Gay News Network
07 December 2015
From politics and media to activism and the arts, here is GayNewsNetwork's (SX, MCV, QP, Blaze) fifth annual list of talented and compelling people to watch from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in Australia in 2016.
The Greens Senator shaking things up in parliament.
When we featured Robert Simms as a Person to Watch in our 2015 edition, we knew he was going places. We couldn’t have known that in less than a year he would go from local politics as an Adelaide City Councillor to federal politics as a Greens Senator for SA. As a councillor, Simms was instrumental in getting the ball rolling for a permanent Rainbow Walk as an LGBTI monument in the Adelaide CBD. He was also prominent in supporting green and sustainable urban development policies for the city. Now as Senator he is Greens spokesperson on LGBTI and Marriage Equality, Water and the Murray Darling Basin, and Higher Education.
In his maiden speech in the Senate, Simms spoke out strongly on LGBTI issues, including the high rates of suicide among LGBTI youth and called on same-sex attracted, gender diverse or questioning teens to “be brave, be strong and be proud of who you are”.
Since then he has spoken out repeatedly on issues such as marriage equality and called for an end to the 12 month deferral on blood donations for sexually active gay and bi men. More recently, in a rousing speech, he called out the Australian Christian Lobby as an organisation of “bullies” that promotes “sexism, homophobia and transphobia”. He also introduced a successful motion in the Senate calling on the government to hasten the approval of HIV medication Truvada being used as pre exposure prophylaxis, which can provide protection to people at high risk of HIV infection.
“2016 will be a big year for me, I’ll be facing my first election as a Greens Senator with an election slated for October,” Simms says.
While he is number one on the Greens ticket in SA, he doesn’t take his chances of being elected for granted.
“Look, I’m very positive and very excited, but the fight for that last SA seat is always a hard fight, but I look forward to the challenge,” Simms says.
“I personally will be working hard to stand up for the interests of the community and for a more fair and just society.”
“It’s an honour to be included in the People to Watch list for 2016,” Simms says.
“I look forward to continuing to advocate for the rights of LGBTI Australians in the coming year.”
Profile by Ron Hughes. Photography: Courtesy Robert Simms
GetUp! Activist passionate about marriage equality and LGBTI rights
Anyone who’s been present at recent Sydney marriage equality rallies will no doubt recognise pocket rocket Sally Rugg. Rugg has been front and centre in GetUp’s fight to bring marriage equality across the line in Australia and is passionate about social justice.
She tells SX that from a very early age she realised just because someone in power made a decision, that didn’t mean it was the end of the fight and recalls a childhood spent railing against the machine.
“I think my first activist memory was protesting a highway that was set to be built through my community, or maybe it was boycotting Bunnings because they were logging old growth forests,” she tells us.
Apart from continuing her fight for marriage equality Rugg says she will spend the next twelve months working to introduce broader issues that the LGBTIQ face to the GetUp membership and the public conversation.
“I care about people,” she says. “And I don't think any person is worth more or less than anyone else. We all deserve equal rights, opportunity and love… That some people face disadvantage, systematic oppression or persecution while others enjoy wealth, privilege and power, makes no sense to me. I'm passionate about justice and equality because I don't know of anything that's more important.”
Profile by Cec Busby. Photo: Supplied
Connecting people and creating thoughtful dialogue with striking stage and costume designs.
Eugyeene Teh’s work as a stage and costume designer is changing the landscape of theatre. His work with the highly acclaimed Little Ones Theatre (Purveyors of High Camp), has included the recent hit Dracula, Dangerous Liaisons for MTC’s NEON season, Psycho Beach Party, Salome for Malthouse Helium Season and The House of Yes (all directed by Stephen Nicolazzo who was one of our 2015 People To Watch).
His work has not gone unnoticed by the bigger theatre companies either and he can now add Melbourne Theatre Company’s Endgame, Malthouse Theatre’s Meme Girls and A Social Service to his resume.
Other recent credits include Melbourne Festival’s critically acclaimed queer production of The Trouble with Harry, Palace of the End and Watch This Production’s Pacific Overtures and Company.
With director Adena Jacobs, he designed Elektra, Cleansed and Sydney Chamber Opera’s Exil.
He has been nominated for three Green Room Awards and we can’t wait to see what Eugyeene creates in 2016.
“As a designer, my medium is imagery, which is now, more than ever, a powerful tool to connect with people and create thoughtful dialogues,” Eugyenne says.
“As a key artist with Little Ones Theatre, we have created works that not only speak truths but present fantasies from an unrestrained and inherently queer perspective. Support from our peers and audience gives me strength and confidence to present bold sentiments in my work. It has been so important for me to work without fear of negative judgement of people in our community. In turn, we have managed to move and inspire, and to unabashedly bring Camp, sexuality and our fantastic queer identities to the table.”
In 2016 Eugyeene is working on projects such as In Between Two (a Sydney Festival show featuring two Asian-Australian hip hop artists, James Mangohig and Joel Ma, in collaboration with William Yang and Annette Shun Wah) and Blaque Showgirls (Malthouse Theatre production featuring Miranda Tapsell, in collaboration with Nakkiah Lui).
He says: “I am keen to collaborate with these luminaries to create work that comes from and boldly represents racially diverse perspectives and values.”
Profile by Rachel Cook. Photo: Supplied
It's all about knowing what makes your audience tick, says this digital media wunderkind.
As publisher of several of Australia’s most iconic digital brands, Tim Duggan has been responsible for delivering some of the most progressive digital media offerings we have seen in Australia to date. From Same Same to AWOL to Junkee, Duggan has a canny knack for keeping his finger on the public pulse. Unafraid to take a risk or to challenge his readers, Duggan is steering his titles at Junkee Media into a vast new frontier.
That Duggan is now at the helm of Mumbrella’s Media Brand of the Year should come as no surprise when you consider just how long his obsession with the written word has gone on. At the tender age of 12 he was cutting up old magazines and assembling the bits together to make his own publications and by the time he finished his marketing degree at UTS he’d worked his way up to be a section editor at Sydney’s iconic street mag Revolver (now The Brag). “ I applied for a job as Dance Music Editor; somehow, thankfully, I was given the job and my media career really began properly from there,” Duggan says. “I've since started fun events like Fag Tag and DTPM, media brands like Same Same and Junkee and generally just tried to have lots of fun in the media and entertainment space.”
Duggan ascribes the success of Junkee’s brands to a savvy knowledge of what makes its readership tick.
“You have to really understand the audience to know what gaps there are in the market and how to fill them.”
Profile by Cec Busby. Photo: Supplied
Exploring notions of beauty and androgyny through striking and arresting visual art
Born in the United States in 1984, Sydney-based visual artist Kim Leutwyler relocated to Australia in 2012. She works in a variety of media including painting, installation, ceramics, print media and drawing. She holds concurrent Bachelor degrees in Studio and Art History from Arizona State University, and additionally graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Painting and Drawing degree. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and Australia, and she is part of the collections at both the Naestved Cultural Center in Denmark and the Brooklyn Art Library in New York.
“I create figurative paintings of LGBTQIA-identified and queer-allied women, most recently focusing on those who have impacted my life in some way,” Leutwyler says. “My work toys with the concepts of glorification, objectification and modification. I am interested in exploring the ways that women take on various permutations of beauty and androgyny.”
Leutwyler’s arresting portrait of activist, designer and top model Ollie Henderson was a 2015 Archibald Prize finalist, and she is already plotting her 2016 entry.
“I’ve secured an amazing woman to be my sitter for the 2016 Archibald Prize, but her identity is a secret!” Leutwyler says. “I look forward to getting started on her portrait!”
Leutwyler was also selected as the winner of the Midsumma Festival guide cover competition, and her design will be used as the hero image throughout the festival. Leutwyler will be also hold court as the feature artist at the Midsumma Festival exhibition at Forty Five Downstairs.
Profile by Garrett Bithell. Photo: Alexandra Duggan
Author and co-writer of an upcoming SBS TV show based on his memoir, The Family Law.
Brisbane writer Benjamin Law has built up a reputation as a humourist with his memoir The Family Law and Gaysia, his adventures in gay Asia. A TV series based on The Family Law premieres on SBS1 in January 2016. “It’s weird to have actors play out a version of your life, but I’m mostly excited,” Law says. “Mainly because there are ridiculous costumes and scenes of children in drag. Australia needs it, frankly.”
Law is also working as a researcher for Blackfella Films (Redfern Now, Mabo, First Contact). The project is an SBS documentary on a spate of gay hate killings that plagued Sydney between the late 70s and mid 90s, many of which remain unsolved.
Law’s own ‘Person to Watch’ for 2016 is Tony Ayres, The Family Law’s executive producer. “He is a total powerhouse, and behind some of the best Australian TV shows coming out in 2016. Like me, he’s a gay Chinese-Australian dude, and committed to ensuring diversity – in all its forms – is represented on screen.”
The Family Law premieres on SBS on Thursday, January 14, 8.30pm.
Profile by Andrew Shaw. Photo: Saskia Wilson
Ready to make his mark as the incoming festival director of Sydney Festival
In a hugely exciting appointment, Sydney Festival announced Wesley Enoch as their incoming Festival Director in June.
He will take the reins from Lieven Bertels, who completes his term in 2016, marking the Festival’s 40th anniversary. Enoch will be at the helm for a three-year tenure from 2017-2019.
Currently Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company, Enoch has in the past worked for Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir, Kooemba Jdarra, Ilibijerri, been a trustee of the Sydney Opera House, and was also a director of the Indigenous section of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
He is also well known as a director of standout shows such as Eora Crossing (2004) and Black Diggers (2014). He also won the Patrick White Playwrights Award in 2005 for The Story of the Miracles at Cookies Table.
“Excited is too inadequate a word for how I’m feeling,” Enoch says. “I have had a long love affair with Sydney Festival and its audiences. I’m totally thrilled to return in the role of Festival Director.
“The Festival is a huge family of people who give their time, resources, money and talent; and I want to meet every single one of them. Festivals provide a huge cultural canvas and help reimagine a city, helping it think creatively and see things differently.
“I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting started.”
Profile by Garrett Bithell. Photo: Courtesy Queensland Theatre Company
Singer-songwriter making a huge impact in Australia and across the world.
2015 really has been Courtney Barnett’s year – but her sheer momentum shows no signs of abating in 2016.
One of Australia’s biggest exports of the past couple of years, Barnett has set herself apart as one of the sharpest, most original singer-songwriters around. Focusing on unique portrayals of everyday life, Barnett’s singular ability to convey mundane moments – magnifying and stretching them into dense micro-narratives – is just the outer shell of her prodigious songwriting skills.
Barnett’s whip-smart debut LP Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit – released independently on her own label Milk Records – debuted at #10 on the US Billboard album sales charts and #4 on the ARIA charts at home in Australia, with seminal track ‘Pedestrian At Best’ hitting the #1 spot on Rolling Stone’s revered ‘Best Songs of 2015’ list.
The past few months have seen Courtney perform her album to sold-out shows across America and Europe, including a coveted support slot for Blur in Los Angeles and New York’s Madison Square Garden.
To top off a stellar year, Barnett is hitting the road around the country in support of her album, kicking off with headline sets at Falls Festival and followed by the Southbound Festival and big gigs in Sydney and Melbourne in January.
“I don’t, like, pick up Rolling Stone and go, ‘Oh, my God. I'm awesome’,” Barnett said earlier this year. “It feels like I’ve somehow tricked everyone! But I’m so happy that there’s a good response.”
Profile by Garrett Bithell. Photo: Courtesy Milk Records
As the new president of ACON, this long-time LGBTI volunteer is ready to serve the community.
It’s been a time of great change and renewal at ACON, NSW’s leading HIV and LGBTI health organisation. In 2015, as the organisation celebrated its 30th anniversary, it also relaunched its brand and overhauled its image, giving the community a clearer view of its outlook, aims and objectives. From HIV prevention and HIV support to women’s health, sexual health and mental health, ACON is here for our community.
It is against this background Dr Justin Koonin is coming in as president, taking over from Mark Orr. And there’s no better candidate for the volunteer role.
Koonin has been involved in LGBTI community organisations in Sydney for the past decade, including two recent stints as an ACON board director, and seven years on the committee of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, including four as male convenor.
“I’ve had the privilege of being involved in ACON’s work as a volunteer, community partner, and board member, and I know first-hand the power of ACON’s programs to connect, educate and empower, so I’m really looking forward to bringing my skills and passion to an organisation which has meant a great deal to me over many years,” Koonin said.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the HIV response in NSW, with the potential to end HIV transmission in our state in the foreseeable future. I’m confident that ACON’s dedicated staff, volunteers, members and supporters, together with partners in government, research and the community, will help us meet the challenge.
“I’m also looking forward helping improve the ways we support people living with HIV as well as making major inroads into broader LGBTI health issues. I’m constantly amazed by the resilience and determination of our community, and hugely optimistic at what we will achieve over the next few years.”
Profile by Reg Domingo. Photo: Deep Field Photogaphy
A role model for transgender women across the globe.
Cate McGregor was born into a military family in Toowoomba, in regional Queensland. She embarked on a successful career in the military, becoming speech writer for Army chief David Morrison. It was in this role that she came out as a trans woman in 2012.
This year, aged 59, she was awarded the Queensland Australian of the Year in recognition of her being a "diversity champion". The highest-ranking transgender woman in the Australian military, her story spread awareness and understanding of transgender people in the wider community when she became the subject of stories in Australian Women's Weekly and featured on ABC TV’s Australian Story.
Speaking at Canberra’s inaugural SpringOUT Pride festival, McGregor said she feared the ongoing debate about marriage equality was about to turn “acrimonious in the extreme” in 2016 as federal politicians grappled with how to deal with the issue. “It's going to put some of the more fragile members of our community at some risk because it's showing every sign of being very polarising and quite nasty.”
Profile by Andrew Shaw. Photo: Hamid Mousa
This LGBTI advocate is a champion of diversity, inclusion and pride in the Greater Shepparton region.
To say Damien Steven is a high achiever would be an understatement. A longtime resident of Shepparton (a regional town in Victoria) Damien represents many of rural North-East Victoria's GLBTIQA interests.
Damien is the convenor of the LGBTIQ OutintheOpen Festival; he is Kildonan UnitingCare’s Community Development Worker in the Diversity Project; he provides basic LGBTI 101 in schools covering everything from understanding sexual orientation to debunking myths about same-sex parented families; he has been a co-facilitator of a rural chapter of PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbian and gay people); and is PR Officer (previously presiding over) Goulburn Valley (GV) Pride Inc. for the last 10 years which is Greater Shepparton's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer & allies social group.
This year he was awarded Greater Shepparton's Volunteer of the Year award. He has also been the Greens candidate for Murray/Shepparton in the most recent Federal and State elections.
Through Damien’s work with the local LGBTIQ community in Shepparton there has been a huge shift in attitudes and awareness of the issues facing LGBTIQ people in the area.
Damien says: “Helping improve young people's lives is what I am passionate about - supporting them to feel like they belong, and to feel 'okay', 'good' and 'great' about being exactly who they are brings me great joy and job satisfaction.
“It's great to have the work acknowledged and be recognised as there's been an awesome commitment to SSASGDYP and their communities of LGBTI people and allies over the last 15-20 years. We're saving lives - people have told us so. We do a great job in the community. We're needed. Greater Shepparton is more inclusive and a more tolerant place to live due to our long-term effort and investment.”
Profile by Rachel Cook. Photo: Supplied
Mental health social worker with the Queensland AIDS Council.
Max MacKenzie made history when he became Mr Queensland Leather in 2014, the first time a man with a trans history won the title. This year he began working as the mental health social worker at the Queensland AIDS Council, drawing on eleven years’ experience in the mental health sector.
In 2016 MacKenzie is taking a secondment for six months to work in the far north with a remote community. “I am excited about this opportunity to travel and learn a little more about other parts of our country, and although I will miss the day to day adventures of my home and life here in Brisbane I will learn ongoing things in my journey as a mental health social worker and will continue to engage in areas across the LGBTI community both in private practice and in my day to day work,” he says.
“Personally I am hoping to use my time to continue to work on my manuscript and writing as creative writing is very dear to me, as is continuing to write and commentate in the exciting trans and gender diverse space. I continue to be inspired by rope artistry and the art of Shibari and am looking to explore more performance based art using this medium and other modalities in the New Year. I will also continue to focus on my physical fitness and health as this is a continuing pressure area for me.”
Profile by Andrew Shaw. Photo: Brendan Burke
Challenging transphobia and promoting diversity through groundbreaking campaigns.
We are not the only ones who have recognised the great work Margot Fink is doing. This year Margot was nominated as a Young Australian of the Year finalist for her work and advocacy.
Margot says that part of the motivation for the work she does is that growing up transgender she often felt isolated and alone and has set about to ensure other young people don’t have to feel the same way.
Through her role at Minus18, the national organisation for LGBTI youth, Margot has bravely shared her experiences. She has been a driving force behind the Gender Is Not Uniform campaign. The campaign was aimed at educating young people about gender diversity and highlighting the issues that transgender youth face in schools.
She was also instrumental in developing All Of Us, the first nationally-approved teaching resource on LGBTI topics for Australian high schools, and has spearheaded the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia campaigns. Each year, she helps to organise the Same Sex Gender Diverse Formal, bringing together hundreds of LGBTI young people from across Australia.
A powerful force behind Minus18, Margot is determined to reduce the discrimination and stigma faced by LGBTI Australians.
“I want to advocate for equality under the law for LGBTI young people including greater protection from exclusion, better access to medical services and treatment for trans youth, and reduce discrimination against trans and intersex young people,!” she said.
“I’m keen to further amplify trans youth voices, and hopefully develop a national trans and gender diversity focused resource to accompany some of the other fantastic resources Safe Schools and Minus18 have created. We’ve seen some big steps forward for trans youth, and I want to take that to the next level!”
Profile by Rachel Cook. Photo: Supplied
WILLIAM 'BILLY' RUSSELL
Anti-bullying campaigner and creator of Teen Support Network in Adelaide.
William Russell is a fighter. He had a stroke while still in his mother’s womb and when he was born the doctors said he wouldn’t live. When he did, they said he would never walk or talk. After years of childhood therapy, Russell again proved them wrong. He started up Teen Support Network in 2012 as an anti-bullying and anti-harassment resource for teenagers and it’s been growing ever since. Russell received a Young Citizen of the Year award from the City of Mitcham in 2014 and in 2015 received an Advertiser/Sunday Mail/ Messenger Press “Pride of Australia” award in the Young Leaders category. 2016 is going to be a big year for Russell as he plans to expand Teen Support Network.
“I have a small team at the moment but in 2016 we plan to become a not-for-profit organisation, so we’ll need more people to come on board as a full committee,” Russell says. “I’d also like to focus more on LGBTI issues as well as bullying.”
Indeed, the Network plans to start school visits next year addressing students on the dangers of bullying; there’s a page on the website where schools can contact them to request a visit. “We’ll work out different packages for the varying needs of different schools,” Russell says.
On top of all this he’s completing a double diploma in Counselling/ Community Services, so 2016 will be a very busy year for Russell.
He just laughs, “I’m looking forward to the challenge!” Ron Hughes
Profile/photo by Ron Hughes
STARTING FROM NOW
The local lesbian web series that’s garnering international attention.
It’s not often a webseries engages the hearts and minds of the community but writer director Julie Kalceff’s Starting From Now has proved to be one hugely addictive slice of drama. A tale of the life and loves of a posse of 30-something Newtown lesbians, this home-grown web series serves up sizzling drama from its all-girl cast and is helmed by a female production team. Talk about girl power!
Viewed in over 227 countries and with over 20 million views in its first year of release, Starting From Now has clocked up three seasons and has just wrapped production on its fourth and fifth series.
Kalceff says she wrote Starting From Now as a direct response to a lack of diversity on Australian television screens.
“From the beginning, the intention was to portray complex female characters that happen to be lesbians,” Kalceff says.
It’s a simple enough premise but with a community starved for lesbian stories that are more than poorly scripted porn, Kalceff and co. have delivered a series that captures and celebrates the highs and lows of life.
“The series is about what it means to be human and the diversity of issues we’re confronted with on a daily basis. It just happens to be set in the LGBTI community,” says Kalceff.
Profile by Cec Busby. Photo: Supplied
Artistic director of Malthouse Theatre is ready to take the Melbourne institution to the next level.
Wunderkind director Matthew Lutton was officially appointed Malthouse Theatre’s new Artistic Director in July, from a highly competitive field of applicants from around the world. Lutton, formerly an Associate Artist with Malthouse, had been acting in the role of Artistic Director since the departure of Marion Potts in March.
“The past three and half years I’ve spent at Malthouse Theatre have been incredibly important to me – it’s been my creative home, and a company that has allowed me to take risks and grow as an artist,” Lutton says.
“I look forward to continuing to drive the company’s vision to create theatre that isn’t afraid of being complex, in a building where Melbourne audiences come to be entertained and talk about big ideas.
“I want to build on Malthouse Theatre’s past successes, especially the company’s history of collaborating with the independent sector and indigenous artists, and I feel very passionate about increasing our ability to bring together international and independent artists under the same roof.”
Lutton’s experience in the performing arts is diverse, and positions him well to drive Malthouse Theatre’s artistic mission, having worked across both independent and professional theatre sectors.
At the tender age of just 17, Lutton founded his own company in Perth, ThinIce, which he led until relocating to Melbourne in 2012. As an award-winning director, Lutton has worked on projects ranging from intimate performance to grand opera, collaborating with companies such as Black Swan State Theatre, Belvoir, Sydney Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, Opera Australia, West Australian Opera, New Zealand Opera and Bavarian State Opera.
Lutton’s appointment makes him the youngest person currently at the artistic helm of a major theatre company, at age 30.
Profile by Garrett Bithell. Photo: Courtesy Malthouse Theatre
Guiding Australia’s pre-eminent drag institution into an exciting era of change and revitalisation.
It’s been seven years since Sheila Blige took over the running of the Drag Industry Variety Awards, taking the reins at a crucial junction for the ailing organisation. But judging from the consecutive successes of every DIVA Awards since, we can rest assured the event is here to stay. The most recent DIVA was a smash hit on all fronts, all thanks to the work of Sheila and her passionate band of volunteers.
“It was with an amazing sense of pride that I stood on that stage with a sell-out audience a few weeks ago,” Sheila says. “We started with no money in the bank and four sponsors seven years ago and to hear people say we now deliver a night on par for fabulousness with DIVA of old is a huge triumph. That could only happen through the dedication of the DIVA team and the financial assistance we receive from the venues and amazing performers each year.”
But DIVA is again at a crossroads. When the event started 25 years ago, Sydney was home to a large number of gay venues, each with a robust program of drag shows and performances. These days, however, the scene is much smaller and stages are few and far between. This presents a unique opportunity to usher in a new era for Sydney’s pre-eminent drag institution – and all eyes will be on Sheila in 2016 to see how she and her team deliver. Sheila is excited but stresses that the shaping of DIVA is a community endeavour.
“We can only take this event forward with the support of the drag community and venues. Consultation is high on our list of priorities for 2016,” Sheila says.
“DIVA has long held its place in the scene and has been the go-to event for organisations to come to when they need drag outside the strip – think the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony. If it is to remain that, it needs to remain relevant and it needs to evolve whilst staying true to her core value of celebrating drag in all its forms.”
Profile by Reg Domingo. Photo: Deep Field Photography
An Army major determined to make his mark in federal politics.
After two tours in Iraq with the Australian Army, Major Pat O’Neill is ready for the war zone of Australian federal politics. As Labor candidate for the seat of Brisbane, held by the LNP’s Teresa Gambaro, O’Neill will have to resign his commission once the election writs are issued for the election which looks likely to be held in October. He will spend 2016 campaigning on issues such as innovation, renewable energy, affordable education and equality. “Giving voice to all those people is going to be a great challenge! I’ve also signed up to do the Noosa Triathlon, so I’ll be dragging my bike out of the shed and spending some time on the road and in the pool.”
After growing up in Baralaba, a small town halfway between Banana and Dingo in Central Queensland, O’Neill joined the Army straight out of school 17 years ago. His move to politics is motivated by a belief in fairness and equality. “I want to ensure that everyone, regardless of who they love or the postcode they were born in, is treated with equality and respect.”
He says the Army has been a great career for him, one to which he will return if he is unsuccessful next year. “I will absolutely miss it,” he says. “It has been an immense privilege to serve and spend 17 years doing something that I feel has been important and worthwhile. I’d rejoin in a heartbeat – but I’m not planning to lose.”
Profile by Andrew Shaw. Photo: Supplied
Leading the way as Victoria’s Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality.
When the news was announced Victoria was getting a Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality the first question was who will get the job?
There was much celebration when we found out it was Rowena Allen.
Rowena has been a driving force behind several initiatives for the LGBTIQ community. She has been a member of three Victorian Government LGBTI ministerial advisory groups and chaired the ministerial advisory committee on LGBTI Health and Wellbeing between 2007 and 2009.
She was also the founding CEO of UnitingCare Cutting Edge, where she established Victoria’s first rural support group for young LGBTI people, giving her a particular understanding of the issues faced in rural and regional areas.
Rowena is a former Chair of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board, the Victorian Skills Commission, the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVIC), and former member of the Hume Regional Development Australia Committee.
Rowena has also been recognised for community service: in 2003 she received a Centenary Medal and in 2009 she was inducted into the Victorian Government Honour Roll for Women.
As Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality Rowena will champion the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) Victorians within the Government. She will also review existing legislation to ensure it is non-discriminatory, partner with researchers from universities and non-government organisations, and address discrimination against LGBTI people in the health system, schools and workplaces.
Looking to the future Rowena says her hopes are clear cut:
"I am looking forward to marriage equality and the elimination of discrimination for LGBTI Victorians."
Profile by Rachel Cook. Photo: Supplied
LAUREN FOY & CHRIS PYCROFT
The new co-convenors of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby are eager to push for change.
After a stint in social work at a non-profit, LGBTI advocate Lauren Foy realised she could no longer sit idly by pushing paper but needed to be part of the solution.
“I decided that somehow I needed to make a change,” she says. “I needed to find a way to make a noise. I wasn't going to sit back and allow people I was advocating for; people I care about or myself, continue to be a second class citizen.”
And thus began Foy’s journey into the world of LGBTI advocacy. Now the co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL). Foy says she wants to live in a world where saying the words lesbian or gay isn't confronting for the next door neighbour, the GP, the politician.
“Fundamentally, it comes down to basic human decency and respect. I want to be able to look back on my life without regret and say that I did all that I possibly could to make the world around me a fairer place to live in,” she says.
She says taking on the mantle of co-convenor at the lobby is both daunting and humbling.
“GLRL is an organisation with a very rich and influential history. If ten years ago someone said to me I'd be here doing this, I'd of likely laughed at them.
“What I do know is, the intelligence, strength and commitment of the people we are working with makes the thought of it a whole lot easier to comprehend. I believe in this committee and their will power to make change. To be in an environment where our sense of purpose is so clear and concise that we just get on with the business of change, it's exciting.”
“I've always felt it grossly unfair for any person to experience anything less than equality,” says Chris Pycroft. Little wonder then that this champion of social justice is now co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
“Inequality is something that I'll never be able to accept, and I'll always look to push for change whenever I possibly can,” he tells SX. Having recently stepped into the shoes of outgoing convenor Justin Koonin, Pycroft says he is looking forward to making change happen.
“It's a great privilege with such a great group of people (in particular our Management Committee), and I'm thrilled to continue to be a part of it,” he says. With A federal election looming and marriage equality on everyone’s lips, Pycroft says the lobby is gearing up for a big 12 months.
“Schools and education will also play a big role in the next year in a number of ways, from continuing to grow the Safe Schools Coalition, to making sure the national curriculum includes sexual orientation and gender identity, to preventing students from being expelled or teachers being fired from schools because of who they are - these exemptions need to be removed in order for schools to be as inclusive as they possibly can be,” he explains.
In 2016 Pycroft hopes to increase the lobby’s role in growing the health and wellbeing of our community and is keen to see greater representation across the organisation.
“It's a personal goal also to engage with as many people as we possibly can, and to have them a part of GLRL to help us fight for our rights. There are so many issues that have a greater impact on our community than is often realised; it's exceptionally important that these issues are heard, that people have a voice and demand for that change to happen.”
Profiles/photo by Cec Busby.
This law advocate is ready to defend the legal rights of LGBTI people in NSW.
As the new director of the Inner City Legal Centre, Vicki Harding is looking forward to an exciting year ahead. She’s been in the job a few months now and is eager to see what 2016 brings.
“I love it here,” she says. “There is an amazing passion for the work we do, and many talented people to do it - 50 volunteer solicitors, 30 volunteer students and some seriously impressive staff! Who wouldn’t want to hang out for a community organisation working hard for the legal rights of LGBTIQ folk?”
Indeed, the legal rights landscape of LGBTIQ people is as diverse, demanding and challenging as ever and Harding is keen to blaze the trail.
“I think next year will see ICLC leading the way with transgender legal issues,” she says.
“We are assisting more and more parents of transgender kids with applications for special medical procedures - a growing area, as most schools in NSW now have at least one transgender student. Look out for us at Mardi Gras, marching with these amazing parents!
“We will also be running a campaign to let LGBTIQ people know how they can expunge historical criminal convictions for a number of now decriminalised offences.”
And it won’t stop. ICLC has always held a place in the heart of the LGBTIQ community and Harding is committed to upholding that honour – and more.
“I would like to see ICLC become even more entrenched in the community,” she says. “We are planning to run outreach services wherever people who might need them are - like St Vincent's Hospital, Manly Community Centre, City of Sydney libraries and of course Twenty10, SWOP and the Gender Centre. We will be constantly looking for ways to be more accessible and always totally relevant.”
Profile by Reg Domingo. Photo: Cec Busby
Fortitude Valley police officer proud to wear the uniform in a changing organisation.
Ben Bjarnesen grew up in Toowoomba, before moving to Brisbane. Located in the Fortitude Valley precinct, he previously spent a number of years as Police LGBTI Liaison Officer for the Roma District, and this year he got to march in uniform for the first time with fellow officers at the Brisbane Pride Festival Pride March. “It was a historical occasion for us to be able to march in uniform representing the Queensland Police Service and something that I was truly proud to be a part of,” Bjarnesen says. “It was overwhelming to see the support that we had from the community also.”
Of the change from working in the country to the city, Bjarnesen says Roma has a population of approximately 7,000 people and six hotels, while Fortitude Valley Division has a population of over 22,000 residents and 217 licensed premises. On a typical Friday and Saturday night approximately 50,000 people visit the Valley.
And what’s in store for 2016? “In consultation with members of the community and LGBTI support services, we are working on a number of inclusion and diversity projects including a QPS guide to gender diversity. 2016 will be a very exciting time for us and we look forward to being able to share our hard work with you in the New Year.”
Profile by Andrew Shaw. Photo: Supplied