Researchers and aged care workers will met this week to start a professional network for GLBTI aged carers.

Val’s Café -” which derives its name from the original Val’s Coffee Lounge in Swanston St, the -œcamp meeting place du jour in 1950s Melbourne – will build a support network for GLBTI seniors.

La Trobe researcher Catherine Barrett wants to continue Val’s legacy of inclusion, with Val herself now in her 80s.

-œThe whole notion is a place were people can come and be themselves and feel supported, that’s what we want to capture with the café, Barrett told Southern Star. -œIt’s for people to come in and talk to colleagues who also work in aged care and go back and provide best practice for GLBTI older people.

Barret said the quarterly meetings would be as much about celebrating the hard work people have put into the area as making further headway.

-œWe want to look at what the café patrons are doing well first, and then secondly to say, what are their challenges and how can we help them?

Barrett was the chief researcher behind the My People study released last year which revealed many GLBTI seniors live in fear of aged care services, concerned at being -œouted and  misunderstood.

Although the state’s Equal Opportunity Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on sexuality or gender, the study found many GLBTI seniors still felt unsafe disclosing their sexual identity.

A common misconception was an assumption by aged care workers that all senior gay man were HIV positive.

Barrett said it was often difficult for those working in the area to provide GLBTI-friendly services because they tend to work on the issue alone from the inside with little recognition.

-œWhat we’ve heard on a number of fronts is there are a number of people working in aged care services, most of them GLBTI, but not all of them, who are champions of [GLBTI issues] and are doing really good work in aged care, she said.

-œWhat we want to provide is support for them so they can continue in their work and [inclusion] will grow.

Barret said most aged care workers involved with this week’s café are those working in in-home support.

-œIt’s the whole idea that older people shouldn’t have to hide who they are in their own homes, she said.

info: The Val’s Café project is supported by the ALSO Foundation and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria. Visit www.also.org.au

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