“Sometimes a single person’s courage, compassion and foresight changes the course of history. For the North West Coast and for Tasmania’s LGBTI community, Mary Binks was one such person.” – Rodney Croome

Tasmania’s LGBTI community is mourning the death of one of its greatest allies and supporters, former Mayor of Devonport, Mary Binks OAM, who died yesterday at her home in Devonport, aged 84.

Horrified by the pain and trauma experienced by young LGBTI people on Tasmania’s North West Coast during the bitter debate on decriminalising homosexuality in the 1990s, Mary Binks was critical to establishing the LGBTI support and education organisation, Working It Out.

Working It Out, which is funded by the Tasmanian Government and celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, went on to save the lives of many young LGBTI people and keep many families together.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome said,

“At a time of division and pain in the community, Mary Binks stepped up, brought people together, and made our Island a better place.”

“She might have come across as a prim and proper, but underneath she was a force of nature who achieved what many thought was impossible – establishing an LGBTI support organisation in what was then still Australia’s most homophobic state.”

“Mary was a role model for all those heterosexual people who want to support inclusion and equality for the LGBTI community because she was at once polite and tenacious, brave and kind, strategic and outspoken.”

“If you fly a rainbow flag, lower it to half mast in honour of Mary Binks.”

Following a spate of suicides of young gay men on the North West Coast during the bitter debate about decriminalising homosexuality, Mary Binks obtained funding for a study into the prejudice and discrimination faced by North West LGBTI youth.

The resulting “Working It Out Report” lead to funding for Working It Out as an organisation from federal and state governments. Mary chaired a steering committee of service providers and community leaders to establish the new body.

Executive Officer of Working It Out, Susan Ditter, paid tribute to Mary.

“Many LGBTI Tasmanians survived and thrived, and many families are proud of their LGBTI members, thanks to Mary’s vision, hard work and huge heart.”

“Everyone at Working It Out is saddened by Mary’s death and we offer our deepest condolences to her family.”

“Mary’s leadership on LGBTI support at a time when it very hard has inspired many other people to put aside their fears and take a stand for inclusion.”

The initial Working It Our Report inspired rural communities across Australia to do more for their LGBTI youth. It led to subsequent initiatives on the North West Coast including “Signpost”, an LGBTI support and information website established by the Cradle Coast Authority under then director and now State Government Minister, Roger Jaensch.

At last year’s postal survey the North West seat of Braddon, for many years labelled Australia’s most homophobic, returned majority support for marriage equality.

“Sometimes a single person’s courage, compassion and foresight changes the course of history. For the North West Coast and for Tasmania’s LGBTI community, Mary Binks was one such person”, Mr Croome said.

Mary’s obituary is here:
http://tributes.examiner.com.au/obituaries/examiner-au/obituary.aspx?n=mary-elaine-binks&pid=189272458

For more on Mary, here is her biography on the Tasmanian Government website:
http://www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/csr/programs_and_services/tasmanian_honour_roll_of_women/inductees/2005/mary_binks

For an insight into how difficult it was on the NW Coast for young LGBTI people, here is Hannah Gadsby’s description of growing up in Smithton:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/25/hannah-gadsby-marriage-equality-plebiscite-will-ruin-and-end-some-young-lives
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome