ROWENA Allen may have only recently become Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, but her passion for LGBTI advocacy is deep-rooted.
Growing up in rural Victoria, Allen spent her early 20s as a youth worker, where she set up the first support group for same-sex attracted young people.
[showads ad=MREC]Allen said a lot of her activism for the queer community at the time was voluntary, and motivated by her own experiences.
“I suffered assault, had graffiti sprayed on my car, and lemons thrown at my house,” she told the Star Observer.
“But that drove me to work harder to make change.
“The [activism] came about through my own personal journey and experiences of discrimination, and then having the resilience to be the voice for others.”
During these years Allen also ran UnitingCare Cutting Edge, a frontline support service for marginalised communities in rural Victoria.
As part of her new role, she said she intended to continue travelling around Victoria, especially to areas rife with issues facing the local LGBTI community.
Allen said she is particularly passionate about working with the Indigenous community.
“For trans* Aboriginal brother boys and sister girls, there’s no support, and no mechanisms for them to gather and discuss their own issues,” she said.
“I want to work with them and help them to develop consultations, in order to work out exactly what those issues are.”
Allen also believes that disability is rarely discussed in relation to the LGBTI community.
“It’s a new conversation to have, and I’d like to work with progressive disability organisations so that when they’re talking about sexuality they include the LGBTI community,” she said.
Allen said she wanted to work with the community as closely as possible, and encouraged people to reach out to her with information, complaints or engagements which she could then pass on to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
“I’ll also be working with corporate Victoria,” she said.
“A lot of trans* people who transition in the workplace don’t keep their jobs, and I want to improve those statistics.”
Allen is also a former member of three Victorian Government LGBTI ministerial advisory groups. In 2003, she received a Centenary Medal and in 2009 she was inducted into the Victorian Government Honour Roll for Women.
“I’m really passionate about shining a spotlight on the things going on in rural Victoria,” she said.
“I’m [also] very passionate about making sure young LGBTI people get good opportunities.”
When asked about her new role as the Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, Allen said he was a “dream job”.
She also said she’s been quoting Mark Twain a lot recently, in particular this sentiment: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”
“That’s what this job feels like,” she said.
“Bringing all this advocacy together into one outlet.”[showads ad=FOOT]