Western support networks growing
A network of social gatherings, support groups and information outlets is helping Western Sydney’s gay youth feel more connected and better able to manage the coming-out process.
The network has the support of ACON’s Western Sydney Community Development Team Officer Matthew Vaughan, who cited a La Trobe University report finding that drug use, depression and suicide were becoming commonplace in areas where gay and lesbian youth felt isolated.
“The community groups act as a sanctuary for the youth, as they have a place to go to and have people to speak with,” he said.
“A lot of friendships are formed. Many of these people thought they were the only queer people in the area – the groups help overcome this barrier.”
Vaughan said the opening of Camp Queer at Campbelltown had been fundamental in helping ease the feeling of isolation for many gay and lesbian youth who live in the area.
The group is for people under the age of 26 and meets fortnightly.
“There are not a lot of places for queer youth, especially out in Campbelltown,” he said.
“The group is a great social network in a safe environment. Just having somewhere to go where you can be yourself is so important.”
Vaughan said all the western Sydney groups were built around a mix of social and educational activities.
“The activities range from going bowling and seeing a movie to learning about sexual health, safe sex, queer history, homophobia and relationships,” he said.
Western Sydney is dotted with a number of other gay and lesbian youth support groups as well as Camp Queer at Campbelltown. In Penrith there’s the Diverse Sexualities Access Project and SAY groups while in Bankstown there’s the B’SSAY group. Outside Sydney there is Tropical Fruits in Lismore, that has a youth arm as well as its well-known adult social group.
And for those who are even more isolated or don’t have access to transport, Vaughan suggested the recently relaunched Mogenic website.
“Mogenic is a really good starting block for young people over the net,” he said.
“It’s written for youth and is a reference point to other community groups.”
SAY: 9881 1230; B’SSAY: 9796 8633; Camp Queer: 4625 2525; Diverse Sexualities Access Project: 4721 5024; Tropical Fruits: 6622 6440; Mogenic: www.mogenic.com.au