Queer residents of Melbourne’s western suburbs are turning away from the city, instead getting to know their LGBTI neighbours.
Wyndham Rainbow Neighbours started three months ago after Go West organised a family day with Midsumma.
Wyndham resident Michael Young and his partner heeded calls for a local social group and organised their first event in April. Since then, they have held monthly events which attract more than 25 people.
“I think all over Melbourne, all around the country, we are isolated if it’s not for groups like this which are visible,” he said.
“We should have these opportunities out here in the west without having to travel into the city.”
Now the group has widened its ambitions from a monthly day out in an effort to help Wyndham shake off some negative perceptions.
“People might regard places like Werribee or Melton as really west and really rough … and dangerous for gay people, but we are still ourselves everyday,” he said.
The council has offered to sponsor the group with a rainbow flag and rainbow stickers to hand out to the queer-friendly venues in the area. The group is also working to get queer newspapers and books into the local library.
“We’ve had absolutely no negative reaction whatsoever and this is in the western suburbs of Melbourne,” he said.
Wyndham Mayor Kim McAliney and other local councillors have attended some of the group’s events in support.
Cr Cynthia Manson said the Go West family day had achieved what council the wanted to achieve.
“With thousands of residents moving to Wyndham each year, this group will act as a vehicle for new residents who are members of the GLBTIQ community to make new friends in their neighbourhood,” she said.
Wyndham Council is part of a working group of seven west Melbourne councils, created to highlight issues affecting their LGBTI communities.
The working group is part of Go West, a Hobsons Bay Council initiative established in 2010. Young said he hoped Wyndham Rainbow Neighbours encouraged people in other councils to start their own groups.
“It’s about unity, but it’s also about not just unifying the GLBTIQ people in our area but also unifying all around the west,” he said.