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Why is John Frame personally interested in the issue of equal age of consent reform in Queensland?


Written by John Frame on 31st January 2010


I am 54 years old, contentedly gay, and I’ve spent fully fifteen years (1993 to 2008) actively involved in community support through the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender specific Queer Radio program on Brisbane’s community radio 4ZZZ fm. My interest in equal age of consent reform is purely egalitarian.


When I was 16 and 17 ALL male to male sex was illegal in the whole of Australia. Homosexual sex still happened, regardless of the law, but with next to no sex education and certainly no safe sex education. There was also active homophobic oppression.


In November 1990 Criminal Code law reform was enacted to “decriminalise” (i.e. rather than legitimise) sex between men. However, because the Goss Labor Government was not brave enough to follow their Parliamentary Committee’s specific recommendation for true equity at age 16, Queensland’s same sex attracted youth aged 16 and 17 continue to remain exposed to active discrimination and oppression, to a lack of inclusion, and to a life-threatening lack of safe sex education.


In September 2008 mainstream media reported a sudden staggeringly high incidence of suicide in rural Queensland youth. It is to the Bligh Government’s eternal shame if even one young life has been lost due to their petty and unsupportable intransigence.


I’ve been actively working both alone and with community groups since early 2000 to lobby the Queensland Government to enact equal age of consent reform.


In those ten years I’ve dealt with two Premiers and five Attorneys-General. None of them have made the slightest suggestion of acting toward reform. That’s especially disappointing considering the fact that since late 2003 Queensland has been the only region in Australia without a truly equal age of consent, and the fact that, since at least 2008, this reform has been part of Queensland Labor’s official (but not publicly displayed) Policy Platform. 


What got me started in actively pursuing this reform was a full page Courier Mail feature article printed on 22nd Feb 2000  which grossly misstated the facts of age of consent law in Queensland and the rest of Australia. The CM Editor refused to print a correction or retraction. So I decided to try to get the Beattie Labor Government to either fix the law


At first I naively thought it would just be a matter of drawing the Premier’s attention to the fact that this reform was outstanding – I thought it might just be an oversight. However both Premiers Beattie and Bligh have doggedly refused to acknowledge that reform is warranted, and their Attorneys-General have flatly refused to offer any reason for delaying reform.


On eight occasions since 2004 I’ve sent emails to each individual Member of Parliament to highlight issues which justify equal age of consent reform – each time with only modest numbers of responses but at least with few negative ones. Even a conservative independent like Dolly Pratt, MP for Nanango, says she supports equal treatment for all youth – but she wants to see that equality achieved by raising the age of consent to 18 for every person and for every activity.


Local Queer media have been supportive – especially Tamara Tonite via her long running Bris31 TV show, Queensland Pride Magazine, QNews and 4ZZZfm’s Queer Radio (which I presented). The only supportive mainstream media has been the ABC, through ABC612 local radio, ABC Unleashed (online) and the national youth radio network TripleJ’s “The Hack” program.


The Courier Mail has refused feature article proposals made by their own staff and by eminent authority Paul Wilson, Professor of Criminology at Bond University. In 2005 the Courier Mail Editor told one feature writer that this was a “non-issue”. 


Particularly supportive community organisations have been the Queensland Ant-Discrimination Commission, the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, Brisbane Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the Brisbane Pride Festival, as well as the LGBT specific Open Doors Youth Service.


The lobbying efforts that I have made include raising a Parliamentary E-Petition , lots of letters and emails to the two Premiers, five Attorneys-General and to all Members of Parliament. I’ve done studio interviews for radio and even phoned in to talk back radio to try to get a straight answer out of Premier Bligh. I’ve also written many emails and letters to the editor of the Courier Mail.


I’ve made a major effort to keep full and accurate information and resources online and available to the general public via my own website http://www.queerradio.org/AgeOfConsent.htm


In June 2007, in an effort to bring the opinions of the public to every Member of Parliament, I posted each of them a DVD-Video and CD-ROM pack which I had produced, featuring six broadly representative statements of support for equal age of consent reform. The contributors were ADCQ Commissioner Susan Booth, Brisbane PFLAG President Shelley Argent, QAHC General Manager Paul Martin, Youth Psychologist Tim Klein, ARCQ spokesperson Rod Goodbun and Queer Radio’s 22 year old presenter Felix Kellett.


Those videos have been viewed several hundreds of times on YouTube, but I am not convinced that many Queensland MPs bothered to watch the DVD or to access the CD-ROM. The responses from MPs were few, and the Attorney-General remained unmoved from his “no plans for reform” mantra. 


In mid-May 2009 I contacted the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties asking for their support – and their Vice President Terry O’Gorman advised that he was happy to take the issue to their next meeting for consideration. As at February 2010 no further information has been received from the QCCL.


I firmly believe that the only likely action which will have any immediate effect in hastening equal age of consent reform is a significant and well publicised public action taken by youth themselves. However that’s not likely to happen, because 16 and 17 year olds, those most oppressed and at risk from the current law, are completely disempowered by a law which brands them as potential criminals.


Organised youth activists in Queensland are shockingly few in number (a consequence of growing apathy, increased workloads for students, and reduced funding for student unions due to “voluntary student unionism” in tertiary education). There will be no equal age of consent reform in Queensland without adequate activism from mature age men and women who see the social justice in equally protecting the rights and well-being of all youth.


Unless there is a significant public outcry in support of this reform, the Queensland Government has proven that it will be content to allow Queensland youth continue to suffer as inferiors to their peers in every other Australian state or territory.


It is the duty of every Queenslander with a social conscience to actively speak out in favour of equal age of consent reform.


Written by John Frame, 31st January 2010
Ph: 07 3350 1562 / mobile: 0409 501 561
Post: 82 Main Avenue, Wavell Heights 4012, QLD, Australia.
----"There is no substitute for equality"----