As a gay kid who grew up in Cairns in the 80s and 90s, I found the news that Cairns and little ole’ Port Douglas are hosting the LGBTQI focussed Better Together conference in January 2022, well… a little surprising.

I know it’s been twenty-ish years since those decades have passed but regular visits home over the last 15 years from the Blue Mountains have shown me that while Cairns continues to try to cultivate and then keep alive a gay ‘scene’, whatever that means these days, those in the community that try to get these things going inevitably find out it takes a lot of hard work to not only put these events together in the first place, but also then keep the enthusiasm alive amongst the people who THEN need to actually attend the events to keep them viable – it’s exhausting!

So to hear that Cairns and Port Douglas, which is located about an hours drive north from Cairns along what has to be one of Australia’s most visually stunning coastal highways, will be hosting The Equality Project’s Better Together Conference on January 14-19, 2022, it was a lovely surprise indeed!

This welcome speck of light amongst the dark and tumult of today’s depressing news cycle is especially meaningful for someone who was only too familiar with what life in FNQ used to be like for gay people, so to see an event like this being confirmed for the region makes me see the positive changes happening in my home town.

“By attracting these types of events, Douglas Shire can enhance its reputation as a conference destination while cultivating social and cultural change,” Douglas Shire Council Mayor Michael Kerr said. “Council is incredibly thankful to partner with event organisers to make this happen.”

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 Around 400 delegates will attend events in Cairns and Port Douglas over five days with topics including health, discrimination, trans and gender diverse parents, faith and religion, ethnic communities, refugees and disability rights being discussed.

Douglas Shire Council has worked hard to secure hosting privileges, with the Shire Council contributing $10,000 cash for associated costs and providing the use of Port Douglas’ Sugar Wharf for the event.

The conference happens to coincide with Port Douglas’ Hot & Steamy Festival, which is a LGBTQI festival that had it’s inaugural run this year, as a warm up to Mardi Gras.

The Equality Project’s Better Together conference was first held in Melbourne in 2018 and will be held in Adelaide in June 2021 before heading to FNQ in 2022.

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