Monday, 3 November 2008

Report on Queensland forum

I have previously posted about how during Pride month, Brisbane held a 2020 summit for LGBT issues, including about drug and alcohol issues.

Shelley Argent has now reported on the outcome of the summit, and here it is:


21st June 2008
Queensland University of Technology
Kelvin Grove Campus
The Hall – Z2
Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove
Facilitators: Miles Heffernan and Shelley Argent

OVERVIEW………………………………………………………………………………….. Page 3
PROGRAM…………………………………………………………………………………... Page 4
OPENING SPEAKERS…………………………………………………………………….. Page 5
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION………………………………………………………………. Page 5
Youth at Risk……………………………………………………………………………. Page 6
Discrimination inside the LGBTIQ Community……………………………………… Page 8
Support and Health for Women……………………………………………………… Page 10
Suicide and Depression……………………………………………………………… Page 12
Male Sexual Assault………………………………………………………………….. Page 14
HIV Increase…………………………………………………………………………… Page 15
Drug and Alcohol Issues……………………………………………………………… Page 17
Building Communities………………………………………………………………… Page 18
OUR THANKS……………………………………………………………………………... Page 20

The idea of holding a forum was initiated by Ray MacKereth of QNews when Shelley Argent was nominated (as a representative of the LGBTIQ community), to attend Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit in Canberra in April 2008. It was envisaged that new ideas could be formulated and presented to the LGBTIQ communities in the hope that they would be implemented. Also that a report could be prepared and presented to the government, highlighting the need for improvement, with possible solutions.
In hindsight, it may have been advantageous to have held this forum during another month as so many people were involved with Pride events. This meant that not everyone could attend who was interested. June is always the LGBTIQ community month of Pride with several events being held.
However, the event did draw the attention of outside groups and it wasn’t the usual group of people that attend such events. This was seen as a positive. Most people who attended were not necessarily aligned with LGBTIQ organizations, but were seen as independents. Additionally, there were several straights who attended from “caring” organizations, which we believe gave them an insight into the many issues that affect the community.
Those who attended were enthusiastic and positive. Everyone was involved with varying ideas to promote positive change within the LGBTIQ community.

The day opened with general discussion on the 2020 Summit held in April 2008 and an explanation of how the day would proceed.
It was explained that four 30 minute workshops would be held in the morning session and four in the afternoon. We asked people to attend three workshops in each session on their topics of preference.
Each workshop had a time keeper to ensure attendees moved promptly between workshops.
Attendees were asked to:
Identify problems or concerns they believed relevant to their chosen topics.
Give opinion or thoughts about what the LGBTIQ community could do to solve these problems themselves.
Make suggestions in relation to what they believed the government could do to minimize or negate these areas of concern.
Workshop facilitators were given butchers paper to note down brain storming ideas. Scribes used computers to take notes at each workshop.
At the beginning of each workshop we asked the facilitator to provide a brief run down on what was suggested previously, to minimize a repeat of ideas and discussion and to also encourage elaboration or expansion of ideas and solutions.
At the completion of each workshop, each facilitator was given 5 minutes to report back and inform the audience about the main outcomes and ideas that emerged from their workshop.
Finally, attendees were given 4 red spots to place on what they believed to be the most important point of concern on each subject, with one red spot per topic.
The three main points from each topic were those with the most red spots.
At the close of day we briefly touched on the topics discussed and decisions made. We also asked everyone who attended what their opinion was on the process of the day and what they would like to see changed or remain the same for the next time a forum of this type is organised. Generally, the audience felt their concerns were heard and they were happy with how the day had evolved.

Commissioner, Anti Discrimination Council of Queensland
University of Queensland

Youth at Risk
Facilitator: Lisa Thorpy, Open Doors
Discrimination Inside the LGBTIQ Communities
Facilitator: Kath Wilson
Support and Health for Women
Facilitator: Hilary Knack, Queensland Association of Healthy Communities (QAHC)
Suicide and Depression
Facilitator: Paul Martin, Centre for Human Potential

Male Sexual Assault
Facilitator: Dr. Wendell Rosevear, Men Against Rape and Sexual Abuse (MARS)
HIV Increase
Facilitator: Brett Stevens, Queensland Association of Healthy Communities (QAHC)
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Facilitator: Dr. Wendell Rosevear, Gay and Lesbian Alcohol and Drugs Support (GLADS)
Building Communities
Facilitator: Miles Heffernan

This topic touched on many reasons why a young LGBTIQ person becomes either homeless or is at risk of becoming homeless. When young people first realize they are LGBTIQ there is usually fear of being found out, either by family or peers at school. There is the fear that they are the only one and many suffer low self esteem because they believe and hear general homophobic comments made by society. There is also a lack of role models that say “to be gay is OK and you can be successful and worthy.”
A problem for many LGBTIQ youth is the lack of support and lack of “drop in” centers where they may go and feel safe. Very few services are provided for this marginalized group.
Another group of homeless is not just the group that literally sleep on the streets, but the group that sleep on friends couches and move from one friend to another until they can become self sufficient. A La Trobe University study shows that 20,000 youth sleep on the street every night in Australia. A large proportion of these youth are LGBTIQ who have been rejected by family or are in fear of rejection and therefore run away from home.
The group also agreed that if bullying was addressed correctly, it would prevent behaviors such as truancy, self harm, suicidal thoughts, acting out and disengagement from school.

Main points:
Queensland Education school based policy against homophobia
Housing for homeless
Host families
Issues Identified:
Self harm
Bullying in schools
Lack of gay role models
Not enough “drop in” centers
The main issue recognized in this workshop was homelessness of LGBTIQ youth in crisis. The majority thinking that hostel accommodation with separate quarters for “Carers” to live on the premises would be ideal.
Another possibility is the development of a scheme for “host families”. These could be same sex couples, concerned individuals and/or PFLAG families. This plan created discussion about safe guarding both the young people and host families from innuendo or improper behavior.
A possible outcome suggested was for Open Doors to have a Student Social Worker whose main task would be to set this program in place.
We need to have a directive from the Minister for Education to address bullying in schools. Even though there are Anti-Bullying Programs in schools, they aren’t always implemented correctly.
It was discussed that if bullying is addressed correctly it would prevent acting out behaviors, self harm, suicidal thoughts and truancy.
Another idea with minimal cost, is to develop gay/straight alliances at high schools. It was thought the best people to approach at schools would be the School Based Health Nurses or Guidance Officers.
It was also discussed that the religious community, in general needs to be more accepting. We need to actively seek out churches who are modelling acceptance eg Quaker and Metropolitan Community Churches.
Many also believed the Commissioner for Children and Young People should look directly at the discrimination and trauma suffered by young LGBTIQ people, as the needs of this group of young people are too often ignored.

This is a real issue for many because of such diversity, with individual groups having different needs. For the Community as a whole to succeed, we need to be supportive and accepting of each other. We also need to recognize and address the needs of these groups as much as possible.
It was decided, that if we are to minimize any discrimination, we need to identify areas of commonality and network. There also needs to be the raising of profiles which perhaps the queer media could assist with.
Some suggested approaching government about providing some funding or grants to LGBTIQ groups working towards coming together to make change to enable them to assist with community needs.

Main points:
Encourage gay press to reduce cost of community notices
Have a Diversity Audit
Educate on humanity first
Issues Identified:
Assimilation, ageism, bisexuals, body issues i.e. image of self, born –v- choice, disabilities, fear of difference – fear of judgement, HIV+ -v- HIV-, internalized homophobia of cultural cringe, IV drug users, lack of respect of diversity, leather community, QUEER-v- LGBT. Racism, religious bigots, sex workers, straight acting, transphobia.
Sexual identity provoked much discussion.
The groups asked that acknowledgement be given to the good work performed by Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Queensland Association of Healthy Communities (QAHC), Open Doors and Citizens Welfare Committee (CWC).
Ideas for Solutions:
Language forms a great power – educate on humanity first so that we may grow our country to accept cultural diversity.
Educate through diversification of representation in QUEER media – stories for general reading.
Exposure – raise the profile of QUEER in community, within Government and policy as well as through education – increase understanding to reduce ignorance.
Acceptance – self acceptance.
Identify area of commonalities – stretching across our community groups – networking;
Get to know other sub cultures;
Create good community issues by the development of initiatives – a wider view on marginalization;
Showcase diversity through community events eg Pride;
Introduce the idea of challenges between/among other community groups (ie sports days, trivia nights, music, cooking);
Consideration for identifying/choosing host families;
At a government level – consider grant applications for combined community needs;
Foster diversity with respect, within Government policy.
Investigate other blended communities (ie Ethnic Community Council, Disabled Assoc.), in an effort to improve coalitions – though not necessarily blending across the board, acknowledging valued life experience with the network made up of anyone standing beside queer people – though those affected are best.
Foster a mentoring between community groups with skill sharing and shared resources.
Develop a comprehensive, updated list of community groups and/or organizations;
QAHC community information page - being developed for website by Brett Stevens.
Russell Flynn, Chairperson Open Doors - will investigate possibility of “infiltration” of “our”
Encourage the gay press to reduce the cost of community notices or even make them free –
Develop free website and encourage community services to have links on their websites to queer information, initiatives and activities.
Form an activist group with effective networking.
Develop a Charter of Rights to celebrate diversity.
As part of the resolution of discrimination claims through the Anti Discrimination Commission of Queensland (ADCQ), introduce a Diversity Audit.

This workshop highlighted the lack of services generally available to lesbians, as individuals, and in long term relationships, that straight women rarely have to consider. Those highlighted were sexual health issues because most medical practitioners are not trained or comfortable dealing with lesbians and their sexual health concerns.
There is also the lack of visibility when it comes to domestic violence in their relationships.
Another concern is with the increased number of lesbians having babies, there is the fear of the non-biological partner having no legal rights over/with the biological mother. This can be of huge concern if the mother should become incapacitated and can’t speak for herself or the child.
Finally the lack of support groups available to lesbians, whether they be young or mature aged. There are some social groups, but not those who can assist lesbians in the process of coming out or with emotional issues as there are for gay males.

Main points:
Rainbow families need protection.
Need advocacy and interagency funding for same sex couples.
Run health campaigns.
There should be more legal protection for same sex parents. We need to challenge legal issues for adoption for non-biological parents. In NSW two women can be added to a birth certificate.
There is no legal support for lesbians as a whole. We need to challenge social values within the community.
There is a need for support groups for women of all ages similar to male groups. We should organize structured workshops. Perhaps less formal networks and workshops could get together to pool resources, as one large group could become more effective.
Presently, there is no support for lesbians in violent relationships. We need extra training for counselors because the abused person is usually reluctant to make a complaint if taken to hospital. Loss of friendship networks and/or isolation in suburbs. No outside support.
Queensland could do as NSW has done with the Coalition of Activist Lesbians (COAL) which is recognized as an authorized group.
Issues of concern about young lesbians coming out in the workplace; is it safe?
We could combine existing women’s health centers, like Logan Women’s Health and organize workshops if there is enough interest.
The community should consider workshops for lesbians and new partnerships. Workshops to encourage understanding between older and younger lesbians.
Advocacy group should be organized to liaise between QAHC and Pink Sofar
Homophobia is a major issue, especially when entering the workforce. ADCQ could provide training. Anti discrimination laws need to be more publicized in the media.
Lesbians need support with breast cancer.
Many believe they don’t need pap smears, which is untrue.
Lesbians need to practice safe sex, as they have an increased risk of disease.
Lesbians generally have higher alcohol and smoking health issues.
Lesbians need to go to a GP who is trained in specific lesbian health issues.
Mental health issues need to be addressed.

Much discussion surrounded why LGBTIQ suffer depression and consider suicide and see this as the only option to escape their pain. There is always much talk surrounding young people and these issues due to fear of rejection and personal self loathing. However, many forget that the older generation in the LGBTIQ Community often suffers depression due to lack of support and isolation.
Parental acceptance has a huge impact, and regardless of age, everyone seeks parental acceptance. This is where PFLAG can be helpful with the support offered to parents seeking support and information.
Religion is another area that has much to answer for regarding the lack of acceptance and homophobia. Churches set social morality and youth and their families often accept what is preached. Religious bodies need to be educated that their teachings can have a huge impact on suicide and depression. Religion is often the cause of family breakdown when a loved one “comes out”.
Depression is the main reason people suicide, because they feel they are defective or the situation is hopeless with feelings and emotions being blown out of proportion in their mind.
There needs to be a complete shift in mind set regarding sexual diversity. Schools, medical practitioners and governments need to acknowledge and provide training about acceptance of diversity and understand that there is more than one sexual orientation and they aren’t to be feared.

Main points:
Anti homophobia training in schools
GP training – sexuality issues
Educating School Counselors (State and Private)
Gay men are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight males. Twice as many lesbians attempt suicide as straight females. This is due to feelings of isolation, guilt, helplessness, rejection and low self esteem.
Schools could be more accepting with realistic Anti Bullying and Anti Homophobic Programs.
Work to influence and have impact on Queensland Education to issue a policy on Homophobic Behaviors.
Have adequately trained school counselors and health nurses.
Network between services for assistance.
Sex education that includes homosexuality.
Religious counselors and Chaplains should have an understanding of LGBTIQ youth issues.
What Government can do:
Push Suicide Prevention Programs
Educate doctors, nurses and all Queensland Health staff in sexuality education. Doctors presently are not comfortable discussing homosexuality.
The government needs to acknowledge the role religion plays in LGBTIQ suicide.
What LGBTIQ Community can do:
Initiatives for alliances between community groups should be formed and meet regularly to address such issues. There is strength in numbers. The alliance should include gay friendly church groups.
Promote positive role models.
Make pamphlets available in medical centers.
Be more inclusive and accepting of each other.

Much discussion centered around the invisibility of men who have been sexually assaulted and the lack of support financially or emotionally. It was felt the issue wasn’t being addressed adequately because presently, only one in ten report the assault to police. This is possibly due to shame or embarrassment or a family member being the abuser.
A concern about lack of reporting is the possibility of an STI being transmitted and going unchecked.
Counseling being made available to perpetrators of such assaults so they don’t continue assaults on others because they don’t have the proper tools to regain their value in society.

Main points:
Government funded visible sexual assault services for males.
Choices and information for resolution.
Gender inclusion in prevention and resources.
In Queensland there is no government funding for Male Sexual Assault Services. Presently, this service is only available to women. Relationships Australia does do some behind the scenes work in this counseling area.
Advertising about this issue in society is directed to attacks against women, so gender inclusion needs serious attention.
The service needs to provide privacy and one’s anonymity respected with knowledgeable counselors able to provide victims with a range of resolution choices, including mediation, counseling and the legal model.
It is important to note that most assaults occur in family situations and this prompts secrecy, fear and prevents open, honest discussion.
Police, while reportedly are much more responsive to claims of sexual assault than previously, could still benefit from education about male sexual assault.

With HIV increasing in Australia we need to become more vigilant about the safe sex message. Many still perceive it to be a “gay” disease but this isn’t so. In schools sexual health subjects are elective, but to protect youth from becoming HIV+ , it should be a compulsory subject and have mainstream education in the media.
The entertainment industry should also be more responsible. Television shows for example with sexual scenes very rarely send a safe sex message to young people, giving the impression that all is OK.
Education campaigns should be aimed at individuals of varying ages, clearly sending the message that anyone not practising safe sex can contract HIV.

Main points:
School education
PEP need to increase information
Improved government funding
School Education
Current sexual health subjects are elective within schools. This needs to be made compulsory.
For components of sexual health education within schools to work effectively, it needs to be standardized in delivery and content.
More holistic sexual health education needs to be delivered (ie more to sex than contraception).
Inclusive of LGBTIQ sexual health issues.
Those with HIV need to have a more positive self image.
HIV/STI Prevention Campaigns need to move from the mechanical to a more psychosocial model and concentrating on developing positive self image reinforcing(ie safer sex = respect)
PEP needs to increase information and conduct a broader educational campaign in the queer community
Business and Commercial:
Commercial porn industry - further development of safe sex cultures within the adult entertainment industry. Messages developed as trailers for movies promoting safer sex practices.
Bars and Clubs:
Drag shows/entertainers incorporating safe sex/PEP messages within shows and performances.
Government - needs to provide funding for advertising and educational campaigns in mainstream ensuring:
HIV is not just a gay message; HIV affects all of us
That messages are personalized – Messages need to be targeted on an individual level to address apathy (ie it won’t happen to me).
Changes to attitude and behavior
Visibility of HIV prevention messages – which will encourage people to take control of their own health, because prevention is better than cure.

Drugs and alcohol issues in the LGBTIQ community are a major concern due to many people having low self esteem and for others it’s a rite of passage mentality.
It was suggested that other activities that don’t include alcohol and drugs be promoted. This could be done through the gay media.
Drugs and alcohol is a problem for mainstream Australia, but is more adequately addressed there than in the LGBTIQ community. The problem for many in the LGBTIQ community is their fear of being honest about themselves if they disclose their sexual orientation. We know honesty is paramount to proper treatment.

Main points:
Community service standards in detox and rehabilitation for LGBTIQ
Community acceptance of overuse of drugs and alcohol
Need to foster honesty
A major problem is that there is no data on the issue of substance abuse in the LGBTIQ community and so it can’t be compared to the incidence of abuse within the straight community.
Legalisation of drugs is believed to be a way of regulating the composition of drugs and to remove the profit making aspect from selling.
Education programs need to be expanded discussing the effects of substance abuse on individuals.
There is a need for promotion of activities, in the community in which to participate that don’t require drugs and alcohol to be present to have fun.
Lack of detox facilities and the fact that rehab and detox services are disconnected. There are also problems with access to these facilities for our community through discrimination and there are no community standards for providers. We need the government or providers to address this issue for services to improve.
There is the need to shift to acceptance and honesty not rejection and denial by family and this will help to combat these abuses.
Valuing people is both the prevention and cure of drug and alcohol abuse.

To build a better community discussion centred around removing myths in general society (ie gay men are paedophiles), to be gay means a person is a deviant or that gay men are effeminate while lesbians are seen as masculine. To assist with the removal of the myths, we need to have more positive role models like Penny Wong, Labor MP and Justice Michael Kirby the Senior High Court Judge to show the positive impact they are having on society. There is also the need for athletes and actors who are presently seen as heroes, to be prepared to be out and proud. The more people are prepared to do this make it easier for the next generation. Positive role models dispel the myth that to be gay is bad or something and someone to be feared.
There is also the need to include LGBTIQ in advertising but without the stereotyping that portrays the negative images that media is quick to promote.
We believe there is a need to include the LGBTIQ community as a coalition with groups like Ethnic Communities or associations for those disabilities. It needs to be recognised that the LGBTIQ community have similar problems, but often experience more isolation than the straight community, just because of their sexual orientation and lack of understanding due to myths and misinformation.

Main points:
LGBTIQ Peak Body
Cultural diversity
Social reform
Legal reform
Cultural Diversity:
We need information translated into several languages which will assist families to understand a loved one’s sexual orientation.
Ethnic Community’s Council should have an LGBTIQ worker as a contact point for both family members and the LGBTIQ person.
Social Reform:
Governments should not fund organizations intolerant of the LGBTIQ community.
Government funding should be made available for aged care facilities for the LGBTIQ community. This is needed because it can be very isolating for the elderly community with little opportunity to gain access to their own community.
There is a need for “champions” of the straight community to openly support the LGBTIQ community. This would be a huge psychological lift to those struggling with self esteem issues.
Presently, the media neglects “good news” stories. It is time change was encouraged with stories being presented that are positive. It is time the messages moved from health concerns to community messages.
Family “coming out”
Families need to stand beside their sons and daughters and show society that we, as parents, understand and accept our children. We need to let it be known that our sons and daughters aren’t a stigma or seen as second class citizens.
Parents also need to understand that if they have to choose between their children and religion, then there should be no choice, they should stand by their sons and daughters. Young people need to know parental love is not conditional.
Legal Reform:
Reform is necessary to bring all states into line with legislation. Presently, all states have different legislation which is confusing for those moving interstate. It is also unfair for those living in Queensland and not receiving the same benefits as those living interstate. This inequity sends the message that same sex relationships are second class.
Sexual orientation should be irrelevant and the LGBTIQ community should be treated with the same respect as the heterosexual community.

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) would like to thank Miles Heffernan for facilitating the 2008 LGBTIQ Pride Forum and to also thank all workshop facilitators, scribes and other volunteers for giving their time to help make this day a success.
PFLAG would also like to thank Susan Booth, the Anti Discrimination Commissioner for Queensland and Professor Clive Moore from University of Queensland for giving up the morning to be our Opening Speakers. Susan came along and spoke about how the government policy and legislation has improved since 1990 and Clive spoke about the history of the LGBTIQ Community in Queensland and how far we have come socially since the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era made homosexuality illegal in Queensland in the 1980’s
Thanks also to Professor Alan McKee who made it possible for us to use QUT Kelvin Grove Campus as the venue for today’s forum at no cost.

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