A new project is putting people on the ground in regional towns to help report homophobic violence.
Anti-Violence Project Victoria is rolling out the second phase of its AVP Connect project to recruit local ‘champions’ who will act as points-of-contact for people who do not feel safe about reporting homophobic abuse to police.
So far, the project has recruited people in Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Shepparton and Whittlesea.
Organisers now hope to grow the network further by at least another 10 regional towns.
The AVP Victoria will be able to continue educating champions following a recent $15,000 donation from the VicBears in July.
Anti-Violence Project Victoria executive director Greg Adkins (pictured) told the Star Observer the project was needed.
“We know the levels of under-reported homophobic violence in country areas, regional towns, rural centres is huge,” he said.
Adkins said people living in metropolitan areas were three times more likely to report homophobic violence and abuse than those living in regional areas.
“We’re starting to map out the work that can come through that core group of four [areas] as we roll them out to the next 10 municipalities and then hopefully right across the state beyond that,” he said.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) Senior Constable Gabrielle Tyacke told the Star Observer there were some GLLO’s in regional areas but not everywhere.
“It’s great for a local community person to be a contact point for our GLBTI communities in regional areas,” she said.
“If you feel unsure about going to a police officer or if there isn’t a GLLO in your area, then you’ve got a community person who you can speak to who has probably gone through things you have gone through.”
Tyacke also advised anyone who was concerned about being ‘outed’ to look for support in near-by towns as opposed to their own.