THE City of Glen Eira council in Melbourne’s south east has included a focus on elderly LGBTI residents in its recent aged care strategy for the first time.
The council recently passed its Positive Ageing Strategy 2015 – 2020, which highlighted the importance of responding to the specific needs of elderly sexuality and gender diverse people.
Aleph Melbourne convenor Michael Barnett first recommended explicit inclusion of the LGBTI community.
“There was a lot of talk going on about LGBTI inclusion in aged care among different councils, and I thought let’s see what Glen Eira’s doing,” he told the Star Observer.
“To my absolute disappointment there was nothing.
“So I thought, let’s try and get it updated to include LGBTI people – I contacted Dr Jo Harrison to assist and spoke to the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and Jewish Care as well.”
In the recent strategy, it advocates for the promotion and awareness-raising of issues faced by elderly residents who identify as LGBTI.
“Promote inclusion around issues of discrimination experienced by older population groups that identify as LGBTI,” the strategy reads under the key focus of providing information.
The strategy was also accompanied by an Older Adults Guide to Glen Eira, in which an elderly gay couple is featured along with referrals to various support services for the LGBTI community.
Barnett believes including the LGBTI community in this strategy can have a positive impact on the area’s elderly residents.
“It validates their existence, to see a picture of a gay couple in a publication,” he said.
“It says, all of a sudden we don’t need to hide in the closet because we’re legitimised and respected.
“If the council says we’re good enough to be part of this community, then it tells everyone else we’re as important as you are… it also helps by giving examples of many different types of people, including queer couples.”
When Barnett first spoke to the council about including its elderly LGBTI residents in the strategy, he said they were very receptive.
“I got some feedback from the council that they wanted to take it on board, and when I helped to explain the importance of it, it was like a light bulb moment,” he explained.
“The council were like, this is so obvious, and they were very sensitive to the issues which I thought was amazing – to not have any hurdles.”