Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Row Allen believes more can be done in Greater Shepparton to make members of the LGBTIQ community feel safe.
Ms Allen met with various stakeholders from across Greater Shepparton on Friday during the LGBTI Equality Roadshow where developing an LGBTI Inclusion Plan was a key focus.
The roadshow has been held across Victoria since the start of the year with the goal of starting conversations about LGBTIQ issues in regional areas.
More than 40 people attended the roadshow in the Greater Shepparton City Council boardroom and various organisations, local government representatives, youth services, students and universities were present.
‘‘There’s tons of wonderful things happening in Shepparton, certainly a lot more than when I was a youth worker for the council 20 years ago but there’s also pockets of discrimination,’’ Ms Allen said.
This was the 20th town Ms Allen has visited and she said it was about getting people to think about how they could take their ideas or initiatives to the next level and create a more safe and inclusive environment for members of the LGBTIQ community.
‘‘This is a way of making sure Greater Shepparton stays inclusive,’’ Ms Allen said.
Kildonan Uniting Care Diversity Project community development worker Damien Stevens said it was great to see so many people from different backgrounds coming together and engaging with LGBTIQ issues.
‘‘LGBTI people are in every part of our life... but we still have a long way to go even though Shepparton’s done a great job in the last 20 to 25 years in areas that still tend to be heteronormative,’’ Mr Stevens said.
‘‘The majority of people in our community are very inclusive and are for kindness and inclusion, but that’s not always backed up by reflective practice and it’s not always followed up with systems and procedures in place to ensure that everyone’s included.’’
Mr Stevens said it was important to identify the barriers and solutions to improving engagement and inclusion with LGBTIQ members.
These barriers include stigma, fear, marriage equality, mental health and suicide.
‘‘Some of those barriers we still need to keep working on to make our community safer and more inclusive,’’ Mr Stevens said.