First indigenous Australian to head ILGA Oceania


vanessa lee ilga oceania indigenous first nations
Photo: courtesy of University of Sydney

Vanessa Lee has become the first Indigenous Australian to hold the position of ILGA Oceania co-convener.

ILGA Oceania is a branch of ILGA World, a 42-year-old United Nations NGO advocating for LGBTIQ rights.

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Established in 1978, ILGA World is the oldest UN NGO of its type, and advocates for 1,614 LGBTIQ organisations from 158 countries and territories.

This includes groups from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands through ILGA Oceania.

Vanessa also joins Fia’ailetoa Ken Moala, a First Nations Samoan and fellow co-convener of the organisation.

“Ken and I are honoured to join global leaders in this role,” she said.

“[We’ll] continue to challenge and collaborate with policymakers for ILGA Oceania.”

Past ILGA Oceania co-conveners cheered Lee and Moala on taking the reins of the organisation.

Simon Margan, convener from 2009 to 2014, said he hopes to see “better representation of indigenous Australian LGBTIQ issues” at the United Nations.

Rodney Croome, convener from 1995 to 1999, said an Indigenous woman representing all other LGBTIQ+ Australians to the broader queer world is a step toward ending systemic racism and a moment to celebrate.

“But when we do celebrate, let’s remember that we are here because of the efforts of LGBTIQ+ Indigenous Australians over centuries,” he said.

“Now is the time to honour all LGBTIQ+ Indigenous people who, by their survival of dispossession and prejudice, and their work for a better future, give us all hope for a truly just Australia.”

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