The Queensland government has introduced legislation to throw out past criminal convictions for homosexuality, with the premier delivering an official apology.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk delivered the apology in state parliament on Thursday, saying sorry to the hundreds who were affected by the laws, which were repealed in 1991.
“You have been maligned and shamed, and for that we express our deep regret for the hurt you have suffered,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“In criminalising homosexual activity between consenting adults, the legislative assembly of this state dishonoured its citizens and institutionalised prejudice and discrimination.”
Alan Raabe was convicted for aggravated sexual assault after a consensual homosexual act in 1988, and was in the public gallery to hear the apology.
The 63-year-old said his dreams of being a teacher had been dashed by his conviction but he was happy to finally have his record wiped clean.
“It was like a cloud lifted, somebody cared,” Mr Raabe said.
“Even at my age it still hangs over you, so to have it lifted is just wonderful.”
He singled out the Palaszczuk government for praise, saying he had been “swept under the carpet” by successive governments for 30 years before someone listened.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said she was proud to introduce the bill to the house to expunge the convictions.
“The discriminatory nature of the archaic laws that existed in this state prior to 1991 institutionalised ignorance, and legitimised prejudice against people for merely expressing their sexuality,” she said.
“What this bill is intended to do is … recognise that private, consensual sexual activity should never have been a concern of this legislative assembly, or the criminal law.”
Even though homosexuality is no longer illegal in Queensland, those who had been convicted still had to declare their criminal record to potential employers to work in the public services, education and childcare industries.
The state government announced its intention to expunge the convictions last year, with the Queensland Law Reform Commission tasked with finding the best way to amend legislation.
Under the changes a person convicted of an offence will be able to apply to get the conviction expunged from their criminal record with the Director-General of the Department of Justice to handle each case.