LGTBI Indigenous Australians in remote communities lack services and visibility

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) Indigenous Australians living in remote areas face a lack of visibility and inclusive services, the Australian Human Rights Commission has heard, reported the newspaper Start Observer.

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda met with LGBTI advocates in Broome to discuss issues facing LGBTI people living in remote communities.

The gathering of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous LGBTI advocates was organised by Aboriginal men’s health advocate Dameyon Bonson, who last year founded Black Rainbow, a support and advocacy group for LGBTI, sister girl and brother boy Indigenous Australians.

Bonson told the Star Observer the small populations in remote communities meant it was vital for service providers — health services, for example — to be inclusive not only of Indigenous people, but of LGBTI people as well.

“We don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated LGBTI service, so the services themselves need to be welcoming,” he said.

While a range of organisations offer training in this area, Bonson said a major challenge was convincing them not only to invest in the expensive prospect of travelling to remote communities to train in LGBTI-inclusive practise, but to do so on an ongoing basis.

“What happens is someone comes up, does a workshop for a day, then no one sees them for 12 months… the conversation lasts for two days and then doesn’t happen for 12 months,” Boson said.

Also discussed was homophobia in remote communities — Bonson argued that while overt homophobia appears to be rare, a lack of LGBTI visibility meant internalised homophobia was a serious issue for many.

Despite the challenges he felt the discussion represented significant progress, and was happy with the responses he and the other advocates received from both Wilson and Gooda.

“Even to be part of the conversation — it’s the first time we’ve seen an out gay Human Rights Commissioner engaging with the Aboriginal community, and with the gay community as well,” Bonson said.

“I think that’s quite significant for us as a country.”

The meeting was part of Wilson’s community consultation on LGBTI issues throughout Australia, which will continue until the end of the year and result in a State of the Nation report on the challenges facing LGBTI Australians.

 The State of the Nation report on LGBTI issues is expected some time after the Human Rights Commission completes its community consultation towards the end of 2014.

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