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15 May 2020


Improving visibility of LGBTIQA+ refugees and newcomers 

SSI staff members mark IDAHOBIT day in 2019.

SSI has been working hard to start constructive conversations on LGBTIQA+ refugees and culturally diverse people, guided by an internal Gender and Sexual Diversity Working Group. This employee-led group focuses on helping SSI to build LGBTIQA+ inclusion for staff, clients and communities to be their best unique selves.

Historically, the settlement and LGBTIQA+ sectors have had little correlation, despite gender and/or sexual diversity often being a reason for forced migration.

Newcomers who identify as LGBTIQA+ have tended to get lost between sectors, or unable to access services that support their needs holistically. This can contribute to people feeling socially isolated, disconnected and marginalised from their family, their community and the broader Australian society.

In November 2019, SSI partnered with and attended the Queer Displacements Conference, the first conference in Australia to address and discuss the issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals who have been forcibly displaced.

In January 2020, representatives of the SSI General and Sexual Diversity Working Group brought this conversation to attendees of the Equality Project’s Better Together Conference. SSI’s workshops at these conferences highlighted the importance of recognising to the many facets of identity, and provided opportunities to consult with the community and receive feedback on our work to date.

SSI demonstrated our unequivocal support for LGBTIQA+ refugee and asylum seeker communities by becoming a signatory of the Canberra Statement, a policy guide that outlines the state of LGBTIQA+ asylum seeker and refugee rights and details policy reforms priorities to ensure access to safety and justice. It was presented at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum, the first forum of its kind.

A next obvious step was to reflect this focus within local community. To do just that, SSI staff and volunteers set up an “SSI Communi-Tent” at the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Fair Day festival. This provided a community space for people to have a chat and connect.

Kathi McCulloch, SSI Community Programs and Operations Manager, explained that SSI’s main objective in joining Fair Day was to visibly support the LGBTIQA+ community. “It isn’t enough for us to have inclusive practices. We strive to provide clear, visible support for our LGBTIQA+ staff, volunteers and clients,” she said.

SSI is working to combat isolation by creating a workplace and community space where everyone is comfortable being themselves—where all people, including those who identify as LGBITQA+ and culturally diverse, are respected and valued for their perspectives, capabilities and contribution and able to experience a sense of belonging.

Read more about SSI’s work in diversity in SSI’s 2018-19 Annual Report.

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