Home' LOTL : August 2010 Contents 14 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
Lifestyle Opinion / Profile / Travel / Food / Stars
Older sexuality, sex and gender
diverse Australians have signi cant health
and wellbeing issues due to years of stigma,
discrimination and social exclusion, and of course
ageism within our own community. In addition,
many years of economic disadvantage, particularly
for women, have been exacerbated by changes to
Centrelink entitlements for same-sex couples.
Research by the WA LGBT Retirement
Association Inc. (GRAI) revealed that residential
aged care service providers are open to lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, intersex and other sexuality,
sex and gender diverse (LGBT) seniors, but have
an over whelming lack of understanding of their
experiences and needs. Catherine Barrett's study for
the Matrix Guild Victoria showed that many of us
are very concerned about how we will be treated if we
go into residential aged care, especially stigmatisation
and discrimination by sta . Knowing that sta are
trained would be reassuring.
In June the Federal O ce for Ageing agreed to
fund LGBT sensitivity training for NSW-based
residential aged care service providers. is is a small
but important step.
It is particularly signi cant because for the rst
time the O ce for Ageing is explicitly acknowledging
the needs of LGBT seniors with targeted work. I see
a genuine desire to move for ward on these issues
among o cials.
However, this funding also highlights the need for a
federal framework: for ongoing national programs, for
federal policy, and for coordinated consultation with
the LGBT community sector.
ere is no quick x: We need a sustained national
response to a national problem. Not all LGBT
Australians live in NSW, and many will never live
in one of the residences bene ting directly from
this training. Once evaluated, the project could be
a stepping stone towards a broader initiative. To be
most e ective, such a program should utilise the rich
experience of the various (mostly unfunded) initiatives
around the country, for example the QAHC LGBT
Ageing Action Group's aged care provider training
in ueensland and GRAI's best practice guidelines.
Collaboration requires national structures and
resources. Not necessarily huge amounts of money, but
rather sustained funding for ongoing work to build on
programs and support partnerships between the aged
care sector and LGBT community groups.
A national policy framework would support such
LGBT people's needs must be addressed in all
aged care services, standards and accreditation
processes, not just residential care, and the system
must include mechanisms to identify and respond
to gaps and discrimination. We need more research
on the wellbeing of LGBT seniors, including social
and economic needs. We need dedicated aged care
packages and LGBT community-based information,
assessment and case coordination ser vices. ese
needs are unlikely to be met until LGBT seniors are
explicitly recognised as a priority population in the
ageing policies that guide decision-making. And that
requires political will.
e Federal government invests in engagement with
seniors. It has a Minister, advisory group, resourced
departmental unit (the O ce for an Ageing Australia),
a national strategy, and several funded national NGO
peak bodies. However, the voices and expertise of
LGBT people are invisible in these structures. Given
that there is no government infrastructure with
which to e ectively engage with LGBT people, as a
community we have created our own in the National
LGBT Health Alliance.
e Alliance is setting up structures for its members
across the country to collaboratively progress key
issues for sexuality, sex and gender diverse Australians.
Speaking together our voice is strong when we engage
with the O ce for Ageing and other government
agencies, for example, the Productivity Commission's
review of the aged care sector.
ere is clear evidence of need. ere is
groundbreaking work being done within the LGBT
community. Both the aged care sector and the O ce
for Ageing appear ready to tackle the issues, but they
need support. Now it is up to the federal government to
step up and provide a strong framework -- that means
addressing LGBT issues in policies and programs
and ensuring that they are e ective by working in
partnership with the LGBT community sector.
Collectively and individually, we need to raise our
voices and let politicians and federal agencies know we
To nd out more about the Alliance,
Ask your MP how they are working with the LGBT
community to address LGBT ageing issues.
Ageing is a very personal experience, but it is also an issue for federal politics and policy.
Gabi Rosenstreich reports.
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