The Victorian budget was released today, and it includes a record $30 million in funding to support initiatives for sexuality and gender diverse people across the state.

The 2016-17 budget includes a $29 million package specifically targeting LGBTI Victorians, along with funding that supports key recommendations found in the recent Royal Commission into Family Violence report.

Handed down in parliament earlier today, the budget includes funding for the following:

  • $15 million to create Australia’s first government-funded Pride Centre in Melbourne.
  • $6.4 million in funding towards Monash Health’s Gender Dysphoria Clinic, a service providing critical support to trans and gender diverse Victorians.
  • $4 million for a grants program to strengthen LGBTI organisations and support community leaders.
  • $2.5 million for initiatives combatting homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in rural and regional Victoria.
  • $2.5 million for research and tailored programs that respond to violence within LGBTI communities, and $145,000 for the Victorian AIDS Council’s gay and bisexual men’s behaviour change program.

As part of the funding, a ‘roadshow’ will be established and led by gender and sexuality commissioner Rowena Allen.

The rural and regional program will see Allen visit LGBTI communities outside of Melbourne and provide them with better access to support, as well as the delivery of LGBTI education and training for mainstream services.

Minister for Equality Martin Foley said the government wants to ensure sexuality and gender diverse Victorians living in rural areas are supported equally to their inner-city counterparts.

“We want to make sure that wherever you are in Victoria, you have the opportunity to freely express your identity,” he told the Star Observer.

“We know that regional and rural LGBTI Victorians face issues that are magnified by their comparative isolation, so the roadshow came from that knowledge.

“It’ll be led by the commissioner, who will consciously seek to bring other government agencies and support along, to try and build the capacity of support groups in those areas.”

Foley also highlighted the need for ongoing financial sustainability, particularly for initiatives such as the Pride Centre.

“This [budget] is the single biggest investment for our LGBTI community,” he said.

“But it’ll be one step at a time… let’s make sure we get the governance, capital, plan, and consultation right first and from that will flow all sorts of options about how we sustain it.

“We were the ones that entered this debate, and we’re certainly not going to exit it.”

Co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) Sean Mulcahy said it’s fantastic that the budget has a focus on LGBTI people living in rural and regional Victoria.

“We know that rural and regional Victorians face higher levels of discrimination, stigma, and prejudice, so this is a crucial investment in their wellbeing,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s a critical engagement between the government and rural and regional Victorians that will increase the capacity of LGBTI community groups and organisations to serve the community.

“Particularly with the investment of a Pride Centre in the CBD, it’s important to also support people who might not be able to access the city.”

Mulcahy added that the grant funding will be important for many LGBTI community organisations.

“At the moment 41 per cent of community organisations operate out of someone’s house, or kitchen, or café, and it’s fantastic the government has come out and invested some money so we can become even better,” he said.

“The entire budget is a record investment in the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people.”

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