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.


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