A 2019 study by LaTrobe University had found that only around 27.2% of LGBTQI+ people with disabilities in Australia felt like their voices were heard and understood. Now, a new organisation hopes to give a voice to LGBTQI+ people with disabilities

Inclusive Rainbow Voices, will be Victoria’s first organisation for LGBTQI+ people with disabilities organisation that will provide a democratic, user-led, member driven, representative voice of and for LGBTIQ+ Victorians with disability.

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Queer disability rights activist Jax Jacki Brown, who was recently awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) said the organisation will be a great way for LGBTQI+ people with disabilities to raise awareness about key issues that affect them.

“I think it will help immensely, in that LGBTQI+ people with disabilities will be able to have a voice,” Brown told Star Observer.

“A lot of LGBTQIA+ people with disabilities, like myself often feel isolated because services are inaccessible…so feeling like we can have spaces, like this organisation will help society understand those issues we face is really important.”

Although the organisation is still in its developmental phase, Brown said they would be keen to get involved and help LGBTQIA+ people get the advocacy support they need.

“I am very passionate about this work and hopefully I will be heavily engaged in shaping this organisation.”

Hope For The Future

Head of the Inclusive Rainbow Voices project, Matthew Bowden said this opportunity will create hope for the future for LGBTQI+ members with disabilities. 

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“This is something LGBTQI+ Victorians living with disabilities have wanted for a long time and there is an enormous amount of excitement for this to happen,” Bowden said.

“Inclusive Rainbow Voices will be providing advocacy support, so assisting people with speaking up when they experience discrimination and taking part in policy discussions with the Victorian Government about assisting LGBTQIA+ community and its members living with disabilities.”

Prior to this role, Bowden was the Co-CEO People with Disability Australia for 14 years and has worked for various other organisations both with the LGBTQIA+ community and disability sector.

The Victorian Government has provided a $50,000 grant to establish the new organisation.

Drummond Street Services will partner with key LGBTIQ+ people living with disability to create an action plan for the Inclusive Rainbow Voices establishment project to become a stand alone organisation. 

While Bowden is excited to receive the funding from the Government, he said that a lot more work still needs to be done to ensure the organisation can run effectively.

“At some point an organisation like Inclusive Rainbow Voices is going to need its own funding to continue to exist,”Bowden said.

In The Works Since 2018

“My role as head of the project will include organising workshops for founding members and assisting with things like government models and looking at the steps required to become a registered organization”.

Disability advocate and Drummond Street Service board member Margherita Coppolino said the idea for an organisation like Inclusive Rainbow Voices has been in the works since 2018.

“In 2018, I (and Matthew Bowden) were invited to go to New York and appear at the Convention on LGBTQIA+ people with disabilities and it was really there that I discovered there was a thirst for knowledge and information for LGBTQI+ people with disabilities,“ Coppolino said.

“Since then I have been talking to people about ways to get things happening.” Throughout the establishment process Coppolino said she would take on an advisory role, but the aim is to provide other LGBTQI+ people living with disabilities a voice.

“I’ve been doing advocacy for a long time, there are great emerging activists in the space and this was always about developing for something to happen and hand it over to the next generation” 

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