VICTORIA’S Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Ro Allen has met with individuals and groups from across the Wimmera as part of a tour of regional Victoria.
Commissioner Allen said she discussed health and wellbeing issues with participants at Horsham’s Wimmera Trade Training Centre on Thursday morning.
“It’s been fantastic so far. There’s been a room full of people. They’re really open and interested,” Commissioner Allen said.
“They are all coming from different levels of understanding; some are from the LGBTI community and many are coming for the first time to learn some of the issues.
“So far we have talked about my role and some of the issues around family violence in the LGBTI community, some of the discrimination we still experience, coming out issues, self harm and suicide by young LGBTI people.”
Commissioner Allen said she had been told that many young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or gender diverse people in the Wimmera had felt they needed to leave the area.
“We’ve talked about how to make our communities a bit safer so young people don’t feel they need to leave Horsham to be their authentic self,” she said.
Commissioner Allen said her role was not set by legislation, which gave her a of of freedom to respond to community concerns.
“My main job is to educate and advocate, change hearts and minds,” she said.
“My job description is to make Victoria a safer place for LGBTI communities.”
Commissioner Allen praised the work of the Wimmera Pride Project, which started after co-founder Maddi Ostapiw reached out to her office.
“The big issue for me is how Maddie and Loucas Vettos and the other community members who started Wimmera Pride can be supported,” she said.
“How can we get organisations like the hospital and the police behind them, because they are absolute champions for the region. They are saving lives.
Commissioner Allen said Ms Ostapiw wrote to her within three months of starting work as Victoria’s Gender and Sexuality Commissioner.
“We made a couple of phone calls and hooked her up with Wimmera Uniting Care,” she said.
“Her letter was about young people taking their own lives or moving away from Horsham, and how upset that made her and how could I help.
“That letter moved me, and here I am.”
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