a church and led by the pastor’s wife.

The woman, who he referred to as ‘Sam’, told of how the program left her feeling “completely traumatised” and suicidal.

“This is an insidious practice. It needs to stop. South Australia needs to move in step with the other states and ban this horrible practice of trying to turn someone straight when they are not and never will be,” Mr Hunter said.

“Running through many of these practices is always a strong religious narrative and the key to this is disempowerment and isolation of the individual. They are the techniques that are practised upon the poor individual who is trying to be converted. 

“These practices cause victims to feel shameful, depressed and anxious, and to sometimes take their lives.”

Mr Hunter said he suspected most conversion practices continued to take place informally through support groups, prayer groups and spiritual interventions at residential camps or home meetings.

However, he alleged that such practices were also taking place in formal settings and said he would provide more information to the Legislative Council.

“We know that formal practices through registered therapists happen, even though their code of conduct prevents them from doing that,” he said.

“At a later stage, I will come back to this story and explain to the council how registered psychologists and doctors prescribe scripture for their patient, rather than appropriate therapy or medicines.”

In the past, Mr Hunter has been outspoken on the need for secular reforms, including the removal of prayers in parliament.

As the Rationalist Society of Australia has reported, the South Australian Labor government has ignored calls to remove prayers and has recently retreated from considering proposals to remove religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

Last year, the City of Adelaide passed a motion that urged the Malinauskas government to progress a ban on gay conversion practices in South Australia.

Other states including Western Australia and New South Wales are also considering introducing bans on gay conversion practices.

In New South Wales, however, a new multi-faith lobby group launched by Premier Chris Minns in October is advocating against gay conversion laws that will affect the freedom of religious communities to practise their faith.

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Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

All the more reason.