GEIFN | REPORTS | LGBTI Inclusion in Faith Communities Forum | 17 August 2017 | 9.30am-3.30pm

Fostering inclusive environments for LGBTIQ+ people of faith is a role of faith, leaders and community. 

Guest speakers included Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott MP; Minister for Equality Martin Foley MP; leaders from diverse faith communities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and gender questioning (LGBTIQ+) people of faith.

Research conducted among LGBTIQ+ people of faith in Victoria has highlighted the need to create safe, welcoming spaces in our communities and places of worship. Creating supportive networks for faith leaders in which to share experiences and learn from each other.

At this forum, participants had opportunity to share best practice approaches, including provision of pastoral care to LGBTIQ+ people of faith, use of inclusive/affirming language and interpretation of scripture.

Faith and/or community leaders contributed to a sensitive and respectful conversation to support positive mental health and well-being outcomes for LGBTIQ+ people of faith.
While many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people lead healthy and fulfilling lives, research clearly indicates that discrimination, abuse and exclusion on the basis of sexual and/or gender identity are key contributors to increased rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm (Leonard et al. 2015).
In October 2016, State Government Victoria awarded significant grants to multicultural organisations to improve health, well-being and societal outcomes for its LGBTIQ+ youth and wider community. Mathew Wade reported “Victoria Provides $500,000 In Funding For LGBTI Multicultural Organisations” via The Star Observer http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/victoria-news/victoria-multicultural- grants/153131

In August 2017, some of those recipients gave their time to report on progress and work still to do:
Imam Nur Warsame, Marhaba Melbourne, reported his small team has gone from supporting regularly 500 to over 1,000 Muslim youth from around Australia and world struggling with their identity and wishing to reconcile sexuality with faith. With increased public profile, he is also providing ancillary support now from parents struggling to understand/accept/love their LGBTIQA+ child/ren. Patrick Abboud invites us to “Meet Australia's first openly gay Imam” via SBS | The Feed http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/05/02/meet-australias-first-openly-gay-imam

Dr Maria Palotta-Chiarolli, Deakin University, Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC)
Discussed the value in acknowledging and including Indigenous Australians in our thinking, role-modeling and activities, encouraging all community to be pro-active. http://www.agmc.org.au 
On Seeking Mental Health Support from Mainstream, Religious and LGBTIQ Services.
Overwhelmingly, experiences were negative due to invisibility; misrepresentations; erasures and invalidation; pathologization; problematization; condemnation and lack of resources. On reclaiming Multicultural Queer Histories by answering two questions:
  1. Why is homosexuality considered by some Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) individuals and communities to be Western “sin”, “sickness”, “crime”?
  2. How has colonialism erased, ignored, or re-written pre-colonial and pre-Christian sexual and gender diversities?
Dr Reem Sweid, Muslims for Progressive Values. Recommended
• Train local GP’s on LGBTIQ+ issues
• Train LGBTIQ+ services on Muslim issues
• Assist community services to support LGBTIQ+ Muslims in general context
• Target specific information for specific Muslim groups
• Statements and support from Muslim and political leaders
• More online resources and apps (including on topics such as how to stay safe, how to
handle abuse)

Liam Leonard, La Trobe University and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria (GLHV)
GLHV is a LGBTIQ+ health and wellbeing policy and resource unit committed to improving health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ Victorians and quality of care received.
Delivers programs focusing on sexual health and aging, same-sex attracted and sex and gender diverse (SSASGD) young people, and LGBTI-inclusive practice. Provides LGBTIQ+-training, support and resources to workers across the health, education and community sectors
• 2014’s Nothing for them: understanding the support needs of LGBTIQ+ young people from
refugee and newly arrived backgrounds. This report is the result of a small study undertaken to explore services and referral pathways, if any, are currently available for refugee and newly arrived young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans or those who may be questioning their sexual feelings and/or gender identity. http://www.glhv.org.au/ report/nothing-them-understanding-support-needs-lgbt-young-people-refugee-and-newly- arrived
• 2016’s Something for them: Meeting the support needs of same sex attracted, sex and gender diverse (SSASGD) young people who are recently arrived, refugees or asylum seekers. This report aims to better understand and address unique experiences and needs of same sex attracted, sex and gender diverse (SSASGD) young people who are recently arrived, refugees or seeking asylum in Australia. Website: http://www.glhv.org.au/report/something- them
Intersect. LGBTIQ+-inclusive Multi-faith and Multicultural communities consultations that will assist GLHV and VTMH develop culturally sensitve, LGBTIQ+@-inclusive training and resources. Participants can share their experience/views in consultation groups, facilitate conversations within own community, share the project information, complete online survey, be confidentially interviewed, register interest on project database, nominate your service/organisation to trial/review resource or training, request training for your service/ organisation. Email: vtmh@svha.org.au

Dr Judy Tang, Australian GLBT Multicultural Council
AGMC was formed for advocacy on behalf of and knowledge for people who identify as Multicultural / Multifaith (MC/MF) AND LGBTIQ+. She recommended:
1. Know your power
2. Just discussion is ok
3. Leaders should be educated
4. Appreciate historical context
5. Concerns for gender based rituals/ceremonies
6. LGBTI inclusive vs. LGBTI affirmative
7. Don’t leave your people behind for fundamentalists
8. Connect with your ESL groups
9. Everyone is at different stages
MORE: AGMC, Judy Tang (President), judy@agmc.org.au

A Panel Discussion had invited speakers speaking of their personal and religious tradition’s openness, reality and suggestions for Successful Approaches to Inclusion
Facilitated by: Sharon Hollis, Uniting Church
• Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Leo Baeck Centre
Molina Asthana, Asian Rainbow Network
• Rev. Dr Avril Hannah-Jones, Uniting Church
• Dr Reem Sweid, Muslims for Progressive Values 
• Rev. Dr Sunny Chen, Melbourne University

On behalf of Buddhist Council Victoria Interfaith (bINTER) and Glen Eira Interfaith Network (GEIFN), thankyou to Organisers and Participants working tirelessly to redress historical, and presenting inequalities. Inspired programming on day, beautiful catering and refreshments was well-received. Shining a spotlight on some of the challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ identifying individuals and local “heavy lifters” creating brighter futures. Thankyou to the wider community for their vocal, heart warming and demonstrative positive support for a more equitable society. Received with gratitude.

MORE:
Glen Eira Interfaith Network (GEIFN)
Global engagement in friendly neighborhoods
Caretaker Carey Rohrlach
Email: carey@caro.com.au
Website: www.gleneirainterfaith.org
Q. What is Interfaith?
A. Humanising 'the other'