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New initiative to support South Australian LGBTIQ communities

Aiming to give older LGBTIQ South Australians a voice, Council on the Ageing (COTA) SA has joined forces with the SA Rainbow Advocacy Alliance (SARAA) to form a consumer-led LGBTIQ movement.

Gay-rights activist Desmond Ford
Gay-rights activist Desmond Ford

The joint 12-month initiative, headed up by gay-rights activist Desmond Ford, has a number of priorities including raising awareness of the needs of older LGBTIQ people in SA including in rural areas and CALD communities and propose strategies to meet these needs.

In other areas, the initiative aims to provide an ongoing forum for the participation of older LGBTIQ people to ensure advocacy for the needs of LGBTIQ people in all policy and service delivery relating to older people. It also aims to create an LGBTIQ focus in areas of government priority across portfolio areas such as SA Law Reform Institute 2015 Audit Paper recommendations, awareness and strategies to prevent elder abuse, promote advanced care directives etc.

“The project will give older people from around the state an opportunity to be part of a positive and forward thinking conversation about shaping their lives; to understand and connect with their community; and to determine the things that are important to them, including their hopes and aspirations,” says Mr Ford.

He believes the timing is right to bring some much needed visibility to older people in the LGBTIQ communities.

“Those now in their 60s, 70s and 80s grew up at a time where homosexuality was deemed a criminal act and so many kept it under wraps, with many experiencing isolation and discrimination which in some instances led to mental health issues as a result,” he highlights. “There were no conversations or dialogue, no acceptance and certainly no support like there is today. But despite how far we’ve come, there’s still a way to go, particularly for older LGBTIQ communities.

Mr Ford says being a gay man who is about to enter his 60s, he feels he has a personal and professional commitment to this important subject. "Which is why I jumped at the chance to get involved," he says.

COTA SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared says she’s delighted to welcome someone of Desmond’s standing and commitment to social justice, equality and inclusion.

“Apart from his lifelong advocacy work, Desmond has an outstanding track record managing projects and services that enable and empower people, and is a skilled communicator and trainer,” says Ms Mussared. “As COTA SA embraces the diversity of our modern ageing, we look forward to standing alongside SARAA and Desmond as we learn and act on the things that matter most to the older LGBTIQ community in SA.”

SA Rainbow Advocacy Alliance Chair Andrew Birtwistle-Smith says current structures for the support and engagement of older people do not reflect the diversity of modern South Australia.

“This project will ensure that there is a strong LGBTIQ voice in all policy and service development for older people in SA, including through the advocacy and representation of COTA SA and SARAA,” Andrew said.

This project has received support from the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) through the provision of a one-off grant.

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