Campus

Binary-ocracy

7 June 2017

Gender diverse students at the University of Melbourne may not be able to receive Youth Allowance payments to which they are entitled from Centrelink because of their identity.

In late 2015, the University added a ‘trans/intersex/other’ category to the gender identification section of student enrolment. This was widely accepted as a step towards inclusivity and celebrating diversity on campus, despite the incorrect suggestion that ‘trans’ is a gender.

The Centrelink system, however, does not provide any non-binary gender identification options. Centrelink uses University enrolment records to confirm that individuals requesting payments hold a current student status.

But as gender diverse students are forced to select either ‘male’ or ‘female’ on their Centrelink enrolment, the two enrolment documents do not match. Thus, they are rejected from the Centrelink system. As a result of this issue, gender diverse youths may fall below the poverty line. Centrelink claims to be addressing the issue within a multi-year project establishing inclusive gender guidelines throughout all Federal Government departments. Department of Human Services General Manager, Hank Jongen, declined to confirm exactly how long this process would take.

“Because of the scale and complexities around the department’s forms and ageing IT systems, changes are being made progressively,” Jongen said.

University of Melbourne Student Union Queer Officer Evelyn Lesh believes that this issue needs to be dealt with immediately.

“It’s a violation of the Sex Discrimination Act, and a failure to comply with the Australian Government’s guidelines on gender,” Lesh said.

“July 2016 was the date set for meeting these requirements, including the requirement to have a non-binary gender option, so they’re now almost a year late,” they said.

Lesh believes this lateness is evidence of the government’s unjust disregard for gender diverse people.

“We currently have a government that believes trans people are a joke, and that we don’t have the same right to exist and access services that everyone else does,” they said.

“Bureaucratic nightmares and Centrelink-related issues aren’t a surprise to any trans people, or any queer community that is trans-inclusive. Those of us who are non-binary also know that we pretty much cease to exist in society’s eyes.”