Dr Fiona Kelly, Associate Professor of La Trobe Law School, has been invited by Senator Janet Rice to participate in a panel discussion before the federal Parliamentary Friendship Group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Australians. The Panel will discuss the issue of Family Court involvement in the medical treatment of transgender young people. In Australia today, transgender people under 18 years of age who want to access stage two hormone treatment (cross-sex hormones) must apply for Family Court approval to proceed. Australia is the only country in the world that requires court approval for treatment. In other jurisdictions, the decision is made by the young person in conjunction with his or her parents and treating health professionals.
Over the last 6 months, Dr Kelly has interviewed parents of transgender children who have gone through the Family Court process or who anticipate applying for Family Court approval in the next 1-3 years. The interviews have revealed that the Court approval process is having a devastating impact on the young people involved, with many experiencing a serious deterioration in their mental health as they wait for the 8-12 month process to unfold. Parents have also found the process emotionally confronting as they are forced to repeatedly tell their child’s intimate story to various professionals and officials they encounter during the court process. Parents have also expressed concerns about the cost of the process and the delays it creates in their children’s treatment.
Dr Kelly will be joined in Canberra by several transgender young people and their parents, as well as Dr Michelle Telfer, Lead Paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Dysphoria Unit. It is hoped that the meeting with Parliamentarians will generate increased attention to the issue and legislative change.