Fostering a more inclusive society where everyone feels valued and supported will only improve and strengthen the health and wellbeing of LGBTI Australians, writes ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill.

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Last month, Australia joined countries around the world in marking International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

Observed on May 17, IDAHOBIT is held in commemoration of the day in 1990 the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder and strives to unite people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Fostering an inclusive society that is welcoming to all is important for the health and wellbeing of people in our communities.

Research clearly shows that LGBTI people have significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide than the general population.

LGBTI people have poorer health outcomes not because of who they are, but because of societal stigma, discrimination, and prejudice, that results in their ill treatment and social isolation.

Through a range of programs and partnerships, ACON is working hard to ensure LGBTI people feel included and supported wherever they may live, work, study, or play.

Our suite of social inclusion initiatives Pride Inclusion Programs, for example, assists employers, sporting organisations, and health service providers around the country with all aspects of LGBTI inclusion.

Established in 2009, Pride in Diversity has been a driving force in making Australian workplaces more inclusive of LGBTI people.

Through our Pride in Sport program, we assist national and state sporting clubs and organisations with the inclusion of LGBTI employees, players, coaches, volunteers, and spectators.

And with Pride in Health+Wellbeing, we work with organisations in the health and wellbeing sector with LGBTI inclusive service provision and delivery.

Partnerships and collaboration are essential in reducing exclusion, invisibility, and stigma, and in 2018, IDAHOBIT’s global theme was ‘Alliances for Solidarity’.

No battle is won in isolation and strides towards social justice and inclusion are only possible when taken in step with our allies.

In celebration of this year’s IDAHOBIT theme, ACON teamed up with range of partners to produce a social media campaign that reflected on the important role allies have played in our struggle for equality and encouraged people to honour those who have stood by our communities in solidarity.

We have made significant progress over recent years in fostering a more inclusive Australia, including the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

But with many LGBTI Australians and families continuing to be targets of prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion, there is still a long way to go.

Let’s reflect on how far we’ve come and as we look to the future, let’s continue to work together in raising visibility, challenging prejudice, and creating an inclusive and cohesive society that is healthier for us all.

For more information about ACON’s social and workplace inclusion work, go to acon.org.au.

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