Project Progress

In 2017, Australia’s conservative government initiated a $122 million dollar national, voluntary postal vote in response to growing calls from the public to legislate marriage equality. During the three month campaign that followed, those opposing the change were emboldened to make arguments from ‘it’s a form of war against heterosexuals’ to ‘the ‘yes’ side want to make it illegal to express a different view about marriage.’ Project Progress was a photo project designed to share the thoughts and stories of individuals within LGBTQIA+ community directly affected by the outcome of the vote. Each image and caption was published across social media and many were curated into a book of the same name which raised over $800 for Minus18, a network for LGBTQIA+ youth.

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Waithira

I want to live in a world that values equality. Our children deserve our protection and I will fight for their dignity and inclusiveness. Love does not care about gender - equality in marriage is about consenting adults having the right to marry if they so wish. It gives dignity to families that we create; like mine.


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Laura

Due to the privilege of odd circumstance, I was never restricted by discriminatory marriage laws. Most government departments consider me a woman, the ones that don't are also responsible for checking gender on a marriage certificate. I could always get gay married, but only at the expense of having who I am not being fully accepted and acknowledged by my government. Being romantically and otherwise attracted to women, doubling down on my queerness as a transwoman and lesbian, meant outdated laws ironically only prevented me from getting straight married.

Yet I am deeply affected by laws which would allow me freedoms and equality for which I may never use. When a government treats a segment of our community as deserving of less rights, it is a statement of justification for societal discrimination and prejudice. It says that I deserved the violence I have seen in my life for being unacceptably individual within this individualist society. A contradiction in which I am told by our media and mythology that to show my truth is to be respected but have been largely disrespected for doing so.

So I've longed for safety, longed for rest from a lifetime of necessary vigilance, and when I did so what I longed for was progress. In my time already I've been taken from an existence in which to express my femininity was to expose myself almost instantaneously to danger, in which I now do own my truth, even have the opportunity to do so confidently as perform from the height of many a dimly lit stage. But these were safe spaces, freedom in a bubble. I desire freedom eternal and in doing so I desire progress.


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Beth

Equality, to me, is respect.

It's respecting our differences and respecting our life choices even if there's disagreements but I don't see a lot of that today. Equality is recognising that we are all different and that it doesn't matter because we are also alike in more ways than you could count. Growing up, I was taught to respect others and I do so today but it gets harder to show respect to people who clearly have none for me. I barely had anyone to talk to except for the social outcasts like me back home in a small country town called Hamilton. We didn't want to rely on anyone because it was obvious no one cared about or respected us. I came to Geelong alone and unaware of how much would change in a few short months. I found friends that care about me and accept my differences. I found what it really means to treated equally and to be respected.

Respect and equality go hand in hand because without one, the other would not be enough to ignite change. I feel that people who do not want equality are just wary of something different taking over their lives. I joined Geelong Rainbow INC. to encourage people to embrace new things as I have. Because without change I would have probably spent the rest of my life as a social outcast with no one to care about me. If more people opened up to that ideal, then maybe their conscience would tell them that change isn't always easy, but it can be better for the world.

All it takes is a little respect on both sides.


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YK

Growing up in Malaysia, I was never taught to question inequality in regards to my own rights. When I am treated unjustly because of my sexuality, gender or skin colour, the message is "That's just how the world works, there's nothing you can do". Sometimes I go to bed wondering 'Was it my fault?' and 'Why does it happen to me?'.

While working in an advertising firm in KL, I was told to go home and change into a skirt and put on some makeup if I wanted to keep my job. After all, they said, you are a lady and it's inappropriate to be wearing a tie, shirt and pants. Every adversity teaches us something. In this context, I developed the resilience to stay true to myself, defying the expectations of the society I lived in.

Equality to me is acceptance, respect, tolerance and love for each other. It is so important to stay true to ourselves and to empower our children to do the same. If the world was a less fearful place and people were safe just being themselves, how wonderful would life be? As Auden said, 'Love each other or perish'.


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Kirrily

Equality is being able to be and express the way you were born to be, without fear of judgement, exclusion, ridicule or harm. Equality is having your love, your identity and your relationships as being recognised, equal and valid in the eyes of Australian Society and it's laws. Equality is having yours and your lover's rights and wishes respected and honoured when it counts the most, ensuring that you and your loved one are looked after if adversity strikes. Equality is being able to love your dear and and proudly call them your husband or wife.


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Jarrod

Seven years ago my sister, my brother, and myself all met our respective partners and fell in love. My sister met a man who helped her grow in ways I never would have imagined and I love the kind, conscientious people that they've both become together. My brother met a woman who is just as funny and crazy as he is. And I met a man who I think is the perfect complement for my introverted, geeky, anxious self.

We all love our partners the same, but only two among us siblings are allowed to make the ultimate commitment and get married. What does this mean? Is my relationship worth less than theirs? 😞 It's not fair!

Australia is meant to be the land of the fair go. Please let my relationship be treated the same as my brother's and sister's and get your yes vote in as soon as you can!


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Alisha

My mum and stepmum have been together for 30 years next May. It's utterly ridiculous that the gender of who someone loves removes their rights to basic next of kin, inheritance, and other legal statuses automatically granted through legal marriage.

I want to have those legal connections to the woman who helped raise me since I was 6 years old. I want my son to know that his grandparents are just as valid as citizens and as a couple as anyone else. And I want other gaybys and rainbow youth to grow up in a society that respects them, that treats them as equals, and I think that marriage equality can be a big part of that.

I've been waiting 30 years. Love is love. Get it done. ❤


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Ruth

For me, marriage equality means acknowledging the common, human desire for love and companionship. A couple's choice to signal their commitment to each other in marriage is a beautiful, wondrous thing. Denying anyone the opportunity to do it is just plain wrong.

I desperately want to stand next to my best friend on his wedding day, and see him marry the man who is his long-time partner and the love of his life. It is heart-breaking and unjust that he can't have one here in his country, our home. Everyone should be able to marry the person that they love - love knows no bounds.


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Mischana

I have spent the majority of my adult life in relationships with women, but when I was 30, I walked holding hands with a man for the first time in my life. I passed a sweet old lady who gave me a look of “awwww aren’t you two sweet,” and I realised that I had never experienced that smile before. Not ever. Any interaction with a stranger in regards to my previous relationship had had to be braced for.

My wish for Australia is for everyone to feel safe holding hands with the person they love, no matter who they are or who they love. Now having experienced being perceived as both “straight” and “lesbian”, the differences are a million tiny moments that can wear you down. I know how tired you are, but hold tight to each other. We are nearly there. And whatever the result next Wednesday, you are not alone. That result has nothing to do with our worth. In the words of my beautiful friend Ben Van Tienen: “All we can do is shine as fiercely and brightly as we can, and know that every time we can get one new person to share our vision, we must celebrate. And even if marriage equality isn’t achieved this time round, it WILL happen, and all we can do is keep trying.”


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Felice

Equality is a human need. All people have the right to receive the exact resources they require for the happy, healthy and safe life they deserve. I am a panromantic demisexual non-binary femme who is disabled by society's attitude and not by my unique body. If you look past the thesaurus description, I breathe, feel and bleed.

Equity is my goal because I am not the same.

I am me.


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William

If for no other reason that equality itself must exist, it will be for the kids like myself who have never been able to be told that they will marry, or that said love will never be recognised. This plebiscite has hurt too many people and it's rhetoric has harmed the most vulnerable of the LGBT+ community. I have seen far too much self harm and degradation to people who do not deserve it. I have had too many friends and loved ones succumb to the hatred and bigotry of others. So, at the end of the day, I ask to all those who consider otherwise, not only to vote YES for the same sex couples of Australia, but also for those kids and young people who are not here anymore, and were never able to see their wedding days blossom.


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Tias

I don't get it. We have all of these legal definitions for what constitutes a legal adult in the eyes of the law; and yet when it comes to marriage, 50% of people are legally not deemed options. I don't understand why a seemingly arbitrary line like this determines whether or not my friends whom I care about can marry another legal adult in the eyes of the law just because genders don't line up.


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Vanessa

Equality is eliminating the "us" and "them".

Allowing my girls to grow up in a world without labels...

And the legal recognition to marry my beautiful fiance without the prejudice of someone telling me that my love for another isn't equal.


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Chris

I moved here from Scotland. Essentially I left a country where I had the same rights as everyone else to come here to be treated differently. This has been my predominant thought throughout this campaign.


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Nikki

As a child I used to dream of one day having a fairytale wedding. I would never have envisioned that my dream would end up being just that, a fairytale. Marriage equality would give me not just the opportunity to have a 'fairytale wedding' but also the opportunity to marry and commit myself to the person I love.


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Mishka

I really wanted to use this moment to send a positive message to any undecided voters; to encourage them to vote compassionately, with love and good will in their hearts.

I wanted to be positive, but I have reached the limit of my patience.

I am utterly exhausted by this demeaning, dehumanising ‘debate’ about people like me. We are not pawns for political bargaining. We are not ‘queer friends’ who serve as tokens of feigned tolerance, while our ‘friends’ simultaneously expound some version of ‘separate but equal’ and demand that we be content with that compromise. We are not here to argue about semantics and nomenclature. We should never have to apologise for who we love, or who we are.

So I stand here, now, expecting all of Australia to do the right thing: to unreservedly accept that we deserve precisely the same amount of respect, dignity, and legal rights and protections that non-LGBTIQA+ citizens already take for granted.

We are not debatable.


Jordana

Equality is having the freedom to live your truth. No one should be deprived of something so deeply personal.


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Millie

Since the announcement of the YES vote for marriage equality, the world feels a little different.

Less of a vote for people to marry the ones they love, more of a litmus test of the Australian people's views on the right to equality for LGBTIQA+ people.

Equality for me is about feeling like I belong in a society that respects, accepts, celebrates and includes everyone for who they are, without prejudice and discrimination.

We are one step closer to creating a happier, more harmonious world!

Thank you to all who voted YES! 💛🏳️‍🌈💛


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William

I have always felt a little different. In primary school I was the only boy that played with the girls. A "friend" once told me that he thought God had made a mistake by making me a boy instead of a girl. In high school, for a long time I thought I was the only closeted gay boy. And yet I used to support and openly tease other suspected gay boys in order to hide my own sexuality (something I am not proud of but will probably haunt me for the rest of my life).

Sometimes I get asked what sort of Asian I am or whether I speak "Asian"? Every once in a while I get called ching chong, gook or spoken to in Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese even though I am Chinese and was born in Australia. I have spent a large majority of my lifetime fitting into a society that tends to box, wrap and label us into various stereotypes. Anything that doesn't fit the perceived "norm" or is out of the ordinary is often frowned upon or feared. And when fear takes over, we become irrational, illogical and overly emotional.

And yet, I still believe I am very fortunate to live at a time and in a country that is generally welcoming and progressive. In hindsight, I am also grateful for my challenges and obstacles as they have without a doubt helped build strength, resilience and a greater sense of self-awareness.

I've learnt to realise that despite race, gender, sexuality or physical appearance, we all have our quirks, our strengths, our weaknesses, our talents and our gifts. This is what makes each of us special, unique, and the marvellous individuals that we are.

Before passing judgement, before casting the first stone, I urge you to look in the mirror. If your thoughts, words and actions aren't coming from a place of loving kindness, where are they coming from? What is fuelling them?

Call me crazy or idealistic, but I believe that if we focused on our similarities, we wouldn't be so caught up on the differences. If we cultivated acceptance, there would be no need for judgement. And finally, if we could learn to fill ourselves and each other up with love, there would be no room left for hate. To some extent, we are all broken, damaged and flawed. Each of us is searching, finding our way and I believe that we were put on this earth not to pull each other apart, but to help piece each other back together.


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Katie

Marriage is important to me because I value what it holds at its heart - formal recognition of commitment to love, partnership and persistence.

As long as marriage is the highest form of legal relationship recognition, it should be available as an option to everyone.

Marriage equality will send a strong message to the LGBTIQ community that we are welcome, equal and valued in our society.


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Edina

Equality is not having to choose between the person you are and the person that others will accept.


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Josh

Marriage equality isn’t going to change everything. Hatred will still exist, and there are still other prejudices in society that need to be overcome to reach true equality between LGBTQI+ people and our neighbours. But with marriage equality, we can create a less hateful country, a society where everyone has equal opportunity to express who they are, without fear of being shamed or ridiculed – an opportunity which we all deserve, no matter who we are.

My hope is that LGBTQI+ kids growing up won’t have to face the same struggles I did to accept who they are. People against marriage equality always say “think of the children”, but in reality these are the children we need to be thinking about.


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Holly

As someone who identifies as bi, equality to me means that I can give the ultimate gift of love and commitment to whomever I fall in love with and having that relationship recognised as equal not only in the eyes of the law but socially as well.


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Rachel

Marriage equality is needed. Full stop. I've hidden the fact I identify as bi from so many people, from friends, colleagues, for fear of their reaction. When you've lost friends before because of who you are it's very difficult to ever forget and I always fear it will happen again. I shouldn't have to hide my dating history, or get so panicked and anxious about telling people something so fundamental to my personality. I think marriage equality will help to show people that love doesn't care about gender. No one should have to think they’re worth less because of who they love.


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Pamela

Equality is about all consenting adults having the right to marry, if they wish. It has absolutely nothing to do with religion, or what goes on in people's bedrooms! It is a birth right to love and be loved.


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Becky

We have been sold a lie that there is one ideal way of being human and that if you stray too far from that model, then you aren't entitled to be treated as the equal of those who adhere to it. If you're too fat, too loud, too disabled, too brown, too old or too young, if your religion is too different to the Christian norm or your English too far from the standard, if you are too ‘queer’ in any way - then it is entirely your own fault that you are treated differently.

It's not.

Civil rights like marriage aren't there to protect just one type of person, they're there to protect all of us, and we cannot let the discomfort of some with the beautiful spectrum of human difference dictate who is - or is not - entitled to respect or protection under the law. Equality is something we can all expect, regardless of who we are or who we love, and therefore is Lady Justice, like winged Cupid, painted blind.