Jenny Leong MP Speaks up for Young People

Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong MP has spoken up for young people in the NSW Parliament.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (18:11): Young people are watching with their jaws on the floor as people in this place and in our Federal Parliament wilfully and recklessly gamble with the future of our species and planet in the name of more profits for the already rich. Make no mistake, if we do not act to avert the climate crisis we are facing an end to life on earth as we know it—and it is the young people who will face the burden of the consequences. For decades, successive Liberal and Labor governments have failed to address the challenges and priorities of young people in the Newtown electorate and beyond. One issue is the growing housing affordability and security crisis. Young people suffer because governments have failed to deal with these problems. The burden is heaviest for queer and gender-diverse young people, who face further discrimination every step of the way.

In February I met with Yfoundations in Redfern and heard directly from Simon, a young person who had been kicked out of home and struggled through years of instability and homelessness because of the critical lack of housing and services. Simon's experience is not the exception for young people; it is the rule. LGBTIQ young people around the State are struggling. More and more young people are being told that they are not free to be who they are; that they are nothing more than a political stunt and their identities have been invented in a bizarre attempt to silence older conservatives. We may like to believe the dark old days of young people facing violence and discrimination as a result of their expression of self are over, but there are still people in this place—in this Chamber and in the other place—explaining to young people that their identities and experiences are a joke. The people elected to Parliament refuse to recognise the need for reforms to protect young LGBTIQ people from harm and ignore the well-documented crisis for trans and gender-diverse people in New South Wales. They need to look again. For all those young people I stand here on behalf of The Greens and say that we hear you. We value your experiences and your opinions. They are welcome in this place, in the other place and in these halls. We are elected to represent them as we represent all people in New South Wales.

On conservative estimates there are 48,000 trans people living in New South Wales, and yet they are not included in health strategies, services or programs that are delivered in this State, as shown in recent research from ACON, which is located in the electorate of Newtown. Also in the electorate of Newtown we have incredible services in the Gender Centre and in Twenty10. Both of these organisations exist on a shoestring, but they do incredible work to support young people and their families through some of the most challenging and difficult periods of their lives. Right now those organisations are struggling to meet the costs of paying basic wages to their committed staff and to provide the funds to pay for adequate premises to keep delivering services.

Meanwhile, in the context of widespread stigma, discrimination and marginalisation, research suggests that trans and gender-diverse people are four times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. In a recent survey 70 per cent of respondents reported that they had been subjected to discrimination and one in six had experienced physical abuse because of their gender identity. Almost half of them had attempted suicide and that is not okay. It is important that people who use their platforms in public life to try to advocate hatred around young gender‑diverse and queer people in our community realise that their hate speech has real-world effects. Their hate speech can cause people to take their own lives and cause genuine harm to individuals.

I say in this place that The Greens will continue to work strongly for properly funded trans and gender‑diverse services for research, advocacy and health programs. The Greens will work to remove provisions in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act that blatantly ignore trans and gender-diverse rights and experiences. We will work for a whole-of-government approach to stamp out bi-phobic, homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in schools, workplaces and service provisions in New South Wales. We are committed to overhauling the Anti-Discrimination Act in this State to properly protect queer communities and to eradicate so-called gay conversion therapy. We need to stop the hatred and discrimination inflicted on young LGBTIQ+ people in our communities and start acting like the responsible adults they need us to be.

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