These Aussie mums are giving ‘Free Mum Hugs’ to LGBTIQ people


free mum hugs australia group photo
Image: courtesy of Sandy Collins

They’re the Australian mums who are determined to make sure no LGBTIQ person feels unloved or not accepted.

They belong to Free Mum Hugs Australia, a group of parents who want to “let the LGBTIQ+ community know they are unconditionally loved and accepted” for who they are.

For the past few years, the group’s volunteer huggers have attended various pride events to give the free hugs, high-fives and conversation to any Pridegoers who need them. The volunteers have been to events in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Perth and Melbourne.

During Covid, the group built a hugging puppet to allow socially-distanced hugs.

Mum Sandy Collins started Free Mum Hugs Australia, based on a similar US movement, in 2019 after her teenage son came out as gay.

“We’ve heard stories from people who hadn’t had hugs from their parents in ages,” Collins told ABC News.

“Some of them hadn’t even seen or spoken to their parents.

“We don’t let go until they do, and they’re just blown away. Sometimes there’s silence and just tears, it’s really emotional.”

She said all of the mums want to show all LGBTIQ people “love and unconditional acceptance.”

“[We meet] some people who’ve had suicidal ideations,” she said.

“There are statistics saying that kids who have acceptance are far less likely to commit suicide or to even have ideations of suicide.

“It makes the biggest difference just to love your kid. Don’t argue about things, just go and do your research and love your child.”

Collins said she started the group after her then 19-year-old son Nick told his parents he was gay.

“I was part of a fundamental church and it was such a shock. That wasn’t part of our world view,” she said.

“We were taught gay people were abominations and promiscuous and this was my gorgeous son who just happened to be attracted to boys and not girls.”

But Collins sought out support and changed her “whole world view”.

“I’m very sad to say he was not going to come out, as he thought that we would reject him,” she said.

“That breaks my heart that any parent would reject their son.

“So it was really wonderful when he realised we really accepted him and loved him unconditionally. We tell him, ‘We just love you exactly the way you are’.”

But Collins said sadly, that’s not an experience shared by everyone.

Since 2019, the Free Mum Hugs Australia group has grown and now includes fathers giving Free Dad Hugs, as well as siblings and extended family members.

As well as pride events, members of the group have also attended some protest rallies to give out free hugs.

Queensland hugger Tasha Hungerford told the ABC both the pandemic and divisive national debates on trans inclusion and religious discrimination had impacted the community.

“People are really, really struggling with just not feeling accepted in the wider community because of this past year,” she said.

Follow Free Mum Hugs Australia at the group’s Facebook page here.

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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