A new report shows that discrimination is the biggest legal issue facing LGBTIQ people in Victoria, with over a third of survey respondents saying they would not be confident to go to the police over legal matters.
An LGBTIQ community legal needs survey conducted by the St Kilda Legal Service found that almost two thirds of respondents had experienced at least one legal issue in the last five years, and most would prefer to get help from an LGBTIQ service.
In similar recent Victorian research, 44% of people reported they had been treated badly at work or by a potential employer because of their gender or sexuality.
Another 47% had been treated badly at school or university.
Less than a quarter of the people who had experienced discrimination had taken any action.
The biggest overall legal problems identified by the St Kilda Legal Service report included matters affecting trans and gender diverse people concerning health or prison issues, employment discrimination against cis gay men, and LGBTIQ disability discrimination.
Executive officer and principal lawyer Annie Davis said that a significant overlap existed with mental health issues.
“A concerning finding from our own data was that over 80% of clients who approached our service self-reported they were suffering from a mental health issue at the time,” said Davis, according to Star Observer.
“It was also clear from our service data and from the responses to our community legal needs survey that LGBTIQ people continue to experience disproportionately and unacceptably high levels of discrimination and harassment.”
Davis said that also concerning was the report finding that 35% of victims of discrimination would not be confident approaching police for help.
“It is clear from our findings that there is still a lot more work for police to do in building trust with LGBTIQ communities,” said Davis.
“One of our key recommendations is that there must be more education and training for police, as well as court staff, prison staff, corrections staff, and legal service providers, to build their understanding and their capacity to build that trust.
“It is crucial that all parts of the justice system are equally committed to promoting and protecting equality and inclusion for LGBTIQ communities.”
The Victorian government has recently announced $540,000 in funding for the St Kilda Legal Service.
Its Queensland counterpart, the LGBTI Legal Service, similarly received a $1.3 million injection of state funding earlier this year to support its work providing free legal help to the community.