Former Pentecostal preacher Anthony Venn-Brown has spent decades supporting people who were told they were broken and needed fixing. But it was an email from a young gay man called Matt that really reinforced to Venn-Brown how dangerous – and deadly – gay conversion practices can be.

Matt wrote to Venn-Brown to thank him for his autobiography, which told the story of a young boy from the Sutherland Shire who went to a church “rehabilitation” centre in the late 1970s in the hope of being cured of his homosexuality. He ultimately came out as gay aged 40.

Like Venn-Brown, Matt, 34, had also been through gay conversion programs. But this was the heartbreaking line for Venn-Brown in Matt’s email: “I made a lot of friends in my years of conversion therapy. Out of 40, only six are still alive. One died naturally, the rest suicide.”

Anthony Venn-Brown has long supported young people who have been subjected to gay conversion practices.

Anthony Venn-Brown has long supported young people who have been subjected to gay conversion practices.Credit: Flavio Brancaleone

Venn-Brown, 73, was in the public gallery of NSW Parliament on Wednesday when Attorney-General Michael Daley introduced the government’s bill to ban gay conversion practices, which was a Labor election commitment.

Speaking before the introduction of the bill, Premier Chris Minns said every person in NSW deserved to be respected for who they were.

“It is intolerable that we have a situation in NSW where children can be told something is wrong with them and that they need to be fixed,” Minns said. “I’ve personally met with survivors of conversion practices and know how important it is that we put an end to this.”

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who introduced his own gay conversion bill last year but withdrew it to work with Labor on its version, said the legislation made it clear that “LGBT people are not broken, we do not need to be fixed and if you try, you have broken the law”.

The bill will include exemptions, including expressing a belief through a sermon, taking offence at religious teachings, and seeking guidance through prayer. Parents are not included in the ban.

Chief executive of Faith NSW Murray Norman said while it was not perfect, “our communities’ concerns have been heard”.

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