Pharmacy divided

When it comes to getting involved in the advocacy of LGBTIQ rights, pharmacists’ beliefs vary considerably

AJP has received a lot of engagement from readers following our coverage of PSA’s announcement that some of its members will be involved in next year’s Mardi Gras as volunteers under the banner “Pharmacists for equality”, along with SHPA, Pharmacy Guild and NAPSA volunteers.

Comments received have run the gamut from negative to positive, prompting us to poll readers asking their opinion on pharmacy’s involvement in the push for LGBT+ rights.

The results of the poll reveal that there is a large proportion of pharmacists who are passionate about pharmacy’s involvement in the push for LGBT+ rights, including participation in the Mardi Gras and advocacy for marriage equality.

However there is also a large number that don’t believe pharmacy should get involved as an industry, with about one-fifth of respondents saying they are vehemently opposed to the idea.

As of EOB Monday 29 May, AJP had received 780 total unique votes over the course of one week.

In response to whether pharmacy should get involved in the push for LGBT+ rights, 21% of respondents (164 votes) said “definitely 100% no”.

Nearly twice this amount (39% or 304 votes) said “definitely 100% yes”.

However a further 31% of respondents moderately stated: “No, I don’t think pharmacy should be involved in this area”.

Just 2% said “Yes, I think pharmacy should probably get involved”.

A summary of results:

  • 39% – “Definitely 100% yes” (304 votes)
  • 31% – “No I don’t think pharmacy should be involved in this area” (238 votes)
  • 21% – “Definitely 100% no” (164 votes)
  • 7% – “I don’t really care” (53 votes)
  • 2% – “Yes I think pharmacy should probably get involved” (18 votes)
  • 0% – “I’m undecided on the issue” (3 votes)

Altogether, 41% of pharmacists were supportive of pharmacy’s involvement in pharmacy while 52% were either moderately or passionately against the idea.

PSA CEO Dr Lance Emerson said he is surprised by the outcome of the poll.

“I’m a little surprised by these results, which are inconsistent with a variety of polls conducted on the general population over the last five years, showing growing support (around 76%) for equality,” he said, in reference to Roy Morgan survey findings about Australians’ views on gay marriage.

“I’m also surprised at the amount of media coverage within the pharmacy trade press that this issue is getting,” said Dr Emerson.

“Pharmacists are health professionals and evidence shows that equality is an important health issue, and is a right for all regardless of age, culture, gender identity, sexuality, religion or marital status.

“With the diverse nature of the pharmacy profession and the communities which pharmacists’ serve, PSA is committed to ensuring equality is achieved and pharmacists are recognised as an important part of an accessible and equitable healthcare system.”

“I thank the volunteers from SHPA, the Pharmacy Guild, NAPSA and PSA for their work in raising awareness of this issue,” he said.

“We are not aware of any formal involvement in the Mardi Gras float project,” a Pharmacy Guild spokesperson told AJP.

“But it may be that individual Guild members or staff are involved in the project – and of course they are welcome to do so and we wish the project well.

“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is committed to providing equal employment opportunities for all employees and potential employees in an environment which is free from discrimination and harassment, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said the spokesperson.

SHPA Chief Executive, Kristin Michaels, told AJP: “As outlined in our Constitution, SHPA is an equal opportunity organisation and, in our interactions with members, stakeholders, business partners and peers we do not discriminate on the grounds of sexual identity, orientation or expression.”

“NAPSA strongly believes in equality for all, whether it be religious, race or sexual orientation/identity,” said national president Shefali Parekh.

“Everyday we celebrate that the world is a diverse place full of knowledge and culture ready to be embraced. There is a major issue plaguing the political environment of Australia, something that is compelling the minds of Australians, this is marriage equality. The current laws do not just pertain to whether two people of the same sex can marry, but they carry a much larger issue- human rights and more importantly mental health.

“An open mind, allowing just rights and liberties to all is paramount in our society. Our future generations need to be raised in a world where the society is healthy, liberal and harmonious. With this in place, our future generations and the current society will out-perform itself and proliferate.

“NAPSA stands with the community of Australia in wanting a community that is healthy and harmonious. The current laws stand against our strong history of social reform and vigorous democracy. For it to continue like this, NAPSA encourages the government to amend the laws appropriately and stand with the rest of the major world leaders in creating a fair and equitable society.

“For decades, the rates of suicide, depression, loneliness, substance abuse and anxiety – the main pillars of mental health – have been higher in the LGBTI community than others. Marriage equality is a pathway to improving the mental health of gay, bisexual, heterosexual and trans men and women across Australia.

“NAPSA strives to have an environment that has a noticeable support network that empowers our members and boosts their potential. This support network is amplified when society is equally as supportive and has everyone’s dignity and equality unified. We are united against those with a prejudice view on different sexual orientations or identities, and to an extent of this, religions and races. To pharmacy and non-pharmacy students alike, we are proud and respect you for who you are and what you represent.”

What you said

“I believe we have a moral and social responsibility to at least try and help end injustice and discrimination. As health professionals we should realise that this issue is causing harm to an already vulnerable section of the population.” – Brettthereluctantpharmacist

“The issue is highly contentious, highly divisive, highly emotional, highly politicised and PSA should stay right away from it. They don’t represent me on this issue and the poll shows that goes for around half the people responding.” – Peter Dishington

“As health professionals, it is our role to ensure the wellbeing of all … As pharmacists, we are in a unique position to show the community that we are here for everyone.” – Glen Swinburne

“While I think in this day and age it should be common sense that marriage should be an opportunity for all genders and persuasions, I fail to see how the AMA, PSA or Pharmacy Guild have any role or responsibility for promoting such legislative change.” – PharmOwner

“I agree it is not what you would normally consider a core PSA activity but hell, is it ever wrong to show compassion, support and understanding towards fellow humans who have suffered for aeons and continue to suffer discrimination and intolerance because of ignorance and fear.” – Bruce Moffat

“This is a political issue. There are legitimate arguments on both sides. If you have a political point to make, kindly join a party and express your opinion… Stop politicising every other organisation and aspect of life.” – Wesley Williams

“This is a fantastic initiative that makes me proud to call myself a PSA member. Mardi Gras isn’t just a celebration of the LGBTIQ+ community, it’s a time to tell all Australians, no matter who they are, that they are an important and welcome part of our diverse community.” – Daniel Roitman

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  1. Andrew

    Looking at the number of respondents compared to previous polls it’s pretty clear this one was brigaded.

    • pagophilus

      Yes, the share of the positive votes increased over time.

      • Andrew

        Meh, I don’t really care the direction in which it was brigaded. Pharmacists tend to be more conservative than the general population so to see the results skewed towards “no” is not suprising, but the fact that this poll has such a high number of respondents compared to previous and that the result is so significantly different to the many larger community surveys that show broad and majority support for marriage equality is telling.

        Very suspicious. What do the opponents have to lose/gain from equality?

        • pagophilus

          I wouldn’t say it’s suspicious. Leadership in almost every area now is out of touch with the populace, and significantly to the left. This is why the pro-same-sex marriage people are afraid of a plebiscite – they suspect it would come back with a no vote. The population as a whole is more conservative than people imagine, with the more educated tending to be less conservative. Ever noticed many revolutions begin with students? Academia leans left.

          • Andrew


    • geoffrey colledge

      You can get whatever result you want by phrasing questions in a certain way and not picking your candidates randomly.
      I’m pretty sure most pharmacists support LBGT cause.

      • Andrew

        So do I Geoff, it’s heartening.

  2. pagophilus

    41% Positive, 52% negative the rest undecided or don’t care. There’s a lesson in that: Get back to doing pharmacy and leave highly controversial politics for individuals to do off their own bat.
    Remember, the organisations are supposed to “represent” pharmacists. How can you represent pharmacists if you go against what more than half of them want?

  3. Daniel Roitman

    It’s important to clear a few things up here. Firstly, can AJP confirm that all of the respondents are in fact pharmacists? It is not uncommon for contentious internet polls to be brigaded by one side or the other. If AJP cannot prove one way or the other, well then these results are not worth publishing. I’ll say it again, not worth publishing.

    Maybe the PSA, some academics, or another organisation might want to commission a legitimate survey of pharmacists views? There are a number of factors that lead me to think that pharmacists would actually support an issue like marriage equality with even greater support than the general public. Yes some pharmacists are quite conservative, but we are also an incredibly young workforce with more ECP’s than ever. On top of that, as health professionals we understand issues surrounding mental health more than the average person. Another important factor is the number of us pharmacists, especially ECP pharmacists such as myself who come from a CALD background. We understand better than most not the importance not just of diversity and acceptance, but going further than that to celebrate the things that make us unique.

  4. Gemma Dillon

    I am quite disgusted to see the AJP have our profession debating basic human rights via a poll. This is doing nothing but trivialising the real, significant issues LGBTIQ people experience. Is it any surprise that this population suffer poorer health outcomes? Imagine how they must feel reading these ridiculous polls and articles.

    I do not understand why there is such a focus on marriage equality and Mardi Gras, with a failure to acknowledge the impact of equality on health and well-being.

    I am disappointed by the repeated comments saying this is a “political issue” so we as a profession should not get involved. It is basic human rights and it should not be up for debate.

    Well done to the PSA for demonstrating leadership and integrity on this issue. Thank-you for standing up for what is right, despite the negativity.

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      Gemma I agree with all of your comments except the first one – there absolutely needs to be discussion on the topic, and this poll has certainly generated it.

      While Daniel has pointed out a valid point (ie we need to be able to have polls that are restricted to pharmacists only), the ability of a poll like this to generate real discussion on the topic can’t be denied. Unfortunately, it has highlighted that there are still a lot of pharmacists who don’t fee that equality for all people is relevant to their practice as a pharmacist.

      • Gemma Dillon

        Thanks Jarrod – I completely agree.

        I guess it’s more the design of this poll that I have an issue with. I find it overly simplistic and it deliberately divisive by focusing only on marriage equality and Mardi Gras. As an e.g. Some people might not have a good understanding of what Mardi Gras is about so might be against the idea of supporting a float, yet would support PSA involvement in improving health outcomes.

        If people are unaware of what other issues affect the LGTB population, AJP are in a great position to educate and inform rather than create further divisions.

        • Sheshtyn Paola

          Hi Gemma,
          How does the question focus only on marriage equality and Mardi Gras? It clearly says: “in the push for LGBT+ rights, including participation in the Mardi Gras and advocacy for marriage equality?”
          In addition, this whole debate began with the PSA announcement that it was getting involved in the Mardi Gras. So I see that as a very relevant point.
          How would you have worded the question?
          Kind regards,
          Sheshtyn Paola (Journalist, AJP)

  5. Tom

    There is a big difference when an organisation is supporting activities which are professional (educational, seminars, guidelines) or social events with a political agenda e.g. (Mardi Gras)

    Mardi Gras is a social event to promoting the objective of the community-acceptance of LGBTQI as a norm.

    The PSA as an organisation chose to middle with politics as this is not a health related nor a pharmacist profession related event its pure politics.

    Would I have a problem with such participation?

    Not if the PSA would have promoted their involvement as their own views which don’t represent the views of the profession.

    However, the PSA continued flashing that they represent the profession.

    A title that they only received by appealing to the government forgetting that not every pharmacist is a PSA member.

    Did the PSA try to consult all the pharmacists in Australia about this political decision?

    No, they didn’t they may have only asked their members or they might have voted for that on a board level.

    As a pharmacist, you can’t have a vote into PSA’s decisions unless you are one of their members.

    I don’t have to politically support every patient for whatever social decision they made in life.

    I should only provide care for a patient regardless of what his views or opinions or choices are.

    I also would like to remind you that not long time ago being LGBTQI was considered a mental illness and was only removed as such in 1992 by the Who due to the legal and political pressure by their lobbyists.

    What’s next acknowledgment that humans can marry animals and equality of marriage rights of animals and humans?

    This political correctness is getting really out of hand

  6. Lauren Millard

    780 respondents = 2.6% of all registered pharmacists in Australia in 2016 as per AHPRA. Did we forget about sample size and statistical significance?

    For those unconvinced about the role of our collective attitude, as a group of pivotal health professionals, towards this issue then please make yourself aware of how this can impact upon our patients’ access to adequate healthcare:

  7. Sheshtyn Paola

    Hi everyone, Thank you for your contribution to this discussion. We would be happy to commission a survey on this topic for only registered pharmacists in the near future. However due to the nature of the conversation this thread is now closed. If anybody would like to continue it please take it to the Forum section or get in touch with us directly. Kind regards, Sheshtyn Paola (Journalist) and Chris Brooker (Editor)

  8. Glen Swinburne

    PSA’s campaign was never about marriage equality – it is about equality in health care.

    Re-linking Lauren’s article – this will provide some insight into why this is an important issue for pharmacists.