"We have the opportunity to build evidence that others can use and look at how we can help change community attitude."
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

12 Jul 2018 - 12:14 PM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2018 - 12:14 PM

Now in its third third year, the LGBTIQ Women’s Health Conference is co-presented by the Victorian AIDS Council and ACON and focuses on the health and wellbeing needs of all LGBTIQ women within Australian communities.

The event, which kicks off in Melbourne today, is indicative of a new focus on LGBTIQ women by mainstream health organisations, who are taking inclusivity into consideration when developing national health campaigns.

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"If it sounds miserable and bleak, that's because it is miserable and bleak."

According to Jerril Rechter, CEO of VicHealth, health organisations are realising that "one generic message won't have the same impact."

"That's what we’ve been trying to do with VAC and our ReThink The Drink campaign," Rechter, who is presenting a panel discussion at the LGBTIQ Women's Health Conference today, tells SBS Sexuality.

A joint venture between Victorian AIDS Council and VicHealth, ReThink the Drink is a new campaign seeking to inspire alcohol culture change among lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women in Victorian regional and rural areas.

"We know that some LGBTIQ women are drinking at risky levels," Rechter says.

"To partner up with VAC in rural areas has been really important, it's something that VAC has done really well, it’s the first campaign of its kind in Victoria."

She adds: "It's still very early days, but its a really great initiative."

"The health consequences are really clear," Rechter says of the discrimination and lack of resources still facing LGBTIQ women when it comes to healthcare and wellbeing.

She continues: "Same-sex attracted Australians are six times more likely to commit suicide, 78 percent of people believe that visible LGBTIQ women are not very safe, we know that people hide their sexuality at sporting events, 80 percent of respondents in surveys have said that they've witnessed homophobia and transphobia in sport."

"I think for organisations like VicHealth, we get the opportunity to bridge that gap a bit," Rechter adds.

"We have the opportunity to build evidence that others can use and look at how we can help change community attitude."

An example of this new attitude can be found in VicHealth's ongoing This Girl Can campaign, which aims to champion women of all backgrounds to be physically active.

"It’s a really interesting campaign. We were the first international organisation to secure the rights to run it, and we've made our own local version," Rechter says. "It shows women just being women, without that stylised social media look; that perception of how women should look like while they’re exercising."

Transgender woman Michelle is included in the campaign, opening up about the challenges faced by trans women at their local swimming pools.

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"Transgender people internalise a lot of messages that they receive from the media," Michelle says in her campaign video.

She continues: "That represents a very big challenge in popping on a swimsuit and jumping down to the local pool."

The campaign, which made the finals of the Mumbrella media and advertising awards Sports category, represents a real "cut-through" moment, according to Rechter.

This, she says, is because "it was created by women, for women."