Speaking Out: Stopping Homophobic and Transphobic Abuse in Queensland

Alan Berman and Shirleene Robinson

University of Newcastle and Bond University

Based on the largest survey of gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, transgender and queer reactions to violence and harassment ever undertaken in Australia, this book gives voice to the many victims who have suffered in the state once recognised as Australia's most homophobic. It tells of the barriers people face in dealing with the legal system, the reasons why some do not report their experiences, and the complex historical, religious and educational factors affecting the perpetuation of homophobia across the country. Most importantly it provides a roadmap forward for all Australian legislative, policing, and judicial jurisdictions via a wide ranging set of recommendations, from the individual's understanding of their rights and responsibilities, to the responses of police, legal professionals and judicial officers.

About the Author

Dr Alan Berman is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Newcastle.

Dr Shirleene Robinson is a Senior Lecturer in History at Bond University. Together they have conducted more work on homophobia in Queensland than any other researchers and have worked successfully together and separately in the past on a range of projects and published texts on historical, legal and social issues surrounding sexuality.



This important book draws attention to the social problems all too often faced by members of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community. However, Speaking Out is highly relevant to  Queenslanders in general, and indeed all Australians. During 2009, Dr  Shirleene Robinson and Dr Alan Berman gathered almost 1100 survey responses from members of the LGBTIQ community in Queensland aged over 18 years. The responses described personal experiences of homophobic and transphobic abuse, harassment and violence over lifetimes and,  disturbingly, more recently. An overwhelming majority of respondents reported experiences of homophobic or transphobic abuse and harassment during their lifetimes, and 53% reported experiencing harassment or violence in the past two years. The impressive sample size of the Robinson-Berman survey demonstrates their commitment and perseverance as researchers. It also demonstrates the generosity and determination of the LGBTIQ community members who came forward in such numbers to share with the wider community their personal and distressing life experiences. The data gathered in the survey were supplemented by other useful qualitative data provided by seven focus groups conducted by the researchers across Queensland, the most decentralised and fast-growing of Australian states. Focus groups met not just in metropolitan Brisbane,  but also from Cairns to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, from Toowoomba to Townsville and in central Queensland's Rockhampton. The Robinson-  Berman survey is the most comprehensive research into homophobic and transphobic abuse, harassment and violence yet undertaken in any Australian jurisdiction. But Speaking Out is not just a book of highly informative statistics. It is a book about the humanity of the respondents. I commend them, particularly those in the various focus groups, for their courage and generosity in sharing their stories with us. This book should convince all Australians that abuse, harassment and violence motivated by homophobia or transphobia remain a distasteful and unacceptable aspect of our society. We must do better. The recommendations in the final chapter of Speaking Out suggest ways in which we might. I am confident that governments in Australia, and throughout the world, will take note of this book and its recommendations in developing social policies and programs to address LGBTIQ harassment, abuse, violence and community exclusion. Speaking Out will help ensure our community is one where LGBTIQ members are not outsiders but true equals, free to reach their potential without prejudice and empowered to make their unique, full and rich community contribution.

The Honourable Justice Margaret A. McMurdo AC 

President, Queensland Court of Appeal 

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER 1 Demographics of Respondents
  • CHAPTER 2 Experiencing Homophobic and Transphobic Violence and Harassment Over a Lifetime
  • CHAPTER 3 Experiencing Homophobic and Transphobic Violence and Harassment Within the Past Two Years
  • CHAPTER 4 Profiles of Perpetrators
  • CHAPTER 5 Seeking Help
  • CHAPTER 6 The Unreported Incidents of Homophobic and Transphobic Violence and Harassment
  • CHAPTER 7 The Police and Police Liaison Officers
  • CHAPTER 8 Experiences With the Judicial Process
  • CHAPTER 9 Perceptions of Homophobia and Transphobia and Behaviour Modification
  • CHAPTER 10 From Despair to Hope: Recommendations
  • Appendix 1
  • Bibliography
  • Index