An inter-council liaison group to foster greater GLBTI community inclusion will be formed in Melbourne’s west.

Hobsons Bay City Council held the GO West Queer Culture Forum in February to discuss GLBTI issues in the western suburbs and has this month released a report with several recommendations for greater GLBTI visibility and inclusion.

Leading the project, Hobsons Bay City Council Deputy Mayor Tony Briffa said it was time councils in the area set up a formal advisory group specifically for the GLBTI community.

“I have always been committed to human rights and am acutely aware of local government’s impact on the day-to-day lives of people,” he said.

“Hobsons Bay Council … does lots of great community work … but nothing had been established to ensure we are addressing GLBTI issues.

“My vision is to create a meaningful ongoing dialogue with the GLBTI community to identify and address issues where we can make a difference.”

While Melbourne’s west has not traditionally been known as a gay hot spot, Briffa said the area is just as important to target as the inner city.

“The GLBTI community is everywhere, it’s just the level of openness that varies and that’s largely dependent on societal acceptance and safety.

“I have known GLBTI people in Melbourne’s western suburbs all my life.

“Hopefully our recent work to show public support for the GLBTI community means people are more comfortable about being open about their relationships and gender identity.”

In addition to the liaison group, some of the key recommendations in the GO West report include creating a two-day a week council officer role to take responsibility for GLBTI issues in the area; ensure GLBTI literature and media are available in local libraries; giving council staff diversity training; and important dates on the GLBTI calendar marked as significant days.

Issues that arose in the forum in February included providing unisex toilets for transgender people, reducing use of the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ in local schools, and extending diversity training to aged care services.

Briffa said support from surrounding councils has so far been “very positive”.

Banyule, Geelong, Maribyrnong  and Melton councils took part in the GO West forum and all western councils are being invited to participate in the liaison group.

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