Submission into the ABS review of 2021 Census Questions

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Reforms in recent years have brought significant developments in the legal recognition of LGBTIQ+ families. This has included recognising same-sex de facto relationships, and more recently, same-sex marriage as well as expanding the definition of ‘parent’ to enable two lesbian women to be legal parents. However, there are still areas in which more needs to be done to reflect the experiences of LGBTIQ+ families and the diversity and complexity of family structures. 

The key role played by the Census in providing government, private sector and the general population with information about the composition of the Australian population means that is vital that the LGBTIQ+ population is accurately represented in Census data. This requires that the Census survey is formulated in a way that is inclusive of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Rainbow Families' submission focuses on the following issues identified in the community arising from the 2016 Census process:

·       Limitations of Census questions in reflecting LGBTIQ+ families and relationships

·       Relationships and families not captured by the Census

·       Additional opt in procedure for providing information about gender diversity 

·       Limitations on availability of accurate data for purposes of planning and service provision 

Download a copy of the Rainbow Families Submission


Submission to the inquiry into local adoption


Submission to the inquiry into local adoption

In 2010, the NSW Government legislated to allow same-sex adoptions. Since that time, Census data clearly shows that more and more LGBTIQ couples have opted to become parents. But adoption rates by LGBTIQ parents have remained low, primarily due to the low levels of adoptions overall.

This submission argues that increasing rates of open adoption will have a positive impact on children in out of home care in NSW by providing greater permanency. It also argues that increasing the number of open-adoptions will benefit the LGBTIQ community by expanding options by which couples - particularly male same-sex couples - can form a family.

Finally, this submission will argue that existing exemptions that allow faith-based organisations providing foster and adoption services must be removed in order to maximise the benefit of open adoptions for children.

Download a copy of the submission here



Submission to the review of the family law system

Last month Rainbow Families made a submission to the review of the family law system. 

We consulted with our community and had over 160 responses to the survey. Thank you to everyone that contributed. 

Our submission focused on the following issues identifies as being of major concern within the community:

  1. The heteronormative underpinnings of the family law system and lack of understanding from people working within the system necessary to respond to the experiences of LGBTIQ families
  2. Particular barriers for transgender parents accessing the family law system
  3. Current parentage definitions do not accommodate the complexity of LGBTIQ families, with the lack of recognition for families formed through surrogacy arrangements remaining a serious concern

Download a copy of the report here.

A special thanks to Justine Field who prepared the report with Rainbow Families.




Federal Government Services Survey

Rainbow Families is preparing a report into discrimination LGBTIQ parents face when accessing Federal Government services and we want to hear from you. 

Tell us about your experiences with Medicare, applying for a passport, adoption and fostering, ART, surrogacy, and the census. We want to hear from you, so we can advocate for changes on these important issues that affect LGBTIQ parents and their families.

This survey is a follow-up to Rainbow Families NSW consultation with our community about their experiences with state government services.
That consultation led to the Love Makes A Family report launched last year, which has been a critical part of Rainbow Families’ advocacy.
We have had a positive response to our report and are in conversation with NSW Government Ministers and departments about many of the recommendations.

This survey is looking at the experiences of our community interacting with Federal Government services and departments.

Click here to take part in the survey

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All Families

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Rainbow Families have today launched a crowdfunder to support the development of ground-breaking resources for and with transgender and gender diverse parents.

Mat Howard, Co-Chair of Rainbow Families said: “For families where one or more parents are transgender or gender diverse, the everyday challenges of raising children can be intensified by experiences of misunderstanding, exclusion or even hostility and hatred.

“There are very few resources available to provide guidance, and we want to change that.”

Working with their transgender and gender diverse parents, Rainbow Families NSW will create a series of ground-breaking and life-affirming resources designed to assist with the process of transitioning in community, relieving much of the pressure they experience to educate and inform others.

The resource will aim to provide clear information around common struggles faced by transgender and gender diverse, including:

  • Finding the best way to include their partners, children and extended families in the process of transitioning;

  • Educate and inform teachers, health workers, colleagues, friends and other members of the LGBTIQA+ community about the experience of being transgender;

  • Mediate and support children's experiences at schools, child-care centres and sporting clubs;

  • Practice self care and support themselves through the process of transitioning and beyond; and

  • Find ways to celebrate the diversity of their families .

$10,000 will allow us to work with experts and consultants in health, education and social work, to devise informative and supportive resources. $10,000 will also allow us to print and distribute resources, including to NSW libraries.

“While we celebrate our community's support for marriage equality, we must remember that marriage remains unequal for many transgender and gender diverse couples, with antiquated laws in NSW forcing transgender or gender diverse residents to undergo invasive medical examinations and to divorce their partners in order to apply for a marriage certificate.”

Get involved with the campaign here


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Say no to more discrimination against our community

The Australian Government is conducting a review into whether Australian law (Commonwealth, State and Territory) adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion with particular regard to the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights.

The review has been set up by the Turnbull government in response to concerns (by opponents of marriage equality) that their religious freedoms would be impinged upon by marriage equality.

Freedom of religion is an expressed right already contained within s116 of the Australian Constitution, prohibiting the Government from enacting legislation that prohibits the free exercise of religion.

Some organisations (such as religious schools) already have exemptions from anti-discrimination laws that mean they can fire people for being gay or lesbian, or refuse to enroll students who have LGBTIQ parents. 

Opponents of marriage equality now want additional rights to refuse services (such as photographers, venues or even cakes) to LGBTIQ people who are getting married.

Rainbow Families strongly disagrees that service providers should be able to refuse services to LGBTIQ people and our families.

We will be making a submission to this inquiry, but we want to hear from you about your experiences.

The most powerful way for us to influence policy decisions is to tell our stories.

Can you share your thoughts with us about these issues?

- What do you think about some organisations (such as religious schools) having exemptions from anti-discrimination laws that mean they can fire people for being gay or lesbian, or refuse to enroll students who have LGBTIQ parents?
- Do you believe there should be additional exemptions that would allow people to refuse services (such as  photographers, venues or even bakers) to LGBTIQ people who are getting married?
- Do  you believe service providers should be able to refuse other services to LGBTIQ people and our families?
- Have you or your family ever experienced discrimination because you are LGBTIQ?

We will de-identify your response in the submission.


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Rainbow Families tell Parliament what it was like to have the postal survey inflicted on us

Rainbow Families NSW has told a Parliamentary Committee what it was like being at the pointy end of the marriage equality debate last year, in a submission to the Inquiry into Arrangements for the Postal Survey. 
The Inquiry was established to examine the process of the postal survey, including the Parliament’s protections against offensive, misleading or intimidating material or behaviour, especially towards affected communities.
Rainbow Families co-chair Vanessa Gonzalez, said that postal survey was a tough time for many in our community, particularly parents of young children who were exposed to leaflets, advertising and discussions that painted our families in an extremely negative light.
“Even though the Parliament enacted protections against vilification, and to ensure that advertising aligned with existing electoral law, those protections were not enough to safeguard our families from ending up on the frontline of a divisive debate that caused great harm to many in our community.
“Once the door was opened to this debate by the Government it was our families ended up on the frontline.”
Co-Chair Mat Howard said that “When the idea of a plebiscite was raised, Rainbow Families campaigned against a divisive public poll, precisely because when marriage equality was debated in France, Ireland, the US and UK, the children of same-sex couples became the focus of some hurtful statements and campaigns. 
“We did not want that to happen here. And we do not want it to happen to any group ever again. 
Rainbow Families submission is comprised of the very real experiences of our community and includes stories of: 
·         Families who received flyers stating that homosexuality is “the curse of death”
·         Families who received homophobic letters from neighbours
·         People who were barraged with hateful discriminatory messages on social media from friends and family, saying that same sex couples are in the same category as paedophiles, bestiality and polygamy.
·         Parents exposed to negative advertising from No campaign targeting their kids and parenting.
·         The impact on children who were bullied at school because of the messages other children were receiving about LGBTIQ families.

Download a copy of the submission

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Changes from the Love Makes A Family Report


Great news! The NSW Blue Book is now more inclusive for LGBTIQ parents and carers, and same sex parents who deliver a baby at RPA hospital from November will be able to register births online.

In May this year Rainbow Families released a report into discrimination faced by LGBTIQ parents and carers when accessing NSW government services. Over 200 people responded to the survey, with personal stories of discrimination they had experienced from our government. This formed the basis of the Love Makes A Family Report, along with recommendations for ministers on how to make NSW Government services more inclusive for LGBTIQ parents and their children.

The report was launched at NSW Parliament with over 20 politicians in attendance. We took the Rainbow Families Playgroup to Parliament and everyone loved the opportunity to meet their local members and introduce some of our children to them and chat about issues that are important to our community.


The report was sent to all minsters and shadow ministers. Since then Rainbow Families has been meeting with departments to discuss how we can work together to on the recommendations.

We met with a number of people from the department of health. The great news from these meetings is they are keen to work with us to make antenatal classes more inclusive for LGBTIQ parents. There is also interest in having a greater representation of LGBTIQ parents in promotional material available at hospitals.

The Blue Book (Child Personal Health Record) had a major review last year. Rainbow Families was consulted on this review, and provided a number of recommended changes to make the resource better represent our families. Simple changes like taking out mother and father have been implemented where possible. The updated Blue Book is now being issues across the state, so all babies born from now on should receive the more inclusive version.

We also met with the Attorney General’s Office, and representatives from Birth Deaths and Marriages to discuss legal parentage, surrogacy, and increasing the number of parents able to be listed on a birth certificate. The great news from this meeting is a trial for online birth registrations for babies born to same sex parents in NSW. The trial will take place at RPA hospital this November, and will be rolled out across the state hopefully next year.

There were many issues raised by our community in the consultation process for the report, and over 25 recommendation made in the report. Unfortunately many of these changes will not be immediate, however we have started the conversations, and will continue to work with Government Department, to make NSW Government services more inclusive and safe for our growing community.



Rainbow Families visit to NSW Parliament

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On the 10 August 2017, NSW Parliamentary Friendship Group of LGBTIQ invited Rainbow Families to present the findings of the report “Love Makes a Family: A Report into Discriminations faced by LGBTQI parents when accessing NSW Government Services.”

Mat Howard, Rainbow Families board member and author of the report provided an overview of the findings and recommendations. Mat thanked the 200 community members who shared their personal stories and experience during the consultation period. We thank Jo Haylen Member for Summer Hill for a warm welcome and being a strong and supportive ally, Alex Greenwich Member for Sydney and Jenny Leong Member for Newtown for your thoughtful response to the report.

During the morning many families had opportunities to meet their local members, and children delivered the report in hand drawn enveloped to all members.

We thank the many community members and allies that attended the meeting. And a special thanks to the Erskineville Rainbow Playgroup who had an excursion to NSW Parliament for the morning to help raise awareness of the discrimination and issues faced by our community.

In the weeks following the event, Rainbow Families board has met with the Health Minister’s office, the Attorney General and NSW Health. We will seek to meet with all ministers and shadow ministers who have recommendations in the report to discuss the best ways of making all NSW government services safe and inclusive for LGBTIQ parents and their children.



Educators Guide

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Rainbow Families NSW has today release a guide for schools and daycare centres to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) parents and their children throughout the postal plebiscite.

Download your copy of the guide here

Rainbow Families Co-Chair, Vanessa Gonzalez said the Guide to supporting our kids through the postal plebiscite was created in response to an identified need from the community.
“This debate is not actually about our families, they already exist, and our kids deserve to be safe and protected at school.
“But there have already been reports of children and LGBTIQ families being targeted in hurtful campaign material.
“We wanted to equip school communities to support our kids during this time.”

Rainbow Families Co-Chair, Ashley Scott, said that the guide was designed to provide clear ways that communities can support the kids of rainbow families during the postal plebiscite.
“The guide has ten simple ways school communities can support children and parents.
“Our website also contains resources to support parents during this time.

The guide was released to schools where a parent or carer from that school community asked Rainbow Families to send it them.
“We have sent the guide to schools across Australia this morning and are encouraging school leaders to share it with their staff.”

The guide was sent to over 400 schools and day care centres. So far only 40% of the emails have been opened, so if you requested the guide to be sent, please don’t assume it has been read. 

We encourage everyone to print the guide and take it to your child’s school, day care centre or P&C association, and have a conversation with the school community about how they can support your family. 

Rodney Chiang-Cruise, a parent from our community, told Rainbow Families that his school community had been extremely receptive of the Guide.
“It is something that I have been wanting ever since this survey was announced,” Rodney said.
“I wanted something that I could take to my son's school and speak about.
“The guide is great. This morning I sent it to the Headmaster of my son's school and within 30 minutes he was back in contact with me. He understood my concerns about the hate campaign being waged against our families. He did more than just understand, with the guide in hand he committed to ensuring all teachers get a copy, committed to speaking to all the teachers about looking out for our kids. He went further and said he would make it part of his assembly address and put it in the weekly newsletter.
“As a gay dad, I felt a huge sigh of relief. We may not be able to stop the hate campaign, but with the school we can ensure our son's school is a safe place for him. I am grateful to the Headmaster for being so receptive. I am happy that I had the guide to start that conversation.”



Love Makes a Family Report

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Earlier in the year Rainbow Families surveyed over 200 members of our community. We asked about issues they faced as LGBTIQ parents, particularly from the NSW government. The report was officially launched at Family Pride in May.  

Rainbow Families was invited by the NSW Parliament frindship group of LGBTIQ people to present the finding fo the report at Parliament of 10th August.

Moving forward, we are hoping to meet with all ministers and shadow ministers who have recommendations in the report to discuss the best ways of removing discrimination faced by LGBTIQ parents.

Rainbow Families is particularly proud of this report, and look forward to being part of a positive change for our families. 



Plebiscite Survival Guide

Rainbow Families released a Plebiscite Survival Guide in May 2016. Since that time we visited Canberra and were part of the successful campaign to put a stop to the plebiscite.
Unfortunately discussions about a plebiscite are back.
With the plebiscite back on the table, it is important for our community to stay resilient. The Plebiscite Survival Guide has 10 practical ways you can keep yourself and your family resilient in the current political climate

Download your copy of the guide



Media Release: Senate Committee agrees partial equality is not equality at all

Along with many other LGBTIQ organisations, Rainbow Families NSW submitted to the Inquiry, noting the negative impacts of the divisive marriage equality debate on families and children and calling for a free-vote in the Commonwealth Parliament as quickly as possible.

Rainbow Families advocates for LGBTIQ-couples to be afforded the same rights and access to marriage.  Denying LGBTQI+ people the opportunity to marry under Commonwealth Law is discriminatory and harmful to both parents and children.  

Rainbow Families opposes any exemption that would allow civil celebrants and businesses to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sexuality or gender. This effectively would establish two tiers of marriage.  Australian law should provide equal opportunity for all citizens while respecting religious freedom.  These exemptions perpetuate discrimination by protecting it under Commonwealth law.

Rainbow Families successfully advocated against plans for a marriage equality plebiscite, travelling to Canberra to meet with parliamentarians. Rainbow Families will continue to work alongside LGBTIQ organisations and allies towards marriage equality.

Australia is now vastly out of step with developed nations in its failure to deliver on marriage equality. 

Rainbow Families welcomes yesterday’s report, the first ever consensus report on marriage equality, and urge the Parliament to legislate full equality without further delay.

Ashley Scott, Co-chairs of Rainbow Families comments:

“We won’t give up the fight for marriage equality until it’s realised. This is simply too important for our families and our children.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes and our law should protect that: whether a family has one parent or two, or whether those parents are of the same gender, the law shouldn’t discriminate.

“We have had a series of inquiries. We’ve debated this for over a decade. This is yet another reminder that it’s time for parliamentarians to do their job and get this done.

“We’re pleased that parliamentarians across the political spectrum recognised that the exemptions proposed by the Attorney General would only deliver partial equality and that partial equality is not equality at all.”



Let’s make love law

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Federal inquiry into marriage equality

In consultation with our community, Rainbow Families made a submission to the senate committee into the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, outlining whilst not all LGBTIQ parents will choose to marry, marriage equality is fundamental to advancing LGBTIQ rights in Australia and fostering the resiliency of our families.
Rainbow Families considers that the fundamental human rights principle of equality means that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. Rainbow Families believes that denying LGBTIQ people the opportunity to marry under Commonwealth law is discriminatory and harmful, both for parents and children.
Australia is now vastly out of step with developed nations in its failure to enshrine the right to marriage equality for all citizens into Australian Law. If Australia legislates for same-sex marriage in 2017, it will follow Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Iceland Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, The United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay. Australia will be one of the last developed nations to allow same-sex marriage. It should not do so in such a way that perpetuates discrimination against LGBTIQ communities.
Rainbow Families strongly supports access to marriage as a fundamental right of all Australians and opposes proposed exemptions that effectively create two tiers of marriage in this country.
Every child deserves to know their families are treated equally under the law and this is not possible until marriage equality is realised.
THANK YOU  to the many who contributed their stories and gave strength to our submission. We will endeavour to keep you updated on future outcomes. You can download a copy of the submission here.




Rainbow Families goes to Canberra!

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A small group of families from NSW have been invited to join with other LGBTIQ-parented families from Victoria, the ACT and Queensland to visit MPs in Parliament House, Canberra, on Tuesday September 13

We will be discussing marriage equality and making a strong case against the Government's plans for a divisive and damaging plebiscite.

We take one simple message: Do not hold a plebiscite on marriage equality.

Would you be interested to come along? 

We will host a morning tea with MPs in the morning, before visiting undecided MPs in the afternoon and talking to media in the afternoon, before finishing up with a play date in the park with rainbow families from the ACT. 

The day will be relaxed and fun and is an opportunity to make a real difference to the debate. 

Places are extremely limited, so please let Mat know if you are interested ASAP by emailing or phoning 0426 626 166. 

It will involve taking the day off work and school (yay!) and possibly talking to media. 

We hope you can make it!



Push for more inclusive government issued forms

Rainbow Families needs your help! We're collecting government issued forms that unnecessarily ask for gender - think that school form asking you to list "mother" and "father" or electronic forms where you can't move forward unless you provide a gender (and the drop down menu options are male and female). Anything where you feel the language could be more inclusive (government forms, literature, publications, websites etc.). We're working to highlight that family diversity isn't always reflected in our government! Please email



Rainbow Families calls for an end to discrimination in foster care

There is a desperate need for more foster careers in Australia, with an estimated 43,000 children in need of care and protection, a number that has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. 

For many LGBTIQ people, fostering is a way to experience parenthood and help children in need.  According to a recent survey commissioned by a children’s services provider, three quarters of LGBTI people in Australia said they would consider becoming a foster carer.

Foster care in NSW is being outsourced by the Baird Government to community organisations and private companies, half of which are allowed to discriminate against LGBTIQ prospective parents.

Rainbow Families believes there should be an end to discrimination in foster care, and is calling on the Government to restore foster care services to FACS or to make it a condition of funding that agencies not be permitted to discriminate against prospective LGBTIQ foster parents. 

Would you like to help? Simply download the petition and collect as many signatures as you can from family, friends and colleagues.

Download petition

Only original, hand-signed petitions can be tabled in the NSW Legislative Assembly, so please mail the original document with signatures to us at the address on the form.



RAINBOW FAMILIES call for submissions for Senate Surrogacy Inquiry

Would you like your voice to be heard in the upcoming Federal Senate Inquiry into Surrogacy? RAINBOW FAMILIES plans to make a submission outlining the implications of existing laws and regulations for members of our community who make their families through surrogacy.

The inquiry is an opportunity for rainbow families to share their stories by making independent submissions and/or helping shape the RAINBOW FAMILIES' submission.

Families that would like to contribute or who would like to submit anonymously are invited to include their story as part of RAINBOW FAMILIES’ submission.

The NSW Department of Justice has also vowed to move forward with its own review of the Surrogacy Act 2010. The review plans to simplify the surrogacy process and prioritise the interests of children born via surrogacy.

RAINBOW FAMILIES will also be making a submission to this review.

NSW State Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton has suggested changing the law to enable people to advertise for altruistic surrogacy arrangements, and to fast track the process of transferring legal parentage of a child born via a surrogate.

You can email or mail stories and submissions by February 10 to: PO Box 306, Erskineville 2043.