THE leader of Black Rainbow has told the Star Observer that the success of his fledgling group’s online crowdfunding campaign means Indigenous LGBTI Australians now have a space to have their voices heard and ask for direct representation.

Black Rainbow’s fundraiser, which ended yesterday, surpassed its $25,000 “tipping point” by raising $26,550 in total. This success means the group can take the first formal steps required to elevate it from the social media network it currently is into the Black Rainbow Living Well Foundation to provide mental health services specifically for Indigenous LGBTI Australians.

Founder Dameyon Bonson — who steered the crowdfunding campaign from its start in mid-January — said it felt “fantastic” that there was support in the LGBTI community and beyond to have a group like this exist.

As late as Sunday this week, the prospect of Black Rainbow achieving its fundraising target looked uncertain, with as much as $10,000 required at the time. However, a surge in support in the final 24 hours went in Black Rainbow’s favour.

“We were going in towards the end where it looked like it looked like it wasn’t going to happen,” Bonson told the Star Observer.

“That became a concern… but we got over the line.”

He added that the money raised was the “just the beginning of so much more” that needed to be done for Australia’s Indigenous LGBTI community.

“We’ve created a space for our voices now,” Bonson said.

“It now serves a space where we can now ask for direct representation. The nuanced needs of the Aboriginal LGBTI community now really have to be acknowledged.”

Bonson said one of the first steps for Black Rainbow now was to find out what needed to be done to establish the group as a legal entity.

He will also facilitate the creation of a national leadership group that will connect with stakeholders and liaise with government and non-government organisations, and produce a report that analyses the social contexts of health facing Indigenous LGBTI people both in Australia and abroad, and how to best improve their circumstances and resilience.

The funds raised will also allow Bonson to fly to Montreal, Canada in June to be the only representative from Australia to present — on behalf of Black Rainbow — at the first-ever international Indigenous and Two Spirit LGBTI workshop as part of the 28th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. His presentation would then become part of a brief that would be submitted to the UN.

Black Rainbow was first established in December 2013 as a nationwide social media network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who identify as LGBTI, sistergirl or brotherboy.

Bonson was motivated to turn it into a mental health service because he felt there was nothing its kind in Australia, and because Indigenous Australians in the LGBTI community have for the past 15 years been almost invisible in the areas of research and national service provision strategies when it came to mental health.

“We have specific needs and we need a safe space to address those needs. Safe from racism and safe from LGBTI phobia,” he told the Star Observer in January.

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