News Focus | Support for Wimmera LGBTI youth

RAINBOW PRIDE: Members of Horsham headspace's Rainbow Group for LGBTI youth stand proud with their rainbow flag and trans flag. Picture: JADE BATE
RAINBOW PRIDE: Members of Horsham headspace's Rainbow Group for LGBTI youth stand proud with their rainbow flag and trans flag. Picture: JADE BATE

SINCE its inception less than a year ago, headspace Horsham’s support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex youth has gone from strength to strength.

Currently known as the Rainbow Group, it has grown from five members to up to 19 regular attendees. The jump in numbers meant the group needed to find a new meeting spot as it had outgrown its previous home.

Headspace Horsham LGBTI youth support worker Maddi Ostapiw said the idea for the group came from last year’s LGBTI Equality Roadshow.

“Following the roadshow, the then headspace Horsham manager decided that more needed to be done to support Wimmera LGBTI youth and my role of LGBTI youth support worker was created,” they said.

“One of the very first things I realised we needed was to have a youth group for LGBTI kids.

“So whether their identity was on the gender side of things or sexuality side of things, they could all come together, socialise and talk about the issues that mattered the most to them.”

Maddi said the rise in numbers had provided the group with more opportunities.

“We were recently granted some funding money through headspace, which meant we were able to take some young members to Melbourne for the Minus18 Queer Formal, which was fantastic,” they said.

“Our numbers have grown mostly through word-of-mouth and through young people realising that there are other people like them in the community.”

Maddi said experiences varied for each young person.

“We have one young trans person who is experiencing a very difficult time, but they have bonded very closely to another trans person in the group,” they said. 

“Young people from Horsham College have been able to connect to their peers from Murtoa.

It can be daunting to walk into a room and be yourself for the first time.

Headspace Horsham LGBTI youth support worker Maddi Ostapiw

“For a lot of them, the group has been a way for them to claim who they are publicly.

“One of the young people in this group has started using their preferred pronouns, have changed their name and have started to transition socially in their school.”

The group meets every fortnight on Thursdays in Horsham, and activities are often thought up on the spot.

“I often find that we don’t need a structure because these young people are so passionate and energetic that they end up coming up with their own agenda,” they said.

“We are working on balancing how we can make this really fun for young people, but also functional to inform the community.​

“There are many amazing advocates in this group. I’m also organising some guest speakers to come in, one is a trans advocate from the area. We are also looking at potentially having a sexual health nurse coming in one day, because the young people have said that’s something that’s lacking in schools.”

Maddi said the group was always open to new members.

“If you have thought about coming along, please do. It can be daunting to walk into a room and be yourself for the first time,” they said.

“Even if you are not certain about who you are at the moment, this is a group of people who can help you.

“If there are young people who are a bit out of Horsham and can’t make it on a Thursday, they can still contact headspace and register their information because one thing we are looking at is transporting young people smaller towns around the region.”

Those wishing to inquire about the group can contact headspace Horsham on 5381 1543.