Dameyon Bonson has given a speech calling out the erasure of Indigenous LGBTI people from both Indigenous health and queer health literature.

Bonson, who founded of Indigenous LGBTI suicide prevention organisation Black Rainbow, gave the keynote address at the Queer(y)ing Justice in the Global South Conference at the University of Sydney.

In the address, he detailed the difficulties he has had getting politicians to pay attention to the needs of Indigenous queer people.

“Early this year one of this country’s big mouth boxers continued their very public displays of homophobia,” he said, referring to Anthony Mundine’s comments about capital punishment for gay people.

“Homophobia like theirs gets the most amount of public attention and its get the most amount of public response. And the response this year was swift.

“What may shock and surprise you are that there is also homophobia in Indigenous health.

“It is within Indigenous health where Indigenous queers have been ignored, excluded and erased. Similarly, racism also exists in queer health literature,” he said.

Bonson listed major documents that guide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023 and its implementation framework, and ‘My Life My Lead – Opportunities for strengthening approaches to the social determinants and cultural determinants of Indigenous health’.

None of these, he said, directly recognise the needs of Indigenous LGBTI people or make provisions with how to address them moving forward.

He noted one, the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, which mentions LGBTI people as a distinct group.

“[The report] identifies that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as having disproportionate experiences of mental health problems and mental illness,” Bonson said.

“However, the manner in which these two communities are articulated separates us as two separate identities, rendering Indigenous LGBTI people [invisible].

The absence of Indigenous LGBQTI people from Indigenous health is supported by the ongoing structural exclusion we face at an Indigenous health policy level.

“All the Indigenous health leaders sitting around the table making these decisions, decisions that exclude Indigenous LGBTI people, are not LGBTI Indigenous people.”

Bonson described sending 22 emails to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, as well as visiting his office – which is within walking distance of Bonson’s residence – three times.

“After those 22 emails I simply gave up,” he said.

Bonson did praise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project Report, which makes specific note “that Indigenous queer people are an invisible minority within a national minority group with no current protocols for identifying us in the suicide and self-harm statistics.”

“But is it not only Indigenous health that excludes Indigenous LGBQTI people,” Bonson said.

“Queer health research also discriminates. The writing that informed the development of Safe Schools excludes Indigenous LGBTI people. Growing up Queer excludes Indigenous LGBTI people.

“From Blues to Rainbows excludes Indigenous LGBTI people. The LGBT Alliance did not engage with Indigenous LGBTI people for the National LGBT Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Strategy.

“The Alliance is also sitting on data from last year’s Indigenous LGBTI Social and Emotional Wellbeing Survey.

“It’s been 12 months, they need to publish this report on this,” he said.

Speaking to the Star Observer last year, Bonson explained what led him to founding Black Rainbow.

“Even as a young gay boy I knew what it was like to be left behind or left out,” he said. “I don’t want people to feel that way.”

To learn more about Black Rainbow’s work or to donate, head to blackrainbow.org.au.

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