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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Calls for peer-led services for LGBTIQ+ community

The Chief Executive Officer of Meridian (formerly the AIDS Action Council of the ACT) has called for a peer-led service for LGBTIQ+ people to access health and wellbeing services in the ACT.

Philippa Moss said such a service would be helpful in removing barriers for access to healthcare and support services, and hopes a model similar to Melbourne’s gender diverse health service, Equinox, could get off the ground here in the ACT.

“It’s inherently known that [LGBTIQ+] people experience stigma and discrimination in accessing mainstream services,” Ms Moss said.

“Some people just prefer to go to services that they know are inclusive and they’re run by peers and they know they’re not going to be discriminated against … they’re not going to be judged for other stuff that they may be judged for in the wider population.”

She said there was a great need in the community for mental health services, drug and alcohol support services and support for people who have experienced or are experiencing intimate partner violence.

The comments come as the ACT Government launches a survey for LGBTIQ+ Canberrans, asking them to share their views and experiences of the ACT health system. Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said it would help address the communities’ concerns and inform a new program of work.

“We want everyone in our community to be able to access the health care and support they need – irrespective of their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity or other personal circumstances,” she said.

“We’re conscious that LGBTIQ+ people get surveyed and asked about their experiences a lot. Co-designing this survey with community stakeholders has been critical to ensuring that it reflects and respects what we have previously heard.”

Meridian was part of the reference group for the development of the survey, and Ms Moss said she hopes it will be an opportunity for much-needed services to be implemented.

“[The community] really need support services that are going to work for them, and what works for them is what’s modelled in Sydney and Melbourne is peer-led services by community organisations,” Ms Moss said.

She said while many people have “survey fatigue”, Meridian will be promoting the survey to ensure people’s voices are heard and to “reinforce what we already know”.

A Gender Agenda executive director Sel Cooper also welcomed the survey, and said the organisation was looking forward to working with the ACT Government to develop safe and inclusive spaces for intersex, trans and gender diverse people.

The survey is open online via the ACT Health website until 20 August, and can be completed anonymously.

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