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Being 'inclusive' is much more than flags, documents and days

You don’t have to look hard in any corporate or political world to find the ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ buzzwords. There are often policies, strategies, campaigns and entire careers dedicated to promoting welcoming and inclusive communities, complemented by overarching pledges of ‘respect’ and ‘kindness’.

When it comes to obvious differences between people like skin colour, age, sex and visible disabilities, we’ve made good progress. Skin colour is irrelevant, we work to maximise participation for people with a disability, see age as only a number, and, in most settings, view someone’s sex as irrelevant. We also appreciate that diverse groups are more innovative, make sounder decisions and produce better results.

In recent years, however, we’ve gone backwards on the fundamentals. It’s our broadest differences and deepest freedoms – our ability to independently think and speak – that are under serious threat. It’s these freedoms that set us apart from our authoritarian neighbours. It’s these freedoms that underpin our democracy, enable us to challenge and progress, and are central to our individuality and other human rights.

Despite the significance of these freedoms and all the ‘welcoming and inclusive’ hot air that gets blown about, we’re sadly becoming more intolerant and exclusive. The literal and metaphorical attacks that launch when some are faced with people they disagree with demonstrate the large caveats that apply to kindness, respect and inclusion. I've even had the Hobart City Council Deputy Mayor, Helen Burnet (Green Party) attempt to correct my views in writing.

As we all now know, it’s typically those who preach inclusion and kindness the loudest that are the least inclusive, kind and respectful towards people whose views differ to their own. This is something I have experienced firsthand by being on the receiving end of taxpayer-funded lawfare, and ongoing bullying and discrimination for my fact-based, fair and widely held beliefs.

Over a year ago I dared to publicly state a known fact. I stated that “transwomen are transwomen and remain biological men”. Despite softening this statement (a balancing act of kindness and truth – it could have simply been “men who think they are women are still men” – I found myself being accused of ‘inciting hatred on the basis of gender identity’ by Equal Opportunity Tasmania, home of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

I also stated that “you cannot be raped with a penis if there is no penis present”; a physical reality made in reference to the need for some female-only spaces for safety and dignity reasons, like women’s changerooms, toilets, prisons and shelters. I went on to say that “the vast majority of trans and gender diverse people are very decent people'' because that’s what I believe.

Several months, much angst and a whole lot of money later, the complaint that should have been dismissed at the very first post was finally withdrawn. When it became clear that the complainant – Ms Ivy Hindle – would need to exert some effort beyond a couple of aggrieved emails to progress their complaint, and it was reiterated for the eighth time I would take the fight to tell the truth as high as I needed to, the complainant shifts into reverse.  

Despite the stress, my gripe is not with Ms Hindle. It’s no surprise that fragile people are upset by reality and cannot tolerate disagreement. But, in any reasonably free, democratic and sane society, it’s immediately clear that I did nothing wrong and considerable taxpayer money should not have been wasted by Equal Opportunity Tasmania on pursuing something so baseless.

The acceptance of this complaint alone is attacking free speech through intimidation. It’s the Thought Police on steroids, where the truth, and fair, valid and widely held opinions are in the firing line. Never is the reality of laws being weaponised to silence ‘wrong think’ more apparent than when you’re lawyering up and referencing the Constitution to defend your right to think and speak.

In another matter, the tables are turned, with me holding the Hobart City Council accountable for what I view as highly immoral and illegal discrimination towards me based on political belief and activity.

Long story short: I tried to book the Hobart City Council’s Town Hall Ballroom in my personal capacity for a “women’s rights and free speech forum”. I sought a date in November last year and was told repeatedly in writing that no date was available. Turns out, this was false and at least four layers of the organisation (including elected representatives) and over 15 people in and outside of the organisation were actively involved in, or had knowledge of, my intention to book this public facility and my request being intentionally blocked. The culture that enables behaviour so blatantly morally and legally wrong comes from the very top.

Ironically, as the scheme to block my booking was unfolding, the Hobart City Council launched its expanded Hobart Respects All campaign, which promotes “listening to understand”, “having courageous conversations”, “getting to know people who are different from you” and striving for “inclusion for all”. The hypocrisy of promoting these messages while actively discriminating is obvious.

Put another way, in 2024, if you want to hold a women’s rights and free speech event in Hobart, ‘diversity’ is welcome but not ‘that’ diversity, and ‘inclusion’ doesn’t include you, and ‘kindness’ and ‘respect’ is highly conditional. And if, like most people, you dare believe that women’s sport must be only for females, and that men should not be in women’s prisons or shelters, expect a ‘bigot’ banner in your face with #bekind on the back.

Being truly inclusive, welcoming and kind requires more than posing for the camera and fluffy feel-good documents. It means more than flags, documents and days. It means allowing people you disagree with to speak, and respecting views that are different to your own. It requires integrity to do the right thing and self-awareness to know when it’s you that’s being disrespectful, unkind and exclusionary. It’s knowing that when you discriminate, that you’re not only breaking the law, but breaching fundamental human rights.

All the showboating around diversity and inclusion is hypocritical fluff and nonsense if words and actions do not align. There is a valid need for legislation that curtails our speech – such as true incitement of violence and hate – but these laws must only be taken so far to preserve our democracy, and we must regularly check our hypocrisy, as freedom of belief and expression are at the heart of not only diversity and inclusion, but also democracy, kindness and respect.


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