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Giving a nationwide voice to older LGBTI people in aged care

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex (LGBTI) older people will be able to magnify their voices and experiences at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety through a new LGBTI Royal Commission Advisory Group.

The Advisory Group is currently collecting information concerning the treatment of LGBTI people in aged care or individuals soon to receive aged care. [Source: Shutterstock]
The Advisory Group is currently collecting information concerning the treatment of LGBTI people in aged care or individuals soon to receive aged care. [Source: Shutterstock]

Run by the National LGBTI Health Alliance, a peak health body for LGBTI organisations and people, the Advisory Group will have a representative to speak at the Royal Commission hearings in October, with the set of hearings focussing on diversity in aged care.

The Advisory Group is currently collecting information concerning the treatment of LGBTI people in aged care or individuals soon to receive aged care.

This Advisory Group is a part of the Silver Rainbow arm of the Alliance, which is a  Government-funded initiative that was created in 2013 to respond to the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy.

Silver Rainbow works with the Government, aged care providers and related services to create an inclusive aged care environment for older LGBTI people.

Samantha Edmonds, Silver Rainbow National Project Manager, says the group has been working for a reasonable amount of time educating and training providers to create inclusive LGBTI environments, but estimates about 20 percent of providers are still not fully on board.

Having the Advisory Group representative stand before the Royal Commission is just another way to get the message across about the current state of the aged care system for older people who identify as a part of the LGBTI community.

Ms Edmonds explains there has been a lot of legislative changes and strategies implemented to make aged care safer for LGBTI people, including the new Aged Care Quality Standards, but says there is still a lot more work that needs to be done.

“Some services have absolutely taken it on board and gone as far as getting a Rainbow Tick, which is like an LGBTI accreditation. Others are doing some amazing work in that area without going to the accreditation side. I suppose a large portion of providers are in the middle, thinking about it, not sure what to do,” explains Ms Edmonds.

“A bunch of resources [have] come out this year for providers, which [presents] guidance around that, and of course the Standards have changed as well. Now providers are thinking, “Okay, we have to think more seriously about this”. 

“But there are still maybe 20 percent [of providers] that say, “We don’t have LGBTI people here and we don’t need to do anything”, and they don’t seem to understand that if you are not going to be inclusive, you are not going to know who is in your service. Because people aren’t going to identify if you are saying we don’t have them... It’s a very mixed bag.”

The new LGBTI Advisory Group is performing a smaller set of consultations in Queensland, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, which will inform their response to the Commission. 

However, they intend to go to other States and Territories in the country after the interim report is released by the Commission.

Another key objective of the Advisory Group is to assist with the responses and outcomes from the interim report and develop policies and practical ideas to implement to help LGBTI older people accessing aged care.

Ms Edmonds says the older Australians who have already fronted the Royal Commission about the discrimination they have experienced as an LGBTI person is shocking but unsurprising.

“It is [sad]. Unfortunately, it’s still way too common, more common than it should be considering all the changes that have happened,” explains Ms Edmonds.

“During our consultations, we continuously hear those stories. There are some good stories, but we do continually hear about how people have been treated, and not only necessarily how they have been treated, but the fear of how they will be treated. 

“It’s sort of a lifetime of discrimination and treatment by the very institutions that are now asking them for their trust… It is really hard, you feel that you are doing all this work to try and make aged care safe and inclusive, and then you hear those stories again... Just when you think you are starting to make headway, you realise you still have a lot more work to do.”

Ms Edmond says the Silver Rainbow initiative hopes the outcomes from the Royal Commission will involve a sustained focus on LGBTI inclusivity, as well as continued funding from the Government.

Silver Rainbow also wants the Royal Commission to expose the issues facing LGBTI older Australians and highlight the ongoing need for work in the sector.

To find out more about the Silver Rainbow initiative, visit the National LGBTI Health Alliance website here.

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