The Blacktown Youth Services Association is due to shut down in March 2021 due to a lack of funding. The community not-forprofit has been upskilling and empowering young people for almost 35 years, providing free access to basic essentials, legal aid, counselling, and more to some of the most vulnerable youth in Blacktown.
One of those services included AllOut, a group that has been hosting regular social events connecting the queer youth of the community for over a year. Organisers Jasmine Phillips and Brittany Cronin wanted young LGBTQI people to be able to connect with their community.
“It’s about looking out for each other, understanding each other, but understanding yourself too, and feeling safe in the space you exist in,” says Cronin.
While the group began as an effort to increase queer visibility, things moved quicker than expected, and now the focus is on the development of the wellness of the community.
“Being able to go to the shopping center and see other lesbian couples has been semi-life changing,” laughs Phillips. “We’re starting to see some small but really significant changes, but we’re talking about a community where 60% of your neighbours voted against marriage equality. People who don’t live in Blacktown won’t understand the uniqueness and complexity of this place. There’s so many systemic issues, and unfortunately that can be a breeding ground for discrimination and lack of understanding.”
Research conducted by ACON and Western Sydney University from 2019-2020 on the experiences of LGBTQI people from the Greater Western Sydney region found that community groups and leaders are key to change within their local communities, and funding was needed to drive further action. Those surveyed reported violence and exclusion from the LGBTQI communities of Inner Sydney, with culturally and linguistically diverse participants highlighting that queer groups and events were unwelcoming and unwilling to attempt to include those from diverse cultural backgrounds.
It’s clear that if Blacktown Youth Services has to shut its doors, and AllOut with it, the impact on the queer community of Blacktown and the Greater Western Sydney area will be felt heavily.
“We’ve had so many people who are just amazingly complex, who have their own lived experiences, and come from so many different intersections,” Phillips says. “They want to get to know us and build our community, and that’s incredible. We want to support them and we want to continue doing that.”