GLOBE Victoria has announced that it has removed Ravenhall Correctional Centre as a finalist for this year’s inaugural Transgender Inclusion Award.
The announcement last week of the finalists was met with widespread criticism from the LGBTIQ community.
The prison had been nominated for the award based on its programs to support trans and gender diverse staff members.
Severe risks for trans women
Amid controversy on social media, an open letter from around 100 community members implored GLOBE to pull the nomination, given the mistreatment of trans people and other minorities in prisons.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are incarcerated in prisons like Ravenhall at staggeringly disproportionate rates in Australia. It is our national shame,” the letter read.
“The impact of imprisonment is well documented, particularly in the now decades-old but still too relevant Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
“Additionally, and vitally in light of the fact that Ravenhall has been shortlisted for the Transgender Inclusion Award, in Victoria many trans and gender diverse people are currently incarcerated in gender-segregated prisons that do not accord with their gender.
“It is hard to think of a more violent example of the dangerous imposition of the gender binary than prisons.
“The obvious risks of this practice are severe for trans women incarcerated in men’s prisons, and trans women of colour in particular.”
The letter was organised by Sam Elkin, a community broadcaster, former community lawyer, and board member of Transgender Victoria.
‘A positive for staff and inmates’
The award nomination was defended by retired athlete and former prison governor Kirsti Miller.
“After my transition, I served as the acting Regional Superintendent of the Women’s Programs in NSW,” Miller told Pink Advocate.
“Trans inmates told me they felt so much safer knowing the regional superintendent was one of them.
“Walking through that prison gate the first time as Kirsti and not Warren anymore was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.
“We should be applauding workplaces, especially traditional masculine workplaces like prisons, that have programs to support and develop their trans and gender diverse staff.
“This is a positive for both staff and inmates that are trans or gender diverse.”
Miller said the decision to pull the award nomination was “appalling”.
“I only wish 21 years ago I had an amazing program like Ravenhall now has to help me,” she said.
Apology to the community
GLOBE Victoria has apologised for Ravenhall Correction Centre having been an award finalist and the distress caused to trans and First Nations community members.
The organisation thanked community leaders for their engagement and guidance on the issue, which they said they had “thought long and hard” about.
“We acknowledge the systemic issues of racism and violence experienced by the most vulnerable members of our community in places such as Ravenhall Correctional Centre,” they said in a statement.
“While we also acknowledge the valuable contribution of LGBTIQ staff working in correctional services and stand by them at this difficult time, the weight of the issues that have been brought to our attention overshadow the work that Ravenhall Correctional Centre are doing in LGBTIQ inclusion for staff.”
The remaining finalists for the Transgender Inclusion Award are support group Trans and Gender Diverse Bendigo and Beyond and Melbourne health organisation Your Community Health.
Ravenhall Correctional Centre has been approached for comment.
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