Thursday this week Pat Booth and I attended the Justice Select Committee hearings to represent you, supporting our written submission on the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill.  We were first up with the public submissions, followed by The Wellington Community Justice Project, two individuals, Young Labour, Rainbow Wellington and a group from Community Law.  All the  submissions were excellent.  Afterwards I was told by a young reporter that it was good to hear a submission like ours coming from a church!

My sincere apologies for not letting people know this was on this week.  I only heard last Friday and there have been a few distractions!!  But I spread out the three pages of signatures in front of Pat and myself and asked the committee to imagine 52 others behind us, standing with us.

It was good to have the opportunity to thank the Hon. Amy Adams (now deputy chair of the committee) for her initiative in bringing the Bill to Parliament.  She was very engaged, asking lots of questions throughout the morning.  When we talked about making the expungement automatic, she asked us to tell you all that there was a need to filter out offences which were still illegal (like underage liaisons and lack of consent).  We urged pastoral sensitivity in dealing with those who apply for expungement and alluded to some of the emotions these people would be feeling.  She thanked us for that and said Justice Department officials present would have taken note.  I offered St Andrew’s help with pastoral support if necessary.  We also spoke of families and gay men where there might not have been convictions but who were inhibited and made fearful under the former legislation. I cited anonymously the situation of one of our members where that has led to regret and sorrow that there could not have been more knowledge, openness and honesty at the time.  We asked these men and families be acknowledged in speeches around the passing of the Bill.

We were thanked sincerely. Virginia Andersen, Labour list MP, said she knew St Andrew’s and of the events we held.  It was a good opportunity to speak with others. I stayed to support the Rainbow Wellington speakers who noted this was a major cultural change and could Parliament take the opportunity to extend expungement to transgendered people who had suffered unjust charges of disorderly behaviour and possibly soliciting.  That seemed to be taken on board.  Also, present was a a man, a registered nurse, who’s been refused jobs because of a prior conviction which will be expungable.  This revealed a bad loophole in police vetting under the Vulnerable Children Act in which MPs were very interested and obviously motived to fix.  The power of the personal story was palpable.  On-going lack of acceptance, awkwardness and homophobia was named in more than one submission and compensation named as a validating signal for young lgbtqi people still struggling with lack of tolerance and transition costs.  One submitter told how a 2014 Westpac workplace survey showed 35% of workers were uncomfortable working with gay people and 37% of gay employees interviewed said they still found it prudent to keep quiet about their orientation at work.  I confessed to being in a denomination which was not yet equal but that I hope this Bill might help church people see attitudes are changing and need to change further throughout NZ.

It was a fascinating morning.  It reminded me of the importance of this select committee process. Also I was freshly aware of nuances facing particular communities of which others outside that community are ignorant.  MPs were educated before my eyes!  It was good individuals were prepared to front up and make free and frank comment.  Thank you for your support – we felt the 52 of you and more at our back!

Sunday is the delight of the children’s Christmas play.  Lots of thought and prep have gone into this.  Main speakers will be miked.  The script is progressive.  What more could you ask!  See you there!


Three more things:

1.       In cooperation with Marjan Wardenberg, we are fronting an extra lunchtime concert (12.15pm) Thursday December 21 which will provide a community singalong of traditional and new New Zealand carols.  Diary it now and come, sing up Christmas!

2.       I will be out of town Tuesday 12 December, but back Wednesday.

3.       Most important local news kept till last – we are pleased that Jillene Everett will continue as Office Administrator beginning her permanent role Tuesday December 12. Welcome to the team and community Jillene, it is nice that we already know you.

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