THE Victorian Government has just announced $402,000 in funding over three years for Val’s Cafe, a program that promotes and advocates for the health, wellbeing and social inclusion of older LGBTI people.

Equality Minister Martin Foley made the announcement ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) tomorrow.

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Val’s Café is named after a Melbourne coffee lounge established by Val Eastwood that became a gay-friendly meeting place in early 1950s, during a time when LGBTI people faced persecution.

The project was established in 2009 to work with aged-care facilities and help providers understand the histories and experiences of their older LGBTI clients.

The project has since conducted groundbreaking research and provided the latest information on LGBTI health and wellbeing to the aged care sector through publications, professional development training, awareness events, partnerships, and direct support to LGBTI seniors.

In the past, older LGBTI people sometimes went “back into the closet” as they feared discrimination when accessing services such as retirement homes.

“LGBTI seniors shouldn’t have to get back in the closet as they grow older,” Foley said this morning.

“[Val’s Cafe] is unique in Australia and is breaking new ground every day with programs that significantly improve the lives of older LGBTI people.”

The project now has 450 members and 5000 monthly online visitors to its website. It has provided support to more than 4000 staff across the aged-care sector, with the goal of ensuring that LGBTI Victorians can be respected for who they are as they grow older.

Val’s Café is part of the Sexual Health and Ageing Program at La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.

As part of the state budget last week, the government announced it would establish a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Taskforce, with a dedicated Health and Human Services Working Group and a Justice Working Group.

Foley today encouraged people to submit expressions of interest to join the taskforce and working groups, which will advise the government on key issues affecting LGBTI Victorians and help guide the equality policy agenda.

Expressions of interest are now open and close on June 7. Details: www.dpc.vic.gov.au/LGBTItaskforce

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