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I’m the gay grandson of a persecuted Jew; freedom of religion is not freedom to harm

Originally published by Justin Koonin, 15 July 2019 | Sydney Morning Herald 

 

A few months ago, while researching my family history, I came across a letter addressed to my grandfather, Walter Mankiewicz, from his employer, the Reichs-Kredit-Gesellschaft, one of Germany’s large state-owned banks.

Adolf Hitler in Nuremberg in 1933, the year that Jews such as Walter Mankiewicz were told that their jobs were being terminated.
Adolf Hitler in Nuremberg in 1933, the year that Jews such as Walter Mankiewicz were told that their jobs were being terminated.

Dated July 29, 1933, a few months after Adolf Hitler had come to power, the letter informed my grandfather that on the basis of the recently passed Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, the banks was obliged to terminate his employment, and thanked him for his services.

My grandfather’s employment was terminated for no other reason than that he was Jewish. Shortly after, he fled Germany for South Africa as a refugee.

In the midst of the current rancorous debate about freedom of religion, there is a misconception of a grand feud between lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people on the one hand, and people of faith on the other.

The reality is far more complex, not least because many LGBTQI people come from a faith background themselves. Perhaps more than most, we are sensitised to the harm that is caused when any group in society is marginalised on account of their identity.

Illustration: Simon Bosch

Illustration: Simon Bosch CREDIT:THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

We support laws that shield people from discrimination on account of their religious beliefs precisely because we have experienced discrimination ourselves.

However, we should not confuse freedom of belief and worship with the freedom to cause harm on the basis of those beliefs.

While health data for people of diverse sexuality and gender remains woefully incomplete, that which does exist does not paint a pretty picture. According to statistics from the National LGBTI Health Alliance, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime than the general population. Transgender people aged 18 and over are nearly 11 times more likely – and more than a third of this cohort has attempted suicide in their lifetime.

Statistics around self-harm, depression and anxiety are similarly troubling. There is nothing inherently wrong with these people. Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation removed transgender and gender identity-related issues from its manual of mental health disorders, as it did with homosexuality in 1990. Rather, mental health concerns arise as a result of repeated exposure to societal messaging that tells people they are inadequate, incomplete or flawed.

When gay or transgender children, without a solid system of community support, hear that their existence is the work of the devil, and that they are going to hell as a result, it does not take much foresight to envision the mental health consequences.

So when we challenge the public expression of views that have the potential to cause harm, it is not because we are trying to limit freedom of religion. We do it because we are trying to keep people alive.

As the government prepares to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill, it is critical that we have a mature national conversation about the vibrant, pluralistic country that we can be – a country that respects difference, sees our diversity as our strength, and seeks to build people up rather than tear them down.

If we can’t, the cost will be measured in lives.

Dr Justin Koonin is the President of ACON, Australia’s largest LGBTQI health organisation.

Gold employers: PM&C and ATO recognised at LGBTI inclusion awards

by David Donaldson, The Mandarin, 28 May 2019

 

The Australian Tax Office and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have been named among Australia’s best employers for LGBTI inclusion.

Both were included on the list of 14 gold employers at last week’s Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards, hosted by ACON’s Pride in Diversity — the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion.

The awards are based on the results of the Australian Workplace Equality Index — an evidence-based benchmarking tool that annually assesses workplaces in their progress and impact on LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

PM&C was also named most improved.

RMIT University took out the top spot as employer of the year — the first time the award has not gone to a private sector business. RMIT also won best on trans and gender diverse inclusion, acknowledging the support offered via the gender transition guide, including special leave for staff transitioning genders.

Andrea Kenafake, divisional manager city planning and sustainability at Brisbane City Council, took the executive leadership award, while her employer was included on the gold list. Nicholas Steepe from Charles Sturt University won the out role model award.

The inclusive service provider of the year is Uniting, which is also a gold employer. The full list of gold employers includes:

  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Brisbane City Council
  • Clayton Utz
  • Deakin University
  • Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet
  • EY
  • Macquarie Bank Limited
  • MinterEllison
  • NAB
  • PwC
  • QBE Insurance Australia
  • RMIT University
  • Uniting
  • Woolworths Group

Four employers were awarded platinum status for longevity in high performance — Accenture, LendLease, ANZ and the University of Western Australia. Two employers have qualified for platinum status next year — EY and the Macquarie Group.

There has been continued growth in participation in the index since its launch in 2010, said Dawn Hough, director of ACON’s pride inclusion programs.

“This is the ninth year of the AWEI and, once again, we have record numbers of employers across all sectors and states participating in the index. The accompanying employee survey elicited a staggering 27,349 responses, which underscores the importance of LGBTI inclusion in the workplace,” Hough said.

“Practice is continuing to shift significantly in this space with employers across Australia not only maintaining their commitment to LGBTI inclusion but in fact strengthening their inclusion initiatives and activities. Scores required to obtain the various tiers of recognition have continued to increase.”

Pride in Diversity is part of Pride Inclusion Programs, a suite of social inclusion programs delivered by ACON, Australia’s largest LGBTQ health organisation.

Australia’s top organisations for LGBTI inclusion announced

ACON, 24 May 2019

 

RMIT University has been named the 2019 Employer of the Year for LGBTI inclusion at the Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards, hosted by ACON’s Pride in Diversity – the national not-for-profit employer support program for LGBTI workplace inclusion in Australia.

More than 730 business leaders, diversity champions and HR professionals representing all sectors and employer sizes came together at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney to celebrate the results of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) – a rigorous, evidence-based benchmarking tool that annually assesses workplaces in the progress and impact of their LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

This year reflects the greatest diversity of top employers achieving Platinum and Gold Employer Status in the history of the AWEI. It is also the first time that a non-private commercial organisation has been awarded Employer of the Year status.

This year top employers spanned public, private, higher education and not-for-profit sectors:

  • Four employers have been awarded Platinum Status for longevity in high performance (Accenture, LendLease, ANZ, UWA).
  • Two employers have qualified for Platinum Status next year (EY, Macquarie Group).
  • 14 employers have been awarded Gold Status for highest results within the current year.
  • The Small Employer component of the index also saw an increase in participation and scores with Initiative Media taking out the Small Employer of the Year.

 The year’s awards were attended by a record number of CEOs and business leaders with Qantas CEO and Patron, Alan Joyce, providing this year’s keynote address.

Dawn Hough, Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, said there has been continued growth in participation in the index since its launch in 2010.

“This is the ninth year of the AWEI and, once again, we have record numbers of employers across all sectors and states participating in the index. The accompanying employee survey elicited a staggering 27,349 responses, which underscores the importance of LGBTI inclusion in the workplace,” Hough said.

“Practice is continuing to shift significantly in this space with employers across Australia not only maintaining their commitment to LGBTI inclusion but in fact strengthening their inclusion initiatives and activities. Scores required to obtain the various tiers of recognition have continued to increase. We are delighted with the continual growth and focus exercised within this area of diversity and inclusion,” Hough said.

Pride in Diversity is part of Pride Inclusion Programs, a suite of social inclusion programs delivered by ACON, Australia’s largest LGBTQ health organisation. Pride Inclusion Programs also includes Pride In Sport and Pride in Health+Wellbeing.

This year awards also celebrated the results of the Health + Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI) focusing on LGBT inclusive service provision. The award for Inclusive Service Provider of the Year went to Uniting, which is also a Gold Employer in the AWEI.

“LGBTI inclusion has well and truly made its way onto the Australian workplace diversity and inclusion agenda, and is starting to make a mark in the sporting and service provider sectors as well,” Hough said.

“Congratulations to all award winners recognised today on their significant achievements and for showing great leadership in LGBTI inclusion.”

Pride Inclusion Programs will next celebrate LGBTI inclusion within Australian sport at the second Australian Pride in Sport Awards in Melbourne on 12 June. Held at Cargo Hall, the event will be hosted by NITV’s Matty Webb and attended by Pride in Sport co-patrons Alex Blackwell and Daniel Kowalski, along with several other leading sporting and community figures.

For more information on ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, go to www.prideinclusionprograms.com.au

Pictured: Pride In Diversity Co-Patron Alan Joyce with representatives from RMIT, 2019 Employer of the Year

 

2019 Australian LGBTI Inclusion Awards

 

2019 Australian Workplace Equality Index Award Recipients

 

Employer of the Year        

RMIT University

 

LGBTI Employee Network of the Year           

LGBTI ERG, LendLease

 

Platinum Employers (Long-term Gold Employers)      

Accenture

ANZ

LendLease

University of Western Australia

 

Platinum Qualifiers for 2020            

EY

Macquarie Group

 

Gold Employers   

Australian Taxation Office

Brisbane City Council

Clayton Utz

Deakin University

Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet

EY

Macquarie Bank Limited

MinterEllison

NAB

PwC

QBE Insurance Australia

RMIT University

Uniting

Woolworths Group

 

Small Employer Gold

Initiative Media

Oliver Wyman

BlackRock Investment Management Australia

 

Small Employer of the Year              

Initiative Media

 

Most Improved Employer

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

 

Trans and Gender Diverse Inclusion

RMIT University

 

External Media Campaign

‘The Road to Broken Hill’ AAMI, Suncorp

 

Executive Leadership

Andrea Kenafake, Brisbane City Council

 

Network Leader of the Year

Cameron Tirendi, BHP

 

Out Role Model

Nicholas Steepe, Charles Sturt University

 

Sapphire Inspire

Caitlin Monnery-Korving, ANZ

 

The Sally Webster Ally Award          

Joint winners: Ian Bennett (PwC) & Superintendent Richard Roberts (AFP – posthumously awarded)

 

2019 Health + Wellbeing Equality Index Award Recipients

 

LGBTI Inclusive Service Provider of the Year

Uniting

 

Gold Service Providers

Reliant Healthcare

Flourish Australia

Uniting