Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference, Opening Statement

  • Speech (check against delivery)

I'm Penny Wong, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I'm really sorry that my international commitments mean I can't be with you in Sydney this week, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to share our Government's plans for advocacy on equality for LGBTQIA+ people around the world.

But first I begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land on which this Human Rights Conference is held.

I pay my respects to Elders past and present.

I acknowledge First Nations peoples from around the world participating in this conference.

And I thank Anna Brown and her team at Equality Australia for their effective advocacy and their leadership in hosting this conference.

In the world of international relations, we often hear people say we have no choice but to deal with the world as it is.

That's not enough.

We need to deal with the world as it is, and we need to do what we can to shape it for the better.

That was the international consensus that underpinned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that is the movement we must all drive forward today.

Recognising, that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

That all of us have the right to recognition as a person before the law…

All of us equal before the law…

All of us entitled - without any discrimination - to equal protection before the law.

But all of us know that this is not the world we currently live in. We have no choice but to face that reality.

And the facts are clear.

In too many countries LGBTQIA+ people experience targeted persecution and discrimination.

Facing attacks on their dignity and identity, and barriers to essential healthcare.

Facing criminalisation and punishment, even facing the death penalty simply for being who they are.

We know that for too many people, this is the world they face.

But we also know there is reason for hope – hope for change, hope for better.

We've seen this in Australia, which over many decades has removed discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, most recently with the Australian people overwhelmingly voting in favour of marriage equality five years ago.

And in many other parts of the world there has been heartening progress.

Since 2012, thirteen countries have decriminalised homosexuality, including Singapore, Bhutan, Nauru and Palau.

In further moves toward equality in our region, same sex couples in Thailand now have the right to adopt children, as well as the same legal rights as married people regarding property.

And following Taiwan's embrace of marriage equality in 2019 – the first in Asia to do so - transnational same sex couples are now also able to get married in Taiwan.

This progress is driven by you and your colleagues - individuals and organisations like those gathered for this conference.

It is the result of your tireless efforts to advance tolerance, diversity, equality and social justice.

So this Conference is about you and your work, and I'm proud of the support our government has provided to bring representatives from across the region to participate.

We recognise that to act meaningfully, we must act in support and alignment with those on the ground.

We will listen to the voices, views and priorities of LGBTQIA+ human rights defenders and civil society.

The voices of those who best know the context, challenges and opportunities in their countries .

Leaders like DIVA - Diverse Voices for Action - for Equality in Fiji.

Leaders like APCOM who alongside their work on health, work with thirty-five countries in Asia and the Pacific to strengthen human and legal rights, reducing stigma and building inclusion.

Australia's first Ambassador for Human Rights will lead our advocacy for human rights and for LGBTQIA+ equality – and she will be supported by our Ambassador for Gender Equality.

They will join me and my ministerial colleagues in strengthening Australia's leadership and diplomacy to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And we will offer more practical support.

A new Inclusion and Equality Fund will be Australia's first dedicated fund to support LGBTQIA+ civil society organisations and human rights defenders, international partnerships and networks – helping address social stigma and legal discrimination.

It will have an initial $3.5 million funding this year.

And as a first step, it will make an increased contribution to the Global Equality Fund, for emergency assistance to human rights defenders and support to LGBTQIA+ organisations in our region who are working to catalyse change.

But this is just the start.

In the coming months, I have asked our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to consult across our region and our community to identify the areas in which we are best equipped to make a difference.

This will inform a dedicated LGBTQIA+ human rights engagement strategy – including bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, development and humanitarian assistance.

Because we can't just take the world as it is – we have to do what we can to shape it for the better, for all of us.

So I wish you the very best for your conference, and for a happy World Pride in Sydney.

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