Should there be a minister for gay and lesbian affairs? The National LGBT Health Alliance has raised the question, as newly released figures show the rates of poor health in the community could be higher than thought.
Previously unpublished statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, released at the recent Health In Difference conference, have prompted calls for greater inclusion of LGBTI people in national health strategies.
Gay and lesbian people are four times more likely to have attempted suicide, twice as likely to have psychological problems and are more likely to suffer from a chronic illness. Compounding those problems are statistics showing that they are twice as likely to have no contact with family members, and are four times more likely to have been homeless.
“Most equity groups have significant government infrastructure,” National LGBT Health Alliance chair Paul Martin said, “including a named minister or parliamentary secretary, a national advisory group, a resourced departmental unit, a national strategy and one or more funded NGO peak bodies. The LGBTI community has none of this.”
Operating as a peak body representing 76 different LGBTI organisations, the Alliance remains unfunded by Government.
Alliance director Gabi Rosenstreich acknowledged the presence of senior Government officials at the conference, including parliamentary secretary for health Mark Butler and secretary for social inclusion Ursula Stephens, but she called for financial support.
“These efforts can’t be one-sided. Our work needs to be supported,” Rosenstreich said.
“The Alliance and our members have an important part to play in improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people, and we stand ready to work in partnership with government to improve the health of all Australians.”
Senator Ursula Stephens declined to comment.