‘Australian first’ – Victoria’s social peaks pledge to support LGBTIQ+ communities with Embracing Equality Charter

Victoria’s leading peak organisations for key service sectors have joined together for the first time to embrace equality and work to end the discrimination and inequities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people in Victoria.

Today’s release of the Embracing Equality Charter (the Charter) – a collaboration between the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre), 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 – outlines a shared commitment to uphold the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people, ensure LGBTIQ+ inclusive services and education, and build a sustainable community-controlled LGBTIQ+ sector.

The release of the Charter follows a number of key publications, including La Trobe University’s Private Lives 3 and Writing Themselves in 4, that have demonstrated that LGBTIQ+ Victorians are a significant and severely underserved proportion of the population experiencing enormous health and wellbeing disadvantages. The data from the publications shows that LGBTIQ+ people experience disproportionately higher rates of substance misuse, family violence and homelessness, and the mental health of LGBTIQ+ people has been at crisis levels for decades with no signs of improvement. Almost one third of LGBTIQ+ people have attempted suicide at some point in their lives and 1 in 20 report having attempted suicide in the last 12 months, a rate thirteen times higher than non-LGBTIQ+ people.

In signing on to the Charter, these peak bodies are demonstrating their commitment to improving the lives of LGBTIQ+ people, as well as building strong, safe and sustainable LGBTIQ+ communities that can enjoy the benefits of full economic, educational and community participation.

These organisations have also written to the Acting Premier to urge the Victorian Government to:

  • Endorse and sign onto the Embracing Equality Charter.
  • Develop a long-term, evidence-based plan that addresses the inequities experienced by LGBTIQ+ people, and embeds benchmarks and targets to measure, monitor and report on progress in realising LGBTIQ+ equity that are reported against annually.
  • Reform and modernise Victoria’s anti-discrimination and anti-vilification laws to better protect LGBTIQ+ people living in Victoria.
  • Establish a community-controlled LGBTIQ+ sector/service delivery fund, seeded with at least $40 million over the first two years.
  • Fund services and education providers to ensure robust, LGBTIQ+ inclusive practice.
  • Commission an annual survey to track the health and wellbeing of Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ communities.
  • Fund at least three LGBTIQ+ specific adult mental health and alcohol and other drug centres, and build LGBTIQ+ specific mental health as well as alcohol and other drug policy and advocacy capacity.
  • Expand existing LGBTIQ+ alcohol and other drug services to meet community demand, and establish a safe targeted LGBTIQ+ bed based service.
  • Establish targeted, culturally safe, LGBTIQ+ housing and homelessness support services and programs.
  • Support Aboriginal LGBTIQ+ people and rainbow mob, including recurrently funding Koorie Pride Victoria’s activities.
  • Support LGBTIQ+ young people, including by quadrupling the size of the HEY grants to ensure geographic and intersectional coverage (including expanding partnerships with Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations), to support young people’s access and meet demand.

The Centre’s CEO Deb Tsorbaris said while great strides have been made towards inclusion, Victoria still has a long way to go in ending the inequities and discrimination experienced by LGBTIQ+ people, “Marriage equality and the ban on conversion practices in Victoria are welcome reforms, but continuing deep disadvantage and discrimination are holding LGBTIQ+ people and communities back.

“By working together as a coalition of peak bodies, we hope to change this by truly embracing equality,” Ms Tsorbaris said.

Download the Charter here.

Quotes attributed to peak organisation CEOs

Raylene Harradine, Chair, Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance:

“Our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often fall through the gaps of a services system not designed or structured to meet their needs. There is a pressing need for increased understanding and investment to support the unique and complex needs of rainbow mob (Aboriginal LGBTQI+). Projecting the voices and lived experiences of our young rainbow mob in all areas of governance and service delivery will enable community-controlled initiatives where both culture and sexual diversity are validated, visible and celebrated.”

Tom Symondson, CEO, Victorian Healthcare Association:

“Through our work to support the health of all Victorians, our sector remains committed to ensuring members of Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ community receive the care and support they need, when and where they need it. We are proud to be signatories of this Charter and to be working together to improve the poor outcomes for the LGBTIQ+ community, as recently identified in the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.”

Sam Biondo, Executive Officer, Victorian Alcohol & Drug Association (VAADA):

“Based on the latest evidence it is absolutely clear that targeted interventions are required to address the very high levels of morbidity related to non-medicinal drug, and alcohol use across the LGBTIQ+ community. A failure to do so will only add to the mounting human toll and very serious individual and community impact.”

Angus Clelland, CEO, Mental Health Victoria:

“LGBTIQ+ people face disproportionately high rates of psychological distress, illness, self-harm and suicide. As work gets underway on once-in-a-generation Victorian and (hopefully) Commonwealth mental health reforms, we need to ensure that LGBTIQ+ communities receive priority attention.”

Katherine Ellis, CEO, Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic):

“LGBTIQA+ young people have the right to live in a safe and inclusive world. If LGBTIQA+ young people can grow up experiencing equality, acceptance and skilled support from services and schools, it will impact enormously on their lives – immediately and for the long term. Working together, we can create an environment that embraces equality and ends discrimination.”

Jenny Smith, CEO, Council to Homeless Persons:

“People from LGBTIQ+ communities are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness, and need appropriate support and access to housing. Housing equality must be the goal of an equal society”

Luke Hilakari, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC):

“Victorian Trades Hall Council stands in solidarity today and every day with LGBTIQ union members and the LGBTIQ community more broadly. We support their demands for adequate funding for specialist healthcare services for the LGBTIQ community, because everyone has a right to quality healthcare that meets their needs.”

Media contact: Nevena Spirovska nevena.spirovska@cfecfw.asn.au


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