FORMER NSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir has said Australia should be a model for other countries around the globe when it comes to supporting and celebrating their LGBTI citizens.

Bashir made the comments at NSW Parliament House in Sydney last week as she was declared the inaugural patron of Out for Australia (OFA), a networking and mentoring organisation for young LGBTI professionals.

Formerly known as Out for Sydney, and restricted to the country’s largest city, OFA will hold its first event in Melbourne next month followed by Queensland and the ACT.

Asked by the Star Observer why she had accepted the invitation to be OFA’s figurehead, Bashir said: “I’d be incapable of saying no to a community that I hold in such high regard.”

“I’m passionate about the message for Out for Australia and I believe [they] will reach out to our most talented superb young citizens,” added Bashir, who recollected on the many lesbian and gay people she had worked with and treated during her long career in the health sector.

“What we want are our young people who don’t have to struggle like the young men and women I looked after as a young psychiatrist who sobbed their hearts out in my arms.”

Former NSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir speaking at the launch of Out for Australia. (Photo: Ann-Marie Caililhanna; Star Observer)

Former NSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir speaking at the launch of Out for Australia, where she was declared its inaugural patron. (Photo: Ann-Marie Caililhanna; Star Observer)

Bashir said the organisation shouldn’t stop at just Australia.

“I’m sitting there thinking we can make Out for Australia global,” she said.

“I believe our LGB community has elevated our city and our nation to the world and this is what I would like to see carried across to those very resistant nations – they must change.”

It was sentiments that chimed with Craig Andrade, a principal at law firm Baker & McKenzie who were also announced as OFA’s lead partner.

“If we can get this up and running in Australia why can’t we get this up and running all over the world into harder places?” he said.

Andrade nominated the financial centres of Singapore and Hong Kong as two locations where current attitudes towards LGBTI people should be tested.

“Our Asian backyard is where we’d like to tap into this… and the great thing about Out for Australia is we’re trying to showcase what’s happening here and give courage to management to get behind some of these issues,” he said.

Andrade said that as an out gay partner in the firm, he’d already seen the positive effects of the OFA mentoring program.

Sam Appleton (Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer)

Sam Appleton (Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer)

Sam Appleton, a senior associate with Baker & McKenzie, has mentored an LGBTI graduate through OFA for around 18 months.

He said he signed up to the program because as a young gay solicitor he would have benefited from the advice of someone who had already navigated their way through what can be a conservative workplace.

“It would have been a great help to have just had that insight into what it’s like because it’s a massive leap if you don’t know what working in a corporate environment is like day to day,” said Appleton, who meets his mentee meet every month to discuss job applications, current projects they’re working on and interview techniques.

OFA chief executive Matthew Yeldham said the expansion was a new chapter for an organisation that only held its first event 18 months ago.

However, he highlighted that there were still too many young LGBTI people going into workplaces wondering whether coming out would be the right thing to do and with little or no support.

“If we can make young peoples journeys easier, if we can alleviate anxiety and uncertainties, if we can provide people with role models to aspire towards then we can ensure everyone gets a seat at the table and ultimately improve people’s mental health and wellbeing,” Yeldham said.

Out for Australia CEO Matthew Yeldham speaking at the national launch his organisation. (Photo: Ann-Marie Caililhanna; Star Observer)

Out for Australia CEO Matthew Yeldham speaking at the national launch of his organisation. (Photo: Ann-Marie Caililhanna; Star Observer)

For information about Out for Australia, upcoming networking events and how to apply for the NSW and Victoria mentoring programs, visit www.outforaustralia.org

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