Weekly General Rubbish Services Supported

Much has been published and said by councillors and some vocal supporters in recent weeks about the council’s decision to support weekly general rubbish collection. The councillors that put up the motion to rescind the council’s decision to restore weekly general rubbish collection included many unsupported and blatantly incorrect statements in their motion, so the remaining councillors put together the below document to correct the facts.

Please download the following document below, noting it was approved by Councillors Kellander, Tyler, Grima and me.

Here’s also some of what I had to say at tonight’s council meeting in support of the vote for weekly rubbish collections:

“We have been discussing this as a council – amongst ourselves as councillors, with the Council Administration, with the community and have heard thousands of residents from all sides of the debate. I will be voting against the rescission motion tonight and continue to support the resolution passed by the Council last Tuesday night.

I believe in a minimum basic service level for waste services and believe that includes having general waste collected by council every week. That’s not too much to expect.

This is not to say the council will not continue to raise awareness and support reducing waste and increasing recycling – amongst other environmental initiatives and education programs. We must care for the environment, but limiting a service so that it’s only accessible to families and residents that can afford to upsize their bin is not the answer.

Despite comments by some and the fake news mentioned previously:
• Reduction of landfull waste will continue;
• The four bin system will continue;
• The messaging and awareness raising of environmental issues and the need to reduce waste and increase recycling will continue;
• FOGO will continue;
• The purple bin for glass recycling will continue to be collected; and
• Importantly, the council will continue to seek continual improvement to gain environmental outcomes and improved service levels in relation to our waste services.

We can do all of those things while still collecting people’s rubbish weekly.”

Tony Briffa votes AGAINST further Rate Increases During Pandemic

During the Council Meeting held on 20 April 2021 I formally voted against the proposed increase to residential rates, which is consistent with my voting against the rate increase last year. Given the hardship many residents, businesses and community groups are experiencing during the pandemic, I cannot in good conscience support a rate hike. I am firmly of the view now is the time we should be supporting families and individuals, not increasing rates, fees and charges. I also acknowledge the struggles of local residents on fixed or reduced incomes and people who are underemployed and that other expenses such as gas, water, electricity insurance and food continue to rise.

It is important to note that residential rates in Hobsons Bay will effectively be increasing by an average of 3.5%, and for many other residents the increase will be more than this. This is because the council increased rates by 2% last year (which I also opposed) but provided ratepayers with a once-off rebate to offset the increase. As I predicted last year, this rate increase will now be applied in the 2021-22 budget along with an additional 1.5% as per the Victorian Government approved rate cap for 2021-22.

I support most of the Capital Works Program 2021-22, but cannot support the rate hike, particularly with council’s projected $27.38 million surplus for 2021-22. This is a summary direct from the published council budget:

The following graphics from the proposed council budget show the increases proposed to average rates when compared to last year. In addition to the increase in the residential rate, it’s important to also note the increase to the Waste Charges which are payable on top of the general rates.

It is a sad fact that council rates – essentially a property tax – is not applied consistently across Victoria or even Melbourne. A ratepayer would pay much less in rates for a property worth $1 million in Brighton compared with a $1 million property in Altona Meadows. How is this fair? Rates in Hobsons Bay are one of the highest in Victoria’s 79 councils, so not applying a rate increase in 2020-21 and 21-22 is more like a rate adjustment.

Some residents have concerns about how the council will pay for future capital works if the rates don’t increase. My view is that the council must live within its means, and that like many households and businesses we have to tighten our belts a little as a result of the pandemic. Not applying the 3.5% rate hike will not result in a disaster for our existing or future budget. It’s just a small adjustment. Council does not need to be greedy or treat residents as cash cows.

So what can residents do about this?

I urge every resident or business owner to visit the following page on the Council website to read the budget and make a submission to the council before Sunday 23 May 2021:

https://participate.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au/proposed-annual-budget-2021-22

Submissions must be submitted in writing. They can be emailed to budgetsubmissions@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au. Please send a copy of your submission to me at tbriffa@hobsonbay.vic.gov.au.

Phone: 1300 179 944
Email: budgetsubmissions@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

The Proposed Annual Budget 2021-22 and Rating Strategy are scheduled to be considered at the Council Meeting from 7pm on Tuesday 29 June 2021.

What if you are experiencing financial hardship?

If you are experiencing financial hardship and are struggling to pay your rates, pleas contact the council to access the Financial Hardship Policy.  It includes provisions for rate deferrals and waivers, and I hope it will be easy to access.  Please contact the council or me directly if you want more information about that.

I also respectfully acknowledge Crs Grima and Kellander who also voted against the rate rise.

Community Feedback Wanted – Council Waste Services

The Hobsons Bay City Council is undertaking a review into the current waste services system, so as a local Councillor I’m keen to hear from residents about your experiences and perspective.  I’ve therefore put together an online survey and encourage as many residents as possible to complete it.  The link for the survey is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DKVDZ9C

I would also appreciate if you can forward / share this link with other residents in Hobsons Bay and via social media or by printing this flyer and distributing it to your neighbourhood.  The more feedback I get the better equipped I will be to both understand the needs and concerns of residents and advocate for real change.

Many residents have raised concerns with me about the current system and I am committed to seeing improvements made as soon as possible. I believe the council must provide a suitable minimum waste collection service for residents while also promoting the reduction of waste and increasing the uptake of recycling.  I know there are people that are ok with a 120lt general waste bin being collected every fortnight, but I also know many families that are struggling and require a better system.

I look forward to your feedback!!

P.S.  For more information about council’s waste services, visit the council’s website here.

New Altona Pier Design Announced

Our Pier is a much-love community asset and is owned and managed by Parks Victoria.  As part of their renewal program for piers, the Altona Pier is going to be replaced in the coming years.  Following community consultation in 2020, Parks Victoria have announced the new pier will be made of concrete (not like the existing wooden pier) and will have an angled end.

The report from Parks Victoria describes the new Altona Pier as follows:

“A concrete pier with an angled pier head creating a visually unique pier that offers more space for recreational fishing, additional shade and improved seating options. This option is aligned with Pier Street, with the pier head angled towards the offshore artificial reef balls to maintain an achievable casting distance.

Facilities and features included:
• Angled end of pier with seating and shelter
• Widened concrete abutment to adjoining seawall
• Entrance and pier head public art/sculpture
• Respite seating along length of pier
• Motion sensor lighting at 30m spacing
• Gangway to 24m fixed low landing on western pier head
• Large format seating on eastern edge of pier head
• Ramp to lower platform on eastern pier head
• Emergency vehicle turning area at pier head”

For more information about the new Altona Pier, see:

(a) https://engage.vic.gov.au/altona-pier-design-options?fbclid=IwAR06Wbyj2T4j19N4_dNudW6Pj4ixMfri9pYYwglJ85NjKUbQBxwCxdshDZY

(b) Altona Pier Concept Option 3 (successful option) 

(c) Altona Pier Engagement Report

 

Screen Shot 2020-12-19 at 3.54.28 pm

Altona Pier_1

Thank you for your overwhelming vote!!

Thank you!!!

I am very honoured and grateful to have been elected to represent and serve my community on the Hobsons Bay City Council for a 4th term. Thank you to the local community and especially my fellow residents of Altona, Altona Meadows, Altona North, Brooklyn and Seaholme for your amazing support. I was honestly humbled by the huge result and promise I will not let you down. I love our community.

Thank you to the many people that helped my campaign in any way. From sharing or commenting on my posts on social media, distributing flyers, having a poster in front of your home, spreading a kind word to neighbours and friends, or to community groups encoring their members to support me. It’s been a very positive campaign and I’m so proud my team and I did not respond to the nasty attacks and misinformation on social media and continued to focus on what was most important – serving the community to make Hobsons Bay an even greater place to live, work, visit and enjoy.  I don’t want division and recognise that it wastes so much time and energy.  I want to work with everyone and if we disagree on something then we should talk about it and respectfully disagree.  We are all neighbours in Hobsons Bay.

I am already planning my work for the next term and am strongly focusing on our community’s recovery after the difficult challenges of this year – for our businesses, community groups, families, schools, elderly and disabled citizens, multicultural and faith communities, etc. We have so much to do to rebuild and support our community and I’m really keen to work with all my colleagues on the council to do that, and with the collaboration of our partners in the community. 

Please keep in touch!

Kindest regards,

Tony

P.S.  The election results can be found here and is posted below.

Cherry Lake Ward – Hobsons Bay City Council (Election 2020)Cherry Lake Ward Results 2020

Wetlands Ward – Hobsons Bay City Council (Election 2020)

Strand Ward – Hobsons Bay City Council (Election 2020)

Bruce Comben Reserve & Aquatic Centre – Lack of Community Consultation & Proper Process

I support a new Aquatic Centre at Comben Reserve, but regret that it appears the council has not followed due process with this project and are trying to rush it through.  Despite my efforts the Council has also resolved to limit community consultation to 4 weeks during the stage 3 lockdowns and declared state emergency, rather than the 8 weeks I sought.

At the Council Meeting on 9 July 2019, the council resolved to adopt the Aquatic Strategy and to “establish a Stakeholder Reference Group to guide the Bruce Comben Reserve Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study“.  The Reference Group was established but the Feasibility Study has not yet commenced.  Instead, the council administration sought to put together yet another Bruce Comben Master Plan without any direction from the Council to do this, and despite a Bruce Comben Master Plan having already having been developed and approved by council in 2011.

Here is the Aquatic Strategy that was adopted by the Council Meeting on 9 July 2019, along with the council administration’s recommended motion which was passed:
(a) HBCC Aquatic Strategy; and
(b) HBCC Aquatic Strategy Resolution (Adopted 9Jul19).

The Bruce Comben Masterplan was drafted by the council officers and involved very little consultation with residents living near Comben Reserve.  There is also some concern about the process to appoint community members to the Reference Group and improper influence or misuse of power.  I won’t comment about that, but I can confirm the Reference Group only met 3 times.  The first meeting was held in December 2019 and this merely focused on introductions, the aims of the group, etc.  The remaining two meetings were held on May and June 2020.  Both meetings offered little opportunity for input and lasted 90 minutes each.  The members were not provided with any draft plans prior to the meetings and were not given the opportunity to carefully consider what was drafted before providing input.  I have the minutes of these three meetings.

I am therefore concerned council officers failed to provide the Council with an Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study, and instead put up a Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan that increases the footprint of the sporting clubs and car parks, reducing a significant amount of passive open space to the south, and that will likely significantly change the topography of the area.  That change isn’t bad per se, but they need to be subject to proper community consultation.

We don’t even know if the Aquatic Centre is feasible, so why adopt a master plan right now?  If the Aquatic Centre isn’t feasible the Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan will have to be revised again and a significant amount of resources would have been wasted.  Also, why has the council rejected a 50m pool despite the community overwhelmingly wanting one and despite not having a feasibility study conducted?  Finally, why limit the community consultation to 4 weeks at a time when the community is in lockdown and cannot have an onsite community meeting, consult with neighbours, distribute flyers or put a petition together?  A councillor made the point that she wanted this issue resolved before the election, but why?  Pushing a multi million dollar project through hastily is not prudent nor a responsible way to manage public money or projects.  I would prefer to get this right.

The implementation of the masterplan is estimated at around $8 million, and the Aquatic Centre will be much more than that again.  Let’s make sure we get this right.

I encourage residents to review the Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan, but please note the Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study has not yet been conducted and that this plan needs to be underpinned by certainty about the Aquatic Centre (including whether a 50m pool is feasible).  Here are the relevant documents:
(a) Bruce Comben Reserve Master Plan; and
(b) Bruce Comben Reserve Recommendation & Report 14Jul20.

The Bruce Comben Reserve Draft Master Plan will be open for public exhibition until 12pm, Saturday 15 August.  Refer to https://participate.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au/brucecomben 

Please complete the survey above and provide any additional feedback or concerns to:

Jake Trevaskis or Georgri Burns
Phone: 9932 1000
Email:  projects@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

Please feel free to send me a copy of your submission.  My email address is tbriffa@hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing a wonderful aquatic centre in Altona Meadows!

Screenshot 2020-07-19 10.46.33

Screenshot 2020-07-19 10.46.45

Screenshot 2020-07-19 10.46.57

__________________________________

Cr Tony Briffa JP
Councillor, City of Hobsons Bay
(14 July 2020)

Injustice against Caster Samenya

The decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to discriminate against Caster Semenya by claiming it is necessary is extremely disappointing.  Caster Semenya is a strong, healthy, athletic, black woman.  She was born a girl, was raised a girl, is not taking any performance enhancements.  She is not a cheat.

Ms Semenya is being discriminated against because she has naturally high testosterone levels.  Forcing her to undergo medical intervention to allow her to compete is humiliating, unnecessary, unfair, and contrary to her human rights.

Other athletes have been born with natural biological variations that provide them with an advantage – such as Michael Phelps’ 203cm wingspan and Ian Thorpe’s size 16 feet – but they weren’t made to have alter their natural biological characteristics to reduce any advantage.  Ms Semenya should not be singled out.

This decision perpetuates the discrimination, forced medical intervention, stigma and injustice that many people born with variations of sex characteristics have been subjected to for decades.

I look forward to living in a world that understands, accepts and celebrates people born with all types of natural biological variations, rather than discriminating against them.

__________________________________

Tony Briffa
ILGA World Intersex Committee Chair
IHRA Co-Executive Director

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day to all women; women of colour, lesbian women, intersex women, bisexual women, straight women, trans women, mothers, women that couldn’t have children for whatever reason, disabled women, indigenous women, women of all ages, and any other women.

We have come a long way in recent years but there is so much yet to do. Today I think we should celebrate our accomplishments and diversity, while also reflecting on the huge work left to do around the world as well as within privileged countries like Australia. Education, access to healthcare and employment, protection from harm (especially abusive partners), security, recognition of rights as equals, rights to our own bodies and reproductive choices, being able to participate in sport and public life – these things are reasonable expectations for all women. 

Intersex women also have other special needs at times. It is too easy (and common) for intersex women to have their sex (and gender) challenged as soon as they disclose they have an intersex variation. It’s as if we are not real women and must therefore be male or something else. This thinking is wrong as adds to the shame and stigma many intersex women and girls experience. Many of us don’t disclose our intersex status because of this discrimination. I pay my respects to intersex women that have come out and work to raise awareness, and I support all intersex women.

Happy International Women’s Day!Intersex Strength

 

This article was first posted on Tony’s facebook account – https://www.facebook.com/tbriffa

Tony Briffa Article in Star Observer (24JAN19)

The Star Observer published an article by Matthew Wade on 24 January 2019 based on an article Tony wrote which is published on the IHRA website.  The article is copied below complete with a link to the webpage.

INTERSEX ADVOCATE TO BOYCOTT PRIDE MARCH IF ROYAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL IS INVOLVED

“We should be able to be the people nature made us, and if our bodies are to be modified then we should be the ones to make that decision with our full and free consent.” – Tony Briffa

Link to the Article

Intersex advocate and Hobsons Bay councillor, Tony Briffa, will boycott Melbourne’s Pride March if the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is allowed to take part in the event.

The former mayor cited the ongoing, involuntary or coerced medical interventions on young intersex bodies performed by the hospital as the reason behind the decision.

Speaking to the Star Observer, Briffa said seeing the RCH march at last year’s Pride March was hurtful and disappointing.

TonyBriffaAltonaBeach

“Imagine being a proud member of the LGBTI community, and a survivor of childhood and adolescent conversion therapies, and seeing the organisation that tried to make you fit heteronormative stereotypes welcomed into the Melbourne Pride March,” Briffa said.

“Current interventions by the RCH include surgically reducing the size of clitorises in baby girls who have clitorises deemed too big by doctors, forced testosterone injections given to baby boys with certain intersex variations, and the surgical removal of healthy gonads in some intersex children to remove any possible intersex trait.

“None of these interventions are medically necessary, nor are they conducted with the consent of the children involved.”

Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics that don’t fit binary ideas around male and female bodies.

There are at least 40 kinds of intersex variations and according to experts up to 1.7 per cent of the population are born with one or more of them.

Some intersex traits are visible at birth while others might not be apparent until puberty.

The invasive medical interventions continue to be carried out in Australia without personal informed consent, and are often irreversible.

They can cause permanent infertility, pain, a loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental health issues like depression.

Briffa said that while the RCH has made important strides in recognising and affirming trans and gender diverse people, the same recognition has not been given to intersex people.

“The same hospital and many of the same doctors that [perform medical interventions] on intersex children also treat trans and gender diverse children, but their bodily integrity and right to self determination are recognised,” Briffa said.

“No treatment of trans and gender diverse children at the RCH is conducted without the consent of the child involved.

“This is in complete contrast to intersex children… so why is the RCH marching in Pride March?”

Briffa added that organisations engaging in gay conversion therapy wouldn’t be allowed to participate in pride marches, and so organisations – including hospitals – that engage in “conversion therapies against intersex children” should be held to the same standard.

Briffa called on intersex allies in the LGBT community to support intersex people and join them in the fight to recognise their right to bodily integrity and self determination.

“We should be able to be the people nature made us, and if our bodies are to be modified then we should be the ones to make that decision with our full and free consent,” Briffa said.

“I call on the Midsumma Board to make it clear to the RCH that they are not welcome to participate in the Pride March until they stop conducting involuntary or coerced medical interventions on intersex children and make amends to the many children they have mistreated.”

At this stage, the RCH is due to march in the Pride March, and will follow other youth-based contingents along the route including Parents of Gender Diverse Children and headspace.

Chief Executive of Midsumma, Karen Bryant, said the festival had been working closely with Briffa to “create a space to encourage dialogue around this issue”.

“Our role is to provide support to address the issues that affect our diverse communities as well as to celebrate the wins,” she told the Star Observer.

“We are very aware of the very difficult situations that our many and diverse communities experience on a daily basis and the huge impact that these situations can and do have.

“Midsumma Pride March is the coming together of these diverse peoples and communities to reflect, celebrate, and to shine light on the issues affecting our communities, in hope that together we can resolve them.”

For more information about the lives and experiences of intersex people, as well as the Darlington Statement, a statement outlining key priorities for intersex communities in Australia and New Zealand, visit: www.ihra.org.au.

 

© Star Observer 2019 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and  Twitter feed.

Royal Children’s Hospital Still Abusing Intersex Children

TonyBriffaAltonaBeach

Imagine being a proud member of the LGBTI community, and a survivor of childhood and adolescent conversion therapies, and seeing the organisation that abused you and tried to make you fit heteronormative stereotypes welcomed into the Melbourne Pride March. With no apology, and no evidence of change to their practices. This is what happened to me last year when I attended the Melbourne Pride March. Despite advising Midsumma Board last year of the offence taken at the inclusion of the Royal Children’s Hospital in the Pride March, I am very disappointed, and even hurt, to know that the Royal Children’s Hospital has been welcomed by the Midsumma Board to participate again this year.

Like many other Victorian children born with intersex variations – biological variations in sex characteristics from medical norms for female or male bodies – I was abused by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Incredibly, babies and children born with variations of sex characteristics are still being abused at the hospital today. Current interventions by the Royal Children’s Hospital include surgically reducing the size of clitorises in baby girls who have clitorises deemed too big by doctors, forced testosterone injections given to baby boys with certain intersex variations in the belief that it would make them become heterosexual cisgendered men, and the surgical removal of healthy gonads in some intersex children to remove any possible intersex trait (and thus also sterilising the child). None of these interventions are medically necessary, nor are they conducted with the consent of the children involved. Even parents are not provided with the full facts, and they are rarely given support.

Parents and children trust doctors with our lives and our future. We trust them to give us the best care, advice and treatment, and not to treat us differently because we are born with healthy physical variations. I am one of many intersex children abused at the Royal Children’s Hospital. I was subjected to surgeries from the time I was a baby to fit in with the heteronormative views of doctors (including genital surgeries and castration), and I was also subjected to non-consensual hormone treatment, sexual abuse, repeated genital examinations in front of many medical staff and students, as well as medical research. This still happens today and the Royal Children’s Hospital defend their ongoing interventions rather than apologising and making reparations. 

So why are the Royal Children’s Hospital marching at the Pride March? Incredibly, the same hospital and many of the same doctors that abuse and mistreat intersex children also treat trans and gender diverse children – but their bodily integrity and right to self determination are recognised. No treatment of trans and gender diverse children at the Royal Children’s Hospital is conducted without the consent of the child involved. This is in complete contrast for intersex children.

Organisations engaging in gay conversion therapy would not be allowed to participate in Pride March. The same should apply to organisations – including hospitals – that engage in conversion therapies against intersex people. This hypocrisy must end. I call on the Midsumma Board to make it clear to the Royal Children’s Hospital that they are not welcome to participate in the Pride March until they stop conducting conversion therapy on intersex children and make amends to the many children they have mistreated. 

I also call on our many allies and supporters in the LGBT community to support intersex people and join our fight to recognise our right to bodily integrity and self determination. We should be able to be the people nature made us, and if our bodies are to be modified then we should be the ones to make that decision with our full and free consent. 

The Victorian Government, which has recently been given a strong mandate to continue their progressive human rights agenda, should also act immediately to prohibit the Royal Children’s Hospital from continuing to mistreat children born with biological variations of sex characteristics (intersex variations).

The intersex movement in Australia is growing, and our human rights concerns and needs have been set out in a community consensus declaration, the Darlington Statement. I understand many people (including gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans and gender non-diverse people) are unclear about intersex people and our human rights issues and demands. Please visit the Intersex Human Rights Australia website (www.ihra.org.au) to learn more about intersex people, our life experiences and the Darlington Statement. GLBT groups are also welcome to contact us to learn more about how you can work with us and be better allies. Let us together act as a community to end human rights abuses taking place in our otherwise wonderful Royal Children’s Hospital.

Tony Briffa writes chapter in LGBTI book

Tony Briffa: “The Hippocratic Oath, Western Medicine, and the Children of Hermes and Aphrodite”

9781743055953Tony Briffa has written on being intersex and Maltese Australian in the book Living and Loving in Diversity: An anthology of Australian multicultural queer adventures (chief editor Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Wakefield Press). The book was launched at the 2018 Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council conference, “Living Loving Diversity”, and an edited extract has been published by Archer Magazine.

“I am proud of my Maltese heritage; I am also proud of my intersex heritage. As a heritage that has a very long history, I believe having an intersex variation is nothing to be ashamed of, despite the fact that some would have had my parents and I feel ashamed, as they still to this day try to convince others.

People with intersex variations have only relatively recently found their own voice. We work to ensure that the social and medical needs of those with intersex variations have a voice that is understood in its own right.

It is often the cultural examples of other societies rather than Western understanding of intersex variations that is key to achieving the best way to approach treatment and so it would have been in my case.”

More information

Briffa, Tony. 2018. ‘Intersex Variations: Western Medicine and the Hippocratic Oath’. Archer Magazine (blog). 28 September 2018. http://archermagazine.com.au/2018/09/intersex-variations-western-medicine-and-the-hippocratic-oath/.

Pallotta-Chiarolli, Maria (editor). 2018. Living and Loving in Diversity An Anthology of Australian Multicultural Queer Adventures. Adelaide, South Australia: Wakefield Press. https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1473.

Acknowledgement to IHRA website where this article was originally published.

This is the world’s first openly intersex person elected into public office

This is the world’s first openly intersex person elected into public office

Tony Briffa: Growing up, I was castrated and treated ‘like a freak’

By Tony Briffa and published in Gay Star News, 26 October 2017.  https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/tony-briffa-worlds-first-openly-intersex-person-elected-public-office/#gs.tywLjgy9

Intersex people are very diverse. Like the rest of society, some of us are lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans. But most of us are straight.

Most of us never experienced any gender confusion and are happy in the sex we’re raised. But many intersex people don’t learn they’re intersex until they reach adolescence. Only a small portion of intersex people are born with any obvious genital variations.

In my case I was born with a mostly female body but with internal testes and the typical male chromosome pattern. I was raised as a girl which I was mostly ok with.

Unfortunately, the doctors treating me at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne decided to reinforce the sex I was being raised through any surgical and hormonal means possible. This meant removing my healthy testes – and any chance of being a biological parent – when I was seven.

They also subjected me to many repeated genital examinations treating me like a freak.

This mistreatment had a huge negative impact on me that still impacts me today.

‘I felt like a freak’

Like many other intersex people, these repeated unnecessary examinations (often witnessed by many other doctors and students) made me feel ashamed of my body to the point of feeling like a freak and not worthy of relationships.

I felt very alone in the world.

The doctors controlled every aspect of my life in order to make me as stereotypically female as possible.

In addition to castration, they started me on female hormones when I was 11.

The commencement of the hormone treatment was calculated so that I would be as tall as my mother; an acceptable height for a woman. They calculated my natural height as an adult would be too tall for a woman, so my body was made to be only 5’2” tall instead of the 5’10” predicted.

Despite feeling so negatively about my body and self-worth, I have managed to have great relationships with wonderful people and a satisfying career.

I was previously in a long-term relationship with an awesome man with whom I fostered and raised several children, and am now married to a woman although my marriage to her is not yet legally recognised in Australia.

My career has been varied, exciting and humbling.

I have held positions with the Department of Defence and Australian Federal Police, have worked for an airline, and am now working in a company that does lots of work for airlines across the globe.

Work has resulted in me working in many disadvantaged countries and experiencing a variety of cultures. This has helped form who I am.

‘I am the world’s first openly intersex person elected to public office’

I was elected to the Hobsons Bay City Council in 2008, 2012 and 2016 as a Councillor, elected as Deputy Mayor in 2009 and 2010 and elected as Mayor in 2011.

Being openly intersex as a public official has some challenges but for the most part, the community are very accepting of me. Even if they don’t understand it fully and perhaps wonder whether I am female or male.

In my case, they are right either way.

Being openly intersex also impacts on my career but thankfully all my work colleagues have been very supportive and inclusive.

I am now 47 years old and am in a comfortable place in my life. I have a better appreciation of the way I was born, what was done to me without my consent, and who I am as a person.

Nature made me biologically mostly female but with male sex characteristics too. There is nothing wrong with that or anything to be ashamed of.

That is who and what I am.

Most intersex people are female or male. For me, I accept my sex is mostly female but with a twist of male as well.

If anyone should feel ashamed it’s the doctors that mistreated and abused me as a child, and those that still mistreat and abuse intersex children today.

Even today the Royal Children’s Hospital reduce the size of intersex girls’ clitorises without their consent and without any medical need.

Sex and gender are different

Sex is about biology and gender is about identity. Like most people, my gender is consistent with my sex.

I am very comfortable in women only places, and am also comfortable in men only spaces. Thankfully society is gradually getting more accustomed to people who do not fit old-fashioned stereotypes of what women and men should look like and how they should behave!

Hopefully in the near future, society will be more aware of intersex variations and people born with them. It’s wrong for doctors to medicalize us and conduct normalizing intervention without our consent.

Our bodies will be as accepted as beautiful natural variations of human kind.

 

Tony Briffa is a Co-executive Director of Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia and Vice-President of the AIS Support Group Australia

Gay News