Rodney Croome writes about rescuing the consultation process for the government’s national LGBTIQA+ health action plan.
During WorldPride, the federal government announced a 10-Year National Action Plan for the Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people. The government also promised a national consultation process to inform their LGBTIQA+ health action plan. The first of nineteen community consultations planned for around the country took place in Hobart recently. Rodney Croome attended that first consultation and shares his observations.
The Hobart meeting I recently attended alerted me to some of the flaws of the current consultation. But I believe LGBTIQA+ community representatives can shape this process for the better if we’re alert to the problems.
Here are some of my thoughts about what the Government needs to hear from us.
Consultation Paper hints at reluctance to spend
As far as tackling LGBTIQA+ health disparities, the paper guiding the consultation contains two glaring omissions.
First, it doesn’t mention the social, cultural and historical factors that drive down LGBTIQA+ health outcomes. Those include prejudice, stigma, invisibility, discrimination, and unequal laws.
Second, it doesn’t explicitly focus on funding services we know are essential to solving the problems discrimination causes.
The sceptic in me finds it hard to believe these two omissions are a mistake or coincidence. Both would require significant government expenditure.
Reducing stigma and prejudice requires governments to spend political capital. It means challenging the institutions that perpetuate stigma and educating the members of the public who still hold prejudices.
Meanwhile, funding services require governments to commit to long-term financial expenditure. They are loath to do that when a one-off payment for a time-limited project achieves the same media coverage.
Instead, the consultation paper focuses on hurdles to accessing existing services. Access is a problem, but not the root problem. Solving it will not eliminate the poorer health outcomes LGBTIQA people face.
We need stronger protections from discrimination, not just better counselling for victims of discrimination.
We need long-term funding for services, not just another glossy poster for inner-city bus stops.
LGBTIQA+ health action plan requires long-term funding
When you go into your consultation, arm yourself with evidence of the structural and systemic causes of poorer LGBTIQA+ health outcomes. Take proposals for long-term funding of key LGBTIQA+ services and education campaigns in your community that will help overcome those structural disadvantages.
In short, ask for more than the bare minimum.
Innovative, local solutions
There were other disturbing omissions from the consultation paper. For example, issues raised by intersex advocates had not been taken on board and there was little if any focus on bisexual, asexual, aromantic or agender people. My advice is to make sure intersex and a-spec folk are at your consultation to represent their health needs.
But a broader concern, for me at least, was the overbearing influence of inner-city Sydney and Melbourne on the consultation process.
At the Hobart consultation, a table was presented of LGBTIQA+ strategies state-by-state. Victoria and NSW were shown as having many and Tasmania was listed as having none, when in fact we have more than just about any other state.
My advice is to make sure, ahead of time, that the consultation organisers are aware of what positive developments have already occurred in your community so you’re not treated like a blank slate Sydney and Melbourne can write their rescue plan on.
A representative of ACON spoke at the Hobart consultation about their all-under-one-roof model of service delivery.
There is an argument that ACON and similar inner-city-based services are not good health service-delivery models for most of LGBTIQA+ Australia because
- a) they serve a queer ghetto that is not representative of where an increasing number of LGBTIQA+ Australians live.
- b) they concentrate health services in queer communities that are already some of the nation’s most privileged.
On top of that, NSW has the nation’s worst laws, attitudes and other determinants of LGBTIQA+ health. It’s time to rethink the NSW model, not replicate it.
When there is a consultation in your community ask that old-style Melbourne and Sydney services not be allowed a promotional platform and that your community instead be given the space to explore what new and innovative models of health promotion and service delivery best suit it.
Only one consultation outside capital city
Finally, of the planned 19 consultations only one, Alice Springs, will occur outside a capital city.
If you live in rural or regional Australia write to the Assistant Health Minister now insisting on a consultation where you live (Ged.Kearney.MP@aph.gov.au).
In short, make sure the consultation focuses on local solutions, not generic, inner-city ones.
Let’s make this a milestone
We are at a crossroads. The Federal Government could make a long-term commitment to eliminating LGBTIQA+ health disadvantages with the kind of funding and political commitment that attacks the problem at its root and funds long-term, locally-based solutions.
Or it could do what it did with Safe Schools. Pick a flawed model from the inner city, impose it on the rest of us, throw around just enough money to fund some time-limited professional development, booklets and poster campaigns, and then hand back responsibility to the states.
Obviously, Safe Schools was hobbled by unprecedented attacks. But even without them it would have done little to tackle the long-term, deep-seated disadvantage LGBTIQA+ young people face in education.
Which path the Feds take on LGBTIQA+ health depends on the effectiveness of our advocacy.
I’ve tried to give my prescription for how to make the current consultation process as useful as possible, but if you have better ideas run with them.
Whatever you do, don’t accept the framing of this consultation. Making it broader, deeper and more meaningful. Make it work for your community.
Make this consultation a milestone in our community’s history that will have a real impact on the lives of those who come after us.
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