Following the release of the ‘Australian-first’ Embracing Equality Charter on 3 May, Victoria’s leading peak organisations have joined together again to work to end the discrimination and inequities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people in Victoria, with the launch of the Embracing Equality Pledge on IDAHOBIT Day, Monday 17th May.
The Pledge sets out specific commitments for service providers that relate to a better understanding of intersectionality, building relationships with LGBTIQ+ communities, and ensuring safe and culturally appropriate services for LGBTIQ+ people.
The Embracing Equality group, comprised of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance, Youth Affairs Council Victoria, Council to Homeless Persons, Victorian Healthcare Association, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, Mental Health Victoria, and Victorian Trades Hall Council, now welcome an additional nine peak organisations including the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Early Learning Association Australia, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Foster Care Association of Victoria, No to Violence, Kinship Carers Victoria, Grandparents Victoria, & Victorian Council of Social Service.
Jill Gallagher AO, CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) highlighted the reason for joining the group, “VACCHO welcomes and embraces the diversity of cultures, identities, gender, sex and sexuality diverse identities and expressions, experiences, beliefs, and values of all people.”
“Those living in the intersecting spaces of both the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Communities and LGBTIQA+ communities (whom we affectionately referred to as ‘Rainbow Mob’) are disproportionately marginalised, isolated and excluded. VACCHO believes in the right for all persons to be treated with respect and dignity at all times and that all persons who work for, or undertake work at or visit VACCHO should at all times feel safe at VACCHO,” she said.
CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons Jenny Smith acknowledged the strength of 17 organisations coming together in allyship with the LGBTIQ+ community, “It shows how far we’ve come as a society that LGBTIQ+ specific health and wellbeing issues are out in the open and being discussed. But it also shows how far we still have to go, because we know from high quality research that the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ people is in crisis.”
“Allied organisations coming together on this issue shows their solidarity with LGBTIQ+ communities. It also underscores the urgency with which system-wide change needs to occur to address the health and wellbeing disparities experienced by LGBTIQ+ people. That includes supporting services to be inclusive and affirming, as well as sustainably funding trusted LGBTIQ+ community-controlled services that are operated by and for LGBTIQ+ communities,” she said
The Pledge has resonated with the LGBTIQ+ community, with many saying more investment is needed to expand the reach of LGBTIQ+ community-controlled organisations. Danny, a gay man living in Melbourne, said the work organisations like Thorne Habour Health do is ‘live-saving”, “Finding a GP at a queer-run clinic was quite literally life-changing and saving for me. A safe, welcoming environment, care that comes from your own community, access to other vital resources – these are some of the things I didn’t even know I needed until I found them, and I know it’s been the same for so many of my peers.”
“These services were even more important during COVID, when so many LGBTIQ+ people were disconnected queer organisations were a lifeline,” he said.
The Embracing Equality Pledge and website will be launched at an online event at 3:00pm, Monday 17th May. The event will feature Associate Professor of Public Health and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University Dr. Adam Bourne on the latest LGBTIQ+ data and a dynamic panel discussion with Raylene Harradine (Chair, Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance), Jayde de Bont Pipan (Co-Chair, Victorian Government LGBTIQ+ Taskforce) and Angus Clelland (CEO, Mental Health Victoria) facilitated by Aram Hosie (Victorian Government LGBTIQ+ Taskforce). Register for the launch here.