For five years we have partnered the Victorian State Government and Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities to work with 29 regional and rural communities on the LGBTIQ Equality Roadshow, Communities of LGBTIQ Practice gatherings and LGBTIQ Rainbow Ready Roadmap. Find out all about it here: www.engage.vic.gov.au/lgbtiq
The LGBTI Equality Roadshow’s engagement of 29 rural and regional Victorian communities through 2016 and 2017 is well documented, including the formal evaluation by VicHealth. It has been clearly identified that the Roadshow’s success and effectiveness in changing and saving lives can be attributed to:
- A co-design process with a commitment to return: building trust and local ownership;
- A place-based approach: having the Roadshow in towns, rather than bringing people to regional centres, urban locations or connecting people digitally;
- Leveraging the Commissioner and State Government;
- Engaging outliers: working extensively behind the scenes to engage influencers and decision-makers;
- Creating a safe and non-judgmental space: creating comfortable and semi-formal environments for LGBTI people and service providers; and,
- Bringing together LGBTI people with local decision-makers and influencers, often for the first time.
Statewide Community of Practice
In April 2018, an LGBTI Equality Roadshow ‘Community of Practice’ took place over two days, facilitated by NICHE’s Daniel Witthaus, with 80 participants from each of the LGBTI Equality Roadshow communities. A highlight for rural and regional participants was a dinner with Minister for Equality, Martin Foley, on the first night of the gathering.
Despite the first phase of the Roadshow reportedly changing and saving LGBTI lives across rural and regional Victoria, these same communities reported they had effectively leveraged their local LGBTI resources to optimal levels and “hit a rainbow ceiling” in their local LGBTI safety and inclusion efforts. Stakeholders were enthusiastic in moving from LGBTI work solely in their own communities, to working in self-identified ‘Regions of LGBTI Collaboration’. Communities were clear; they now wanted to work together.
Regional Communities of LGBTIQ Practice
In the end, NICHE facilitated and co-hosted ten one-day Regional Community of Practice gatherings. Opened officially by the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Ro Allen, these one-day gatherings took place in Ararat, Daylesford, Warragul, Bairnsdale, Benalla, Wonthaggi, Warrnambool, Geelong, Robinvale and Bendigo.
Both anecdotal and documented evaluations were consistently and overwhelmingly positive, indicating that the agenda that NICHE developed – and executed – in the spirit of co-design was constructive, grounded in actual local lived experience and forward-focused. This feedback came not just from LGBTIQ stakeholders and their supporters, but also from the mainstream attendees.
Rainbow Ready Roadmap
Throughout the lifespan of the Rural and Regional LGBTIQ Program, local LGBTIQ+ people, their supporters and mainstream decision makers and influencers have consistently identified two deep needs:
(1) to share and hear about actual LGBTIQ+ ‘best’ practices from their own, and other, regional and rural communities (i.e. “stuff that works”), as an extension of the sentiment demonstrated at the LGBTI Equality Roadshow Community of Practice; and,
(2) to have a clear action plan, in particular a “roadmap” on how to move to an LGBTIQ+ Inclusive community post-LGBTI Equality Roadshow.
The idea of a Rainbow Ready Roadmap that addressed both these needs has consistently generated unanimous enthusiasm and support.
Pilot Rainbow Ready Roadmap workshops were completed with five communities and groups (March-June 2021):
(a) Rural Rainbows: Buloke Shire and surrounding communities;
(b) Wimmera Pride Project: Wimmera region and surrounding communities;
(c) South Coast Inclusion Network (SCIN): Bass Coast Shire and surrounding communities;
(d) Swan Hill LGBTIQ Network: Swan Hill and surrounding communities; and,
(e) GO Alliance: Goulburn-Ovens regions and surrounding communities.
Stay tuned for the Rainbow Ready Roadmap’s launch.