ACT News

ACT believes existing laws adequate to prevent 'gay cure' operators

The ACT government has no plans to replicate its Victorian counterpart's crackdown on so-called "gay conversion therapists" from operating, but says it will assess whether territory law adequately prevents dodgy health services from operating.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy introduced a bill to Parliament on Monday proposing greater powers for the state's health complaints watchdog to both shut down and publicly name dodgy operators making unproven claims.

ACT Health says it is not aware of any active "gay conversion therapists" operating in the territory.
ACT Health says it is not aware of any active "gay conversion therapists" operating in the territory.  Photo: James Alcock

She singled out "gay conversion therapy", a scientifically debunked and medically condemned practice of attempting to "cure" homosexuality through psychotherapy and prayer, as one of the targets of the proposed legislation.

An ACT Health spokesman said the department was not aware of any active "gay conversion therapists" operating in the territory "and has confirmed this understanding with relevant community organisations".

The spokesman said the ACT's agreement at last April's COAG meeting to a national health care worker code of conduct applied to both registered and non-registered health practitioners.

"The Code of Conduct includes requirements to provide services in a safe and ethical manner, not make claims to cure certain serious illnesses, not misinform clients, and not to financially exploit clients," he said.

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"The ACT government is committed to implementing the National Code, and as part of this commitment, is assessing whether amendments to territory legislation need to be considered."

The territory's adoption of the Health Practitioner National Law also allows the ACT Health Services Commissioner to investigate issues raised in complaints and pass them on to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Such reports can also be provided to ministers, funding bodies and employees of a practice being complained about, while non-compliance with recommendations can resulted in their names being published.

Under the Victorian proposal, anyone could make a complaint to the commissioner, rather than the existing structure where only someone provided with the health service can be a complainant.

The law would also allow the commissioner to start investigations without having received a complaint, as well name and shame dodgy providers in the media.

"We're taking action to crack down on dangerous and health practitioners who take advantage of vulnerable Victorians," she said.

The ACT Health spokesman said the territory government would "watch with interest" the implementation of Victoria's changes if the laws are passed.

"Gay conversion therapists" have operated in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. The longest-running of these programs, Sydney's Living Waters Australia, closed in 2014.

An American Psychological Association study into the effectiveness of sexual orientation change efforts in 2009 found it was unlikely to achieve the intended changes and caused unintended side effects such as "loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality and anxiety".