Meeting with MP broaches a raft of refugee issues

Meeting with MP broaches a raft of refugee issues

Mark Coure MP, Liberal member for Oatley in the NSW Parliament, discussed a wide-range of migrant and refugee issues when he met with senior executive staff and board members of Advance Diversity Services (ADS) in the ADS offices on May 5.

Antoinette Chow, CEO of ADS thanked Mr Coure for the free RAT (rapid antigen test) kits and the emergency relief for temporary visa holders he had helped to facilitate in his role as Minister for Multiculturalism.

She said that without this COVID-related assistance:

  • Many CALD people in the region, who do not qualify for government benefits, would have struggled to access RAT tests and find support in understanding how to use them.
  • Many vulnerable temporary visa holders in the region who were facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 would have been without vital supplies, including medical support, emergency food and supplies, transport and essential housing. 

Mr Coure acknowledged the continuing importance of ADS’s Learn to Drive Program after hearing an update from Anthony Scerri, Manager of Settlement and Community Services, about this driver education program for recently arrived refugees and migrants.

Mr Scerri said that while funding received from Transport NSW had facilitated an effective rollout, top-up funds would be required to keep the program running given the rising cost of fuel and vehicle upkeep.

Mr Scerri also broached building a stronger LGBTIQ network in the St George and Sutherland region, to which Mr Coure said ADS could find helpful details to assist with this in the NSW LGBTIQ Health Strategy and to seek the support of local councils and peak bodies.

MP Mark Coure (centre) met with staff and board members of ADS on May 5.

To help build links between CALD and Aboriginal communities in the region, Ms Chow asked Mr Coure to share contacts.

‘We’re asking for educational/support contacts in the area relating to Aboriginal history,’ she said, ‘because we’re hoping that our community groups – which include established and newer migrants – can be educated more effectively about Australian Indigenous history.’

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido Team Leader, Emerging Communities, Settlement and Community Services for ADS, spoke about the Refugee Council of Australia’s (RCoA) Platform for Change, which outlines key areas that need reform over the next Parliamentary term, as well as three matters requiring immediate attention and action in 2022.

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said ADS was eager to see Australia’s Parliamentarians acting on allurgent refugee issues raised by RCoA but was pressing Mr Coure now to agitate for the repeal of the ‘unnecessary, expensive and unfair’ temporary protection system and for the reinstatement of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

‘The temporary protection system is a legacy of a punitive system to stop the boats, but no longer makes sense,’ she said.

RCoA’s Platform for Change states that: ‘Australia has found more than 19,000 boat arrivals to be in need of refugee protection but has granted them only temporary visas (Temporary Protection Visas or TPVs, and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas or SHEVs), which bars them from ever becoming permanent residents or reuniting with their families.

‘They need to re-apply for protection after three or five years and engage in a full reassessment of their refugee needs, putting a significant and unnecessary burden on the already stretched resources of the Department of Home Affairs. The reassessment process also further harms people as they have to re-live their trauma repeatedly, hampering their ability to settle and move on.

‘When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year, Australia allocated 31,000 visas for Afghans over the next 4 years, but those who arrived by boat 9 years ago, fleeing the same violence / persecution, will only ever be granted temporary protection. The policy does not make sense anymore because AUS turns back boats now.’

Mr Coure agreed that the temporary protection policy no longer made sense, and would look more closely at the paperwork provided by ADS, including RCoA’s Platform for Change, to determine any action.

Chair of ADS, Ruth Fyfe, thanked Mr Coure for his visit to ADS and for offering to further explore issues raised by staff in the meeting.

Report will assist ADS to extend outreach to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities

Report will assist ADS to extend outreach to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities

Advance Diversity Services (ADS) and the University of Wollongong (UOW) will launch a new report on May 17 which examines the knowledge, skills and attitudes of diversity service workers when servicing culturally diverse LGBTIQ+ communities in the context of COVID-19.

Understanding diversity service workers’ knowledge and skills gap in servicing culturally diverse queer communities is the fruit of a community-engagement project undertaken by ADS and UOW.

The report is intentionally being launched online on IDAHOBIT Day (the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) which celebrates LGBTIQ+ people globally.


Chief Investigator Dr Quah Ee Ling from UOW will present findings from her team’s research which gleaned (anonymous) responses about gender, sexuality and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBTIQ+ service provision from ADS staff and volunteers.

The report also recommends strategies to address gaps, target diversity training and shape services for CALD LGBTIQ+ communities in the LGAs ADS serves.

‘In June 2020, when we approached the University of Wollongong (UOW), there was evidence to suggest that LGBTIQ+ people were being left behind in the way the government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic,’ says Antoinette Chow, the CEO of ADS.  

‘In fact, we knew the pandemic was magnifying existing inequalities pertaining to employment, mental health, access to health and social services, and safety at home.

‘Simultaneously, we’d observed that CALD queer people hesitated to approach multicultural community organisations for support due to uncertainty about the level of acceptance towards them among CALD local and migrant communities, and whether the services they’d receive would be queer sensitive and friendly.

‘This strengthened our desire to extend our outreach efforts to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities. The UOW Community Engagement Grant enabled us to commission the research and gain the understanding from which we hope to make this possible.’

The research process and findings

Commencing in January 2021, Dr Quah Ee Ling and her research assistants, Dr Jan Filmer and Dr Alexandra Ridgway, used a range of data collection methods, including a survey, focus group discussions and interviews, to investigate:

  • Diversity service workers’ attitudes and concerns towards ADS’s plan to provide support services to CALD queer communities;
  • Diversity workers’ knowledge and skills gap in delivering community outreach initiatives and services to CALD queer communities.

Survey questions focused on the participant’s knowledge of gender and sexuality matters, their attitudes and behaviours towards queer people, and thoughts and potential concerns about ADS extending its services to CALD queer clients and communities.

Survey findings showed:

  • The majority of people sampled held a positive attitude towards gender, sex and sexuality diverse people and believed that the latter should enjoy equal rights as other citizens. These rights include accessibility to employment, service, parenting and public display of couplehood and affection. However, their position towards the rights of children and young people identifying as gender, sex and sexuality diverse was not as clear and straight-forward.
  • The majority held an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards befriending gender, sex and sexuality diverse people.
  • The majority expressed unanimously strong support of their employer moving in the direction of extending services to gender, sex and sexuality diverse communities, particularly CALD LGBTIQA+ people.
  • Many expressed their pride in working with an inclusive and diverse organisation that extends its services to gender, sex and sexuality diverse communities, particularly CALD queer communities.

The research also revealed that some respondents had inaccurate and inadequate understanding, including:

  • Confusion between the concepts of gender, sex and sexuality, for example, when asked what the respondent’s sexuality was, they answered ‘female’, ‘male’ and ‘cisgender’ or when asked what their gender was, they answered ‘straight’ and ‘heterosexual’.
  • Lack of adequate knowledge of less known gender, sex and sexuality expressions and identities such as asexual, intersex, queer, non-binary and transgender.
  • Inappropriate language used when discussing gender, sex and sexuality diverse people, for example, referring to heterosexual people as ‘normal’ and hence revealing an underlying perception that non-heterosexual people are not normal.
  • Reservations about children and young people self-identifying gender, sex and sexuality diverse amongst several survey respondents as they believed these children and young people were merely going through a developmental phase.

Stigmatisation

Most respondents were from CALD migrant backgrounds, including East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, European and South American origins.

Many expressed awareness of the varying degrees of stigmatisation of, and discrimination against, homosexuality and transgenderism among the various multicultural migrant communities they serve.

Several believed that emigrants who had left their home country decades ago had not caught up with the developments to embrace multiple genders, sexes and sexualities back home. These emigrants regarded the celebration of queerness and multiple forms of family in their host country, Australia in this case, as a ‘Western, liberal lifestyle’ that is not of their ‘traditional’, ‘conservative’ cultures. In turn, this means their rejection of homosexuality and queer people is often reduced to and justified as a cultural belief and practice.

‘Acquiring in-depth knowledge of diverse cultural and linguistic groups’ understanding and attitudes towards CALD queer people is key to ADS’s strategy to extend its services to CALD queer people,’ the report said.

What next?

It is clear from the report that many respondents would like to get hands-on, practical and real-life interactions and work experiences with CALD queer clients and communities in order to channel their energies into actual service and to receive on-the-job training and learning.

The report also suggests that enhancing the visibility of ADS as a queer hospitable organisation would send a strong signal of safety and care to queer communities, including CALD queer individuals.

To foster awareness of ADS’s inclusivity, respondents suggested:

  • Organising more public and community outreach events in partnership with local councils, community organisations and queer groups.
  • Including support for queer communities in the organisation’s website, posters, pamphlets, information packs for clients, recruitment advertisements, presentation templates, email signatures and social media.
  • Partnering with other community organisations across various sectors, especially queer groups.
  • Engaging CALD queer and non-queer social media influencers to raise the organisation’s queer hospitable profile among local communities members of the public, partners and clients.
  • Publicising ADS’s queer friendly services to community organisations from various sectors and let them know that they could refer queer clients to ADS for its aged care, disability care and settlement services.

The report also says running joint training sessions and education forums with community leaders and ADS diversity service workers would be helpful in advancing conversations on gender, sex and sexuality.

Ms Chow says the research has helped ADS to understand the social attitudes, knowledge and skills of its diversity service workers and to identify existing gaps.

‘With this comprehensive understanding of our capabilities and limitations, we have a clearer picture of how to develop effective diversity staff training and appropriate community programs and services for CALD LGBTIQ+ communities in our region.

‘The project should also bring practical and important benefits to the wider multicultural community service sector as we disseminate project findings and share ADS’s follow-up training and strategies for community outreach.’

Read the full report HERE

What an egg-cellent idea this Easter!

What an egg-cellent idea this Easter!

Advance Diversity Services has created an oversized egg – more than 1.2 metres high! – to be displayed in Hurstville during the second half of April.

The egg is part of an Easter-themed, community-based project through which 12 large-scale eggs have been custom-designed by core community groups and cultural organisations essential to the fabric of the Georges River area.

An artist from Pier Productions worked with each group’s 2-dimensional design – translating and painting it onto a 3-dimensional egg, bringing the design to life in a striking installation.

Six of the oversized eggs are located in Westfield Hurstville and six in the Hurstville CBD.

From April 12, families are encouraged to follow the egg trail, learn about their community through the eggs as well as their associated signage, video content and photos captured during the egg’s development. 

Families are also invited to vote for their favourite egg, with the winners being announced at the end of the campaign on May 1.

The three eggs with the most votes will receive a cash prize from Westfield Hurstville:

1st Prize: $5,000 | 2nd Prize: $3,000 | 3rd Prize: $2,000 

“ADS has enjoyed being part of this project with its invitation to convey our values and the work we do through an artistic medium,” said ADS CEO Antoinette Chow.

“Our egg features rainbow colours and people from a variety of cultures to show our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“We hope people vote for our egg because they can see we’re ‘good eggs’ here to support and empower some of the most vulnerable groups in our community.”

ADS named Silver Service provider in inaugural Australian awards

ADS named Silver Service provider in inaugural Australian awards

Advance Diversity Services has been chosen as a Silver Service provider in the inaugural 2022 Australian Pride in Health + Wellbeing Awards announced on March 30.  

The awards event celebrated exceptional efforts in improving LGBTQ inclusion within health and wellbeing organisations across the country.

It was produced by Pride in Health + Wellbeing, the national not-for-profit inclusion program for the health, wellbeing, human services, and community care sector, spearheaded by Australia’s largest LGBTQ health organisation ACON.

Claire Allen, National Program Manager of Pride in Health + Wellbeing said: “As our diverse LGBTQ communities continue to face a number of shared and distinct health and social inclusion issues, providers across the board and across the country are demonstrating that they are stepping up to take action to address barriers our communities face in accessing help and support.

“It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the many achievements that have been made in the greater inclusion of LGBTQ people so that our communities can see where progress is being made.”

ADS Chief Executive Officer, Antoinette Chow said she was proud ADS was named as a Silver Service provider along with the Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies (NADA) and WAYSS homeless support program.

“ADS’s commitment to improving access and equity for people who identify with a diverse gender and/or sexuality is both deep and unwavering – and it is good to have our commitment affirmed through this award.

“A recent initiative taken by ADS to foster LGBTQ health and inclusion was working with ACON to expand and update the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory – a vital resource for a CALD LGBTIQA+ person to find services and groups that can support their wellbeing.

“We also partnered with Queer Screen to host a subsidised screening of the Australian premiere of The First Girl I Loved as part of the Mardi Gras Film Festival in 2022 – an event I think was beneficial to people’s mental health.”

ADS was proud to be named as a Silver Service provider along with the Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies (NADA) and WAYSS homeless support program in the inaugural, live streamed, 2022 Australian Pride in Health + Wellbeing Awards.

Michael Ebeid AM, Co Patron of Pride in Health + Wellbeing, said, “Over the last few years, the status and size of the Health + Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI) has grown, and it’s exciting to see this event branch out into its own celebration of excellence in LGBTQ Health.

“This not only gives a voice to inclusion within the health and wellbeing sector but increases the visibility and importance of inclusion across the various services within the community, care and human services sectors.”

Inaugural award categories and their recipients were:

  • Service Provider of the Year – cohealth
  • Most improved Service Provider of the Year – Drug & Alcohol Services Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
  • LGBTQ Inclusive Innovation – Trans and Gender Diverse Healthcare Training Project – St Vincent’s Hospital Network Sydney
  • LGBTQ Out Role Model – Erin Heine – Central Coast Local Health District
  • LGBTQ Ally – Jason Van Ritten – Central Coast Local Health District
  • Gold Service Providers – cohealth Uniting Vic.Tas
  • Silver Service Providers – Advance Diversity Services,
    Network of Alcohol & Other Drugs Agencies (NADA), Wayss
  • Bronze Service Providers – Australian College of Applied Professions: Clinic (ACAP) City Fertility
    Drug & Alcohol Services Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
  • Flourish Australia Relationships Australia (NSW) + one not for publication
Expanded Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory a boon for wellbeing

Expanded Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory a boon for wellbeing

Loc Nguyen from ACON worked closely with James Sabbagh during his student work placement with Advance Diversity Services (ADS) to expand and update the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory.

The directory incorporates a vast array of counselling services, legal support, faith communities, media services, university groups, aged care, youth services, professional associations and more in the Sydney area.

It’s also a useful referral tool for social workers, case workers and organisations who work with CALD LGBTIQA+ people who are migrants or the children of migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless or internally displaced.

Loc and James brought the combined weight of their networking, coordination, research and editing skills to the exacting task of ensuring the new edition of the directory is user friendly and up-to-date.

Both say the new version is a vital resource for a CALD LGBTIQA+ person to find services and groups that can support their wellbeing.

Loc Nguyen was instrumental in updating the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support Directory – a new version of which will be launched in March 2022.

On the heels of its launch, Loc explains why …

Why is it crucial to continue to produce the directory and promote the accessibility of the services and groups, which exist to support the wellbeing of the CALD LGBTIQA+ community?

Many mainstream services and programs provide support to community members assuming that they either belong to the LGBTQ+ community or to a cultural group, and rarely do we see programs that meet the intersectional needs of those belonging to both or more groups.

For LGBTQ+ community members from culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse backgrounds, it is important that they are able to see themselves in community groups and services that holistically and meaningfully understand their experiences of culture, gender and sexuality. This is even more important for those with migrant or refugee experience who are looking to build their social connections with peers in Australia.

The directory will support the social wellbeing of LGBTQ+ community members from culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse backgrounds to get connected with the right community groups and services that are culturally safe and relevant to their needs and experiences.

What feedback have ACON, ADS and others had from users about previous versions of the directory?

Overall, feedback has been really positive for the resource with many community members expressing it has made it easier for them to find relevant community groups to get connected with. Service providers have also shared how useful the resource has been when referring LGBTQ+ community members from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to other services.

However, we have also received feedback that certain LGBTQ cultural groups have not been represented in this resource in the past. The beauty of the directory and website being updated frequently is that we can continue to expand and include groups that have been missing so that we can support as many community members when looking to the future.

What barriers can CALD LGBTIQA+ people face in finding the support they need, which could well be overcome by using the information provided in the directory?

Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ people from culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse backgrounds and those with migrant and refugee experience are disproportionately faced with multiple forms of marginalisation in social and health settings. This includes racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia.

This leads to poorer physical, social and mental health outcomes for these communities as well as reduced access to mainstream health services, which community members may not perceive to be for them if the service is seen to be for white or non-LGBTQ people.

However, evidence from studies shows that when LGBTQ+ community members from culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse backgrounds are connected to their peers, there is an increase in confidence when accessing to health services.

This directory links LGBTQ+ people from culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse, migrant and refugee backgrounds, and LGBTQ+ people of colour into services and community groups that provide culturally safe and appropriate support that are specific to the diverse needs of community members, which is crucial to overcoming these social barriers and to improving health outcomes and literacy for these communities. 

Why is the directory website at https://www.rainbowcultures.org.au/ so useful?

Rainbow Cultures is an online directory that expands on the physical Multicultural LGBTQIA+ Support Directory. This website was developed through a combined effort by ACON and community groups, SocialisAsians and ANTRA, with support from Advance Diversity Services and CALD Gay Men’s Action Group.

Being online, Rainbow Cultures is much more accessible to community members, and is potentially more shareable amongst peers. As a digital resource, the website also continues to be expanded and updated with the latest information around the multicultural LGBTQ+ community groups in NSW. This became even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns when community members were looking to stay connected with their peers through online events. We hope moving forward the website can house further resources for multicultural LGBTQ+ community members.

What was it like to work with James on the directory and where can people find the print version?

James was great. He brought his Social Worker training to the job and surveyed LGBTIQA+ groups and individuals – the feedback from which helped us to shape this edition. There’s a web viewable version of the directory here. Advance Diversity Services will also have a limited supply of printed copies, which people can get by contacting info@advancediversity.org.au and pick-up from its Hurstville office.

_____

Loc Nguyen is Community Health Promotion Officer – Multicultural Engagement and Community Development for ACON.

 James Sabbagh completed his six-month student work placement with ADS in January 2022 as part of his Social Work honours degree at the University of Wollongong. He commenced his new role as Social Worker at Sutherland Hospital in early February.

‘The First Girl I Loved’ screening a success

‘The First Girl I Loved’ screening a success

One hundred people enjoyed the Australian premiere of The First Girl I Loved (喜歡妳是妳) as part of the 29th Mardi Gras Film Festival (MGFF) thanks to a flourishing partnership between Advance Diversity Services (ADS) and Queer Screen.

The subsidised screening of the tender same-sex romance was held on February 24 at Event Cinema Hurstville. Information about sexuality and gender issues from ANTRA, headspace and Kogarah Community Services (promoting GLISTEN) was also available in the cinema foyer.

‘We had a fabulous night,’ said ADS Executive Officer Antoinette Chow, ‘and the film was thought provoking.

‘This is the second time we’ve partnered with Queer Screen – and offering cheaper tickets to the wider community affirms we’re an inclusive service and shows LGBTIQA+ people that we support them.’

ADS staff, board members and supporters enjoyed the community screening of the The First Girl I Loved on February 24 at Event Cinema Hurstville.

The First Girl I Loved is directed by Ng Wing-shan and Yeung Chiu-hoi and tells the bittersweet story of teenage best friends Ming Lee (Hedwig Tam) Sylvia (Sz-Wing Yeung) who are both high-achieving students at a traditional Hong Kong girls’ school.

When Sylvia (Sz-Wing Yeung) asks Ming Lee (Hedwig Tam) to be maid of honour at her wedding the women are thrown together and forced to ponder if the heated relationship they pursued as students was love or friendship? And what of their relationship now? What are they left with?

Ms Chow said, ‘The screening was a great way to raise awareness in our community of LGBTIQA+ issues – people’s struggles, heartaches and happiness – and we know this kind of awareness is what brings change, equality and freedom.’

Chair of the ADS Board, Ruth Fyfe, said she was pleased to see that a significant program strand in this year’s MGFF was about queer rebels – an excellent reminder of all the artists, musicians and activists that had carved the path to greater recognition and acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people.

‘But the battle for inclusivity is not over,’ she stressed, ‘and we must keep the good fight going for the whole of the rainbow community.

‘At ADS we work hard to ensure LGBTIQ+ people – including LGBTIQ+ people from CALD backgrounds – find a warm welcome and total acceptance.’

_____

MGFF is an annual event. It offers online and on-demand screenings of festival films to bring the best LGBTIQ+ cinema from around the world to people in Australia.