Each month we’ll champion two amazing drag queens, DJs, or community heroes in the gay scene. This month’s spotlight falls on Chief Executive of Switchboard, Joe Ball.

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What do you love about Australia’s LGBTI community?

I love the diversity within diversity. We have a long way to go when it comes to fighting for all kinds of equality in our society, but I remember going to the invasion day rallies in Melbourne and feeling so inspired seeing rainbow, trans, and bisexul flags. I love that as a rainbow community we are starting to get it that inequality anywhere is inequality everywhere.

What area do we need to focus on at the moment?

I think we have to start with real justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country, for myself as a non-aboriginal LGBTIQA+ person, I think we need to listen and stand in solidarity with their struggle. Sovereignty was never ceded and this land always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

I would add to this, refugee rights, we need to address the refugee intake conditions and expand it to explicitly include taking refugees based on LGBTIQA+ persecution. In my work at Switchboard we are focused on creating community and peer-led service responses to LGBTIQA+ suicide prevention, mental health, family violence, social isolation, older peoples inclusion, and equity for queer people of colour.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Depending on what day it is, I might be doing school drop off or on another day I might be trying to go for a run; I am on a mission to run 10 kilometres in next year’s Melbourne marathon. Once in the office, anything can happen. I might need to respond to the fall out from the religious freedoms enquiry and work with staff to ensure we have the tele web roster staffed to support the increase in calls.

At least once a week I might be speaking at an event on LGBTI issues and more often than not I am finding time to connect with staff and volunteers. There are a lot of night time commitments in my job but I try to keep these to a minimum plus I prefer to eat at home to keep my diet healthy and to see my family.

Who do you see as an LGBTI hero in the community?

Beyond a doubt my heroes are the Switchboard volunteers. They are truly the unsung heroes of the marriage equality debate and of our community more generally. Under adversity it is Switchboard volunteers who keep showing up with no reward or recognition. If I ever need a boost or a reminder of why I do what I do, I think of the work they do.

Favourite LGBTI venue?

If I can claim this as an LGBTI venue it has to be Bloodwood restaurant in Newtown, Sydney. It’s owned by my best mate Claire and it’s just such a great place, and Claire as the co-owner is queer too, which is cool for representation within hospitality at that level.

Favourite LGBTI anthem?

“We Found Love”, by Rihanna. As the lyrics go, “we found love in a hopeless place”, and it is these words that connect to me about being queer and looking for love in and amongst and despite all of the discrimination.

Best Pride moment?

I had mixed feelings on the day of the Yes announcement. I was happy it was over but so frustrated that we had to go through the process in the first place. But then I decided with a few friends that these moments only happen once so we went off to Trades Hall to dance. I remember with lots of love in my heart and of course relief and exhaustion, dancing to “Titanium” by Sia in the rain with hundreds of other queers.

Advice for young LGBTI people?

Volunteering in your LGBTI community can be one of the most rewarding things to do and a great place to meet other lovely people. Consider volunteering today.

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