The Victorian government has unveiled a $29 million package of measures in its 2016/17 Budget to assist the state's LGBTI population. Community and health services, a previously announced 'Pride Centre' and programs specifically targeting the LGBTI community in helping prevent family violence are the centrepieces of the announcement.
Victorian Equality Minister Martin Foley said the funding boost cements the government’s commitment to LGBTI equality, building on initiatives such as the creation of Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, an LGBTI Taskforce and a program of reform to remove discrimination from Victoria’s laws and services.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said the Budget contained some big wins for the community.
“It's been 35 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria and this $30 million investment in services and facilities for LGBTI Victorians is a mark of how far we have come,” Mulcahy said.
Last week Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced $15 million in funding for a 'Pride Centre' as part of the 2016/2017 Victorian Budget.
The centre will be a hub for LGBTI advisory, health and support services, and also showcase queer art and history. Similar facilities are common across the United States, with Victoria's expected to be larger than the 'San Francisco LGBT Community Center'.
“The Pride Centre is long overdue and will attract people from across Victoria, Australia, and the world," Minister Foley said.
“It will be a great gathering place for the LGBTI community and allow for much greater collaboration between services and community organisations.”
Community Grants and Services
$4 million has been allocated for a grants program to "strengthen the sustainability" of LGBTI community organisations and to support LGBTI community leaders in combating discrimination.
There will also be a $2.5 million funding injection for initiatives that combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. This includes a rural and regional program, led by Victoria's Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Rowena Allen, for those living outside Melbourne and away from mainstream services.
“We are delighted at the announcement of funding for LGBTI community organisations like ours that operate out of a PO box and a scrounged-up occasional meeting space,” VGLRL co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said.
“We know that almost half of all LGBTI community groups are using homes, kitchens or cafés to work and hold meetings, and this new grants program will provide critical funding to enable LGBTI organisations to better serve our community.”
There will be $1.15 million to go towards expanding the Healthy Equal Youth grants, which provide mental health programs for young people in the LGBTI community. Monash Health’s gender dysphoria clinic, will also receive $6.4 million in funding to address increased demand from Victoria’s transgender and gender diverse population.
“We know people have been waiting too long to access specialised gender dysphoria services. This extra funding will ensure people can access these important services sooner," Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.
“We’re making sure that transgender and gender diverse people get the treatment and care they need and deserve.”
Following the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence’s finding that LGBTI victims of family violence have been “inadequately supported by service providers”, the state government will direct $2.5 million into research and tailored programs thtat respond to violence within LGBTI communities, and $145,000 for the Victorian AIDS Council's 'Revisioning gay and bisexual men’s behaviour change program'.
“The Royal Commission told us there were some things that can’t wait, so we are taking urgent action to help save lives," Premier Andrews said.
“This is just the beginning, we have lots more work to do to build a new system that prevents family violence, protects the vulnerable, and punishes the guilty.”
The VGLRL welcomed the funds, but said that family services should be properly accredited.
“This $2.5 million is a fantastic upfront payment to address LGBTI family violence, but we need ongoing investment by the government to provide the legal resources, training and community education campaigns recommended by the Royal Commission,” Mulcahy said.
“In particular, we will need more funding to ensure that all family violence services achieve Rainbow Tick accreditation by 2018, in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendation. We need to address the troubling statistic that a half to two thirds of people in LGBTI relationships do not access support when experiencing family violence.”
The Rainbow Tick standards were developed in 2013 by the Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria to support and recognise organisations committed to safe and inclusive service delivery for the LGBTI community.
Mulcahy suggests the Budget's $25 million for housing for homeless Victorians will also be of help to the LGBTI community.
"LGBTI people, including victims of family violence, are disproportionately represented in Victoria’s homeless population."