When Australian Human Rights Commissioner Graham Innes AM described Shelley Argent as “just a mother from the suburbs”, he paid her the greatest compliment. Don’t let the diamonds and pearls fool you. Shelley’s love for her son, grit, determination and persistence helped realise some of the biggest human rights reforms in Australian history.
Growing up in conservative 1950s Brisbane, in a poor and dysfunctional family, Shelley dreamt simply of a family of her own. With husband Don, she has faced situations no parent should ever have to face. Their love, determination and strength drew them closer than ever.
Then, when James came out as a teenager in 1995, the only legal right he held in Queensland was to be gay without fear of arrest. Fear, ignorance and stigma were rife. Shelley knew James faced a lifetime of discrimination through no fault of his own; a situation untenable to her.
Today, Shelley Argent OAM is recognized as one of the most successful educators, advocates and lobbyists for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Australia. As Queensland president and National Spokesperson for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG), her decades of tireless work helped ensure state and federal policy and legislative reform, culminating with marriage equality in 2017.
Published: June 2019
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