WHILE marriage equality is a hot issue for Australia, community groups are putting out a call to action to help LGBTI refugees who are trying to live here.

At last year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade Rev Dr Margaret Mayman — along with members of the Uniting Network, a forum for LGBTI people and allies in Australia’s Uniting Church, and her own congregation at Pitt Street Uniting Church — marched to highlight the issue of LGBTI people in Australian detention centres.

 For this year’s Mardi Gras Mayman has decided to take it one step further by hosting a forum for Mardi Gras’ Queer Thinking series called LGBTQI Refugees: Australia Can Do More.

The panel will include expert speakers with a diverse range of backgrounds, including Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, to discuss what people can do to help LGBTI refugees in detention.

“In the parade we were dressed in black and more somber than other floats, we had drummers instead of loud music,” Mayman said.

“People responded really well and we thought what can we do to deepen conversation and get LGBTI people engaged. So we’ve got a forum that’s focused on action and bringing to people’s attention the issue and continue on from what we did last year.

“Right now the community’s energy is focused on marriage equality, which is fine, but we think we could do one more thing at a time.”

A sign outside Pitt St Uniting Church last year. Photo: Facebook

A sign outside Pitt Street Uniting Church last year. (Photo: Facebook)

Mayman, who identifies as a lesbian, said while there was a lot to celebrate at Mardi Gras there is still a lot of discrimination against the LGBTI people globally.

“There’s 70 countries where homosexuality is still illegal, where gay people face the death penalty or authorities turn a blind eye to vigilantes who use violence against gay people,” she said.

“We’re in a relatively privileged position and we need to think of those people who flee persecution to come here and end on Nauru or Manus Island.”

Along with Wilson, the secular panel discussion will include author, LGBTI rights activist and La Trobe University academic Dennis Altman, Asylum Seekers Centre chief operating officer Che Bishop and Imam Nur Warsame, who heads up the Melbourne-based LGBTI Muslim support group Marhaba.

Some of the issues discussed will be how LGBTI refugees disclose their sexuality to seek asylum, how to provide better care for them, and policy issues.

The community forum is free, but registration is required. Click here for details.

LGBTQI Refugees: Australia Can Do More. A Queer Thinking Forum
Wednesday, February 24, 7pm – 9pm
Pitt Street Uniting Church, 264 Pitt St, Sydney
Free event but registration essential

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

For all of Star Observer’s Mardi Gras coverage, click here

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