For councils Australia-wide, fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion for LGBTQIA+ community members is a critical step in creating safe and welcoming regions. By providing access to diverse social connection groups and related services, councils can ensure all locals feel comfortable, safe and included, which are crucial facets for community cohesion and sustainability.

Representation and inclusion is incredibly important for the health and wellbeing of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community, with support from council services able to aid in actioning these values.

As more councils, and even State Governments such as Tasmania and Victoria, bring out LGBTQIA+ frameworks, Council has collated some of the great local services and support on offer for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Services to reduce stigma

Due to critical gaps in the latest Australian Census, it’s not clear how many Australians identify as LGBTQIA+, but individual state research suggests it’s around five to ten per cent of the population.

It is increasingly important to support the LGBTQIA+ community with council services and representation, to encourage wellbeing and build pride all year round, not just in Pride Month.

Rainbow Health Victoria, a State Government funded resource, training and policy service organisation, reports on the debilitating nature of discrimination and stigma LGBTQIA+ people can endure.

In general, the LGBTQIA+ community experiences poorer health and wellbeing outcomes due to exclusionary behaviours, so providing services and support specific for the community can have pivotal impacts on mental health. In fact, Rainbow Health Victoria reported that improving service access and visibility leads to wider acceptability for LGBTQIA+ people.

It’s also important for councils to provide their own services, rather than relying on independent queer organisations. Rainbow Health found that a significant portion of surveyed queer people indicated they would “prefer to access a mainstream medical or support service that is known to be LGBTQIA+ inclusive”.

Rainbow Health also states that shared connections with friends, peers and ‘families of choice’ can improve health and wellbeing, showcasing the importance of queer specific servies, and the communities they foster.

Across the country, there are multiple councils that participate in key LGBTQIA+ day events and programs including, but not limited to:

∞ Pride Month – June
∞ IDAHOBIT Day – 17 May
∞ Wear it Purple Day – 26 August
∞ Asexual Awareness Week – 23-29 October
∞ Transgender Awareness Week – 13-19 November
∞ Transgender Day of Remembrance – 20 November

Councils getting pride initiatives in writing

Council frameworks or strategies with specific measurable goals that derive from research and community feedback, can aid local governments to better support and include the LGBTQIA+ population.

For example, City of Sydney is currently working on ensuring the protection of LGBTQIA+ spaces in the region, with a major framework drafted in March 2022 to protect Oxford Street, which has great social and cultural significance. The draft framework states that “Oxford Street is synonymous with LGBTQIA+ life in Sydney, and the LGBTQIA+ community is now central to Sydney’s social and cultural identity.

“As the community evolves, so does its connection to place, with LGBTQIA+ venues and communities integrating and dispersing across the city.”

Eastern Melbourne Council Boroondara has released a Community Plan, which prioritises those addressing inequities experienced by different groups, including LGBTQIA+communities.

The City of Mandurah, located in Western Australia, has implemented a specific Youth Strategy for 2021–26 which outlines the need for further delivery of programs to “increase awareness and inclusion of diversity” with an overall goal for young people to “feel healthy, happy and at home, here in Mandurah”.

Mandurah also boasts a successful council-run LGBTQIA+group, after collaborating with Headspace. Down south, the City of Hobart has a LGBTQIA+Commitment strategy implemented for 2021–23, with a newly formed LGBTQIA+ Community Advisory Group to give support and guidance on Council’s programs.

A focus on the ageing community is also part of the strategy – with Council partnering with Mathers House, a community house offering activities and services to older people, to create a welcoming environment for the older LGBTQIA+ community.

Appropriate care is a human right

Providing age appropriate care for queer people is also a critical issue for councils, especially as the Human Rights Commission reports that LGBTQIA+ people can suffer stigma later in life, and “return to the closet” for fear of discrimination.

Not feeling safe to disclose a diverse gender or sexuality in aged care can also lead to significant issues with accessing required medical services and treatments, and other concerns include isolation and harassment, which can significantly reduce quality of life.

Fortunately, many councils are providing specific and inclusionary support for their ageing LGBTQIA+ community.

The City of Yarra Council provides pivotal respite care for carers who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, or for those who care for someone who is. Council also supports the Bent Twig Alliance – a LGBTQIA+ Elders and Allies social group which meets fortnightly.

The City of Melbourne boasts a range of LGBTQIA+ services including a carers program and a free social meet-up for carers who identify as diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. The program is a partnership between City of Melbourne, queerspace and Carers Victoria.

Maroondah City Council supports the LGBTQIA+ community with its 50+ Peer Social Support group where allies and friends are welcome. The group works to provide a support network, safe space and to reduce social isolation through the building of friendships.

Putting the Gen Z in LGBTQIA+

Growing up can be hard for young kids, and even more so if they are questioning their identity and struggling to find people their own age who are having similar experiences.

Delving into council services, there are a plethora of council-run youth programs, to support new friendships for queer youth and allies in a safe and welcoming way.

Often these programs have come from community feedback and an understanding, from research, that experiencing stigma and discrimination at a young age can negatively impact mental health and wellbeing long into adulthood.

Canterbury Council’s LGBTQIA+ Youth group aims to be a safe and welcoming environment for young people, with Council ensuring its programs and policies for young people reflect the needs identified by the youth themselves. The youth programs are inclusive of all young people aged between 12 and 24 years.

Regionally, Wollongong Council partnered with Headspace to create and deliver two programs for queer youth groups to give support, social opportunities and promote connectedness. It has a younger Q munity group for ages 12-15, and a Rainbow League group for those ages 16–24.

Q-East alliance councils

The Q-East Alliance consists of community development and youth workers representing seven LGAs across the eastern region of Melbourne including: Boorondara, Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, Monash, Whitehorse and Yarra Ranges.

Knox City Council is home to a Rainbow Path, a permanent symbol of the community’s inclusionary practices, and also provides four main queer youth community groups from ages 11–25, run fortnightly, for young people and their families. Yarra Ranges Council has utilised its youth-led program, Defrosted Events (FReeZA), to support young people to create their own events.

Its Queer Conversations Series recorded video conversations between LGBTQIA+ young people and the Yarra Ranges Council staff, and were released throughout June 2021 for Pride Month.

Boroondara City Council is home to significant services to the LGBTQIA+ community, and has also made public toilets in Boroondara gender neutral. Boroondara’s Skittles Program is open to people aged between 13 and 18 who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The support group holds weekly sessions for activities, group discussions, and social connection.

Kind councils

This list is by no means exhaustive of all the great resources and services provided by Australian councils. By incorporating programs and services specific for the LGBTQIA+ population and ensuring access to these are shared accordingly, councils are establishing liveable communities and supporting residents to become happy, healthy adults; in all stages of life.

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