The Rudd Government has coughed up $450,000 ahead of next week’s federal budget as part of measures to ease the impact of the recent same-sex equality reforms.
But none of the money will go to the same-sex couples who will lose some or all Centrelink benefits from 1 July.
The National LGBT Health Alliance will receive $350,000 to run a national education campaign to inform the community about the reforms and their impact. A further $100,000 will go to the Welfare Rights Network to advocate on behalf of same-sex couples affected by the changes.
Other concessions through Centrelink include a more compassionate approach to dealing with debts and overpayments resulting from the changes, LGBT sensitivity training for relevant staff and clearer guides for the public to prevent unnecessary outing.
The grant is the first of its kind from the federal Government to the gay and lesbian community and the first funded project for the National LGBT Health Alliance.
Complex administrative issues prevent the -˜grandfathering’ of the reforms which was always our preferred option, Alliance executive director Gabi Rosenstreich said.
Nevertheless, we welcome the support the Commonwealth has agreed to provide and look forward to working with our government and community partners to help LGBT pensioners adjust to the changes.
The Alliance, primarily made up of AIDS councils, has only one staff member, meaning ACON will run the national campaign in consultation with LGBT organisations in each state and territory. A national advisory group will be formed this month to oversee this and future projects.
The campaign is expected to run for 12 months from July.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said community organisations had done a great job obtaining this money but he concerned that it will all be managed by a national health network and not by local LGBT human rights groups that are closer to the issue.
It’d be a tragedy if this money was spent on focus groups and advertising agents instead of effective, local, grass-roots initiatives, he said.
Welfare Rights Centre director Maree O’Halloran said the organisation was already receiving calls from concerned couples, and the initial grant would need further funding in future years.
Last year’s federal budget estimated the equality reforms would save the Government around $66 million over 4 years after same-sex couples receiving Centrelink payments reverted from the single rate to the lesser couple rate.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin said that now the reforms are in place, the Government is working hard to ensure all same-sex couples have access to these entitlements and understand their obligations.