Responding to practices: Investigations
When there is evidence of serious or systemic change or suppression practices, the Commission has discretion to undertake an investigation.
Investigations seek to uncover and put a stop to harmful practices that put many people at risk.
What is an investigation?
Under the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, we may investigate serious or systemic contraventions of the Act, including:
- a change or suppression practice or practices
- taking someone from Victoria for the purposes of a change or suppression practice
- advertising a change or suppression practice.
During an investigation, we may:
- interview the person or people affected
- interview the person or people involved in the practice
- interview other relevant people
- collect evidence, including information and documents.
We will use all the information gathered in this process to determine whether it is more likely than not that the serious, systemic, or persisting contraventions of the Act occurred.
Information about the full process and the types of matters that we will investigate can be read in our investigations policy.
What outcomes are possible?
Investigations seek to uncover and put a stop to serious or systemic contraventions of the Act, which in some cases are persisting and put many people at risk. Investigations are less likely to seek individual outcomes.
When looking to stop an investigated party breaching the Act the Commission may take any action it considers fit, including:
- Entering into a legal agreement with the party: which sets out agreed steps to stop any change or suppression practices and comply with the Act.
- Accepting an enforceable undertaking from the party: which sets out agreed steps to comply with the Act which we can publicly register and enforce through Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
- Issuing a compliance notice to the party: which sets out required actions to comply with the Act which we can enforce through VCAT. Compliance notices are used where a party does not consent to enter into an agreement or enforceable undertaking.
The outcome of an investigation is protected information which we are not permitted to disclose without the consent of the investigated party. We may be unable to inform a reporter of the outcome of an investigation.
If we consider a criminal offence under the Act may have been committed, we will inform reporters of their option to report to Victoria Police and provide support as required. Reporting to Victoria Police could result in a criminal investigation and criminal charges.
Who can request an investigation?
Investigations can be requested by a person making a report. Reporters can also request other responses such as facilitated resolution or targeted education. A reporter could be:
- the person affected – the survivor of change or suppression practices
- someone on behalf of the survivor (such as a family member or friend)
- any other person (for example someone who has overheard or witnessed a change or suppression practice).
Please note: For an investigation to be successful, we will most likely need to speak with and collect evidence from the person or persons affected by the change or suppression practice.
Will my report be investigated?
If an investigation is requested, we will conduct an initial assessment to determine whether we are able to investigate the report. We will not be able to investigate all reports.
Our assessment will consider:
- the threshold test for when an investigation may be conducted, set out in section 34 of the Act
- whether we will be able to gather sufficient evidence
- if the reported party can be identified, contacted, and adequately engaged
- whether the reported party is willing to voluntarily comply with the Act
- the broader impact in terms of compliance with the Act
- if the impacted person/s can fully participate in the process
- if the matter can be satisfactorily dealt with in another way, or by another body
- the resource requirements
- whether an investigation will prejudice:
- criminal proceedings
- criminal investigations
- investigations by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) or the Victorian Inspectorate
- if the matter relates to conduct that occurred in other jurisdictions.
How we work with people affected by change or suppression practices
Our investigation process is trauma- and survivor-informed to accommodate the unique circumstances of each experience.
We recognise that participating in an investigation could be a challenging process and it will not be the right decision for everyone. There are important things to consider before making the decision to request an investigation.
As part of an investigation, certain things will need to occur which may not be psychologically safe for all people affected. These people may be required to:
- have ongoing engagement with the investigation
- share detailed accounts of their stories
- share their identity with the investigated party (with their consent).
If you do request an investigation and our assessment determines that an investigation takes place, we prioritise your safety and comfort by:
- providing you with regular updates
- assigning a lead investigator who you can contact at any time
- allowing you to have a support person with you during interviews.
How we work with the investigated party
We are legally required to ensure natural justice (also known as procedural fairness) to all people during an investigation.
During an investigation, we ensure this procedural fairness for the investigated party by:
- providing them with an opportunity to present their case
- ensuring that they are allowed personal or legal representation, or an interpreter if required, during interviews
- informing them of evidence underpinning findings
- providing them with a reasonable opportunity to respond to findings.
The Commission will:
- act without bias
- base any conclusions on logically probative evidence
- comply with the Commission’s secrecy obligations under the Act.
We will listen to the reported party’s views about the Act, the contents of the report made against them and any concerns about their participation in an investigation process.
We may request evidence from an investigated party, which can be provided voluntarily. If required, we do have the power to compel evidence through a written notice.
Investigations are confidential and conducted in private. We are not permitted to disclose or communicate protected information about an investigated party unless an exception in the Act applies.
Full details about exceptions, confidentiality and natural justice can be read in our investigations policy.
For those affected by change or suppression practices, retelling your story may cause you further distress. These organisations can help:
Rainbow Door is a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family, and friends.
Contact: 1800 729 367 or 0480 017 246 (SMS) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond Blue provides 24-hour information, advice and support for people affected by anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Contact: 1300 224 636
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council is a national body that advocates for the rights of multicultural and multifaith LGBTIQ individuals and communities and provides referrals to existing services, community groups and agencies.
Contact: email@example.com and their GLBTIQ multicultural directory lists Victorian groups such as Queer Muslims, Jewish and Gay, Gas Asian Proud, Club Adonis and more.
A full list of affirming faith organisations, LGBTIQ support organisations and crisis and mental health services can be found on our ‘Have you experienced a change or suppression practice?’ page.
Reported parties will be referred to independent legal advice through the investigation process.