THE first roundtable meeting in five years held between LGBTI community members and the Queensland government has been heralded as a success, with a focus on working on the most ideal engagement process between the two.
The meeting took place last week at Parliament House and comprised of a cross-section of the LGBTI community ranging from advocacy groups, health organisations and senior community figures, who all directly spoke to Communities Minister Shannon Fentiman.
For Browne, this roundtable — was primarily an exchange of ideas about how the community and government could liaise — was aided by a minister who he thought was genuinely interested and concerned.
“It was good to talk directly with the Minister for Communities about issues she was not fully aware of. The minister appeared to genuinely listen, and wrote down key things we said,” he told the Star Observer.
“She said she would take our issues back to discuss at the government cabinet meeting. We were able to tell the minister, heads of departments and government advisers, where the very large gaps are for LGBTI people across many government departments.
“By the end of the three hours the minister had a long list of LGBTI priorities including not only city needs, but also regional needs.”
Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) executive director Michael Scott said the meeting showed the government was interested in addressing LGBTI community issues.
“The roundtable was a good start, and we have no reason to believe that the relationship will not continue to grow,” he told the Star Observer.
“It was clear that the current government is keen to hear from the LGBTI community, and about its needs and desires as a community within Queensland.”
Future meetings will deal with more specific issues facing the community and for Scott, cross party support for things like the community’s health was paramount.
“QuAC highlighted the need for bipartisan support for LGBTI initiatives,” he said.
“Our needs are historic and will continue beyond any government, hence bipartisan support for any LGBTI initiative must be obtained.
“It is pointless to develop a range of initiatives for LGBTI people through one government, only to see them removed or altered with another government. We as LGBTI people will remain, whilst governments come and go.”
Greater access to PrEP in light of extensive schemes available in NSW and possibly Victoria in the near future, trans health initiatives, community awareness by service providers, drug and alcohol concerns and mental health are all areas Scott hopes the government will make significant progress with.
Representing Brisbane Pride Festival (BPF), vice president Shaz Gerchow said she went into the roundtable without any expectations but was keen to know how the government would act on the issues raised.
“This is a work in progress. We didn’t want the roundtable to be just a one-off talkfest that failed to achieve results,” she told the Star Observer.
“We raised a number of issues at the roundtable. Some of these were the ‘big ticket’ items such as marriage equality, adoption and age of consent laws.
“The roundtable called for changes to exemptions in the anti-discrimination law and drew attention to issues facing the LGBTI community around domestic violence, ageing and education. We also asked for increased State Government support for, and recognition of, BPF and other LGBTI celebrations.”
While buoyed by the interest expressed by the minister, Gerchow said the government needed to build on that and further the reformed relationship with the LGBTI community.
“The roundtable was a good start notwithstanding the absence of some sectors of the community. It remains up to the Government to show that they are genuinely interested in progressing equality and equity for the LGBTI community,” she said.
Speaking to the Star Observer, Fentiman said the government would now digest the information obtained by the first roundtable and work on an ideal way the relationship can progress.
“The Palaszczuk Government is keen to make sure that we consult with Queenslanders so that we can understand their concerns and work to address them,” she said.
“But there may be particular barriers or issues faced by LGBTI individuals which impact on the way they interact with government.
“It was such a positive meeting and I thank everyone who attended. People were really enthusiastic about the workshop component of the session and we’ll now be examining all the information we gathered and will meet again as part of determining what kind of forum we need to keep this going for the future.”