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Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby tackles homophobia in public lecture

Media release

The Hon. Michael Kirby visited Curtin University today to deliver a public lecture on confronting homophobia in his new role as Patron of its Centre for Human Rights Education (CHRE).

In the lecture, which was timely given the recent massacre of LGBTIQ people in Orlando, Florida, the international jurist, educator and former judge explored the crucial role universities play in supporting research to end homophobia and all forms of LGBTIQ phobia and prejudice.

Titled From Alfred Kinsey to Orlando and Beyond: the role of research in confronting homophobia, Mr Kirby argued that Dr Kinsey’s research was a game changer in revolutionising conceptions of human sexuality.

“Kinsey’s research, and the enquiries and investigations that have followed, have provided the foundation on which is based a more rational approach to human sexual diversity,” Mr Kirby said.

“His research has afforded support to law reform to disband the cruel laws against those who identify as LGBTIQ.

“Although law reforms have occurred broadly in many developed countries, they remain the subject of resistance in developing countries, especially where there are powerful religious elements,” Mr Kirby said.

Mr Kirby said opposition to even voting on a proposed law for same-sex marriage was being stymied by private religious beliefs.

“Parliament cannot change the character of marriage under the Australian Constitution as a non-religious and a secular contract between two competent persons recognised by secular law,” Mr Kirby said.

“The attempt of some people who hold public offices to exclude others from access to this civil right on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is discriminatory.”

Professor Baden Offord, Director of CHRE, welcomed Mr Kirby as the new Patron, adding he was ideal for the position given his extensive background and passion for human rights.

“Mr Kirby will help to raise the profile of the Centre and his leadership and advice will be invaluable in helping the Centre to promote human rights and social justice at local, national and international levels,” Professor Offord said.

During his visit, Mr Kirby also launched the new Curtin LGBTIQ Collaborative Research Network.

Professor Offord, Convener of the Curtin LGBTIQ Collaborative Research Network, said the initiative aimed to enable, enhance and sustain LGBTIQ research within the university.

”The Network brings together Curtin researchers undertaking LGBTIQ research in multi-disciplinary contexts — cultural studies, anthropology, human rights, humanities, sexology, psychology, and health sciences — for the first time,” Professor Offord said.

“The Curtin LGBTIQ Collaborative Research Network is a wonderful opportunity for Curtin University, which is a leader in social justice and inclusive education, to showcase its research in the areas of LGBTIQ issues.

“Many people know that Curtin has been recognised as one of Australia’s top universities for LGBTIQ workplace inclusion but not everyone is aware that there are leading LGBTIQ researchers at Curtin who are making a difference to the world,” Professor Offord said.

LGBTIQ research currently being undertaken at Curtin includes the work of Associate Professor Sam Winter, School of Public Health, who is considered a world leader in transgender research. Together with Dr Catriona   Davis-McCabe, School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, they have formed the Transgender Research Interest Group at the university.

Please visit http://humanrights.curtin.edu.au/research/research-networks/lgbtiq/ for more information about Curtin LGBTIQ Collaborative Research Network.