October’s Coast Out festival will be another long weekend of fun in the Coffs Harbour sun — and this year, the festival will have a more serious element.

Speakers from the fields of law, medicine and human rights will descend on Southern Cross University on October 28 for the first Gender and Sexuality in Rural and Regional Australia conference.

The day-long conference will aim to provide the latest information to the Mid North Coast on gender, sexuality and transgender issues including isolation, best health practice and law reform.

“These are topics of discussion that aren’t readily available in rural areas. It’s an opportunity to reach out to gay and lesbian people in rural areas,” Coast Out organiser Todd Buttery (pictured) told the Star Observer.

“While Coast Out is an arts, sports, fun, social festival, adding this intellectual element is a great move, I think. We’ve got some great speakers.”

Speakers include keynote presenter Rodney Croome, gay activist Daniel Witthaus, sexuality expert Dr Baden Offord, family lawyer Heather McKinnon, HIV health worker Jenny Heslop and mental health expert Rick van der Zwan.

Despite the serious topics at hand, Buttery was keen to stress that the conference would not be a dour affair, with drag queen Vanessa Wagner earmarked to host the afternoon Q&A session.

“It’s about delivering intellectual information in a colloquial way that people just ‘get’. Whilst it’s about learning and bridging gaps, we want it to be a fun day.”

INFO: www.coastout.com.au/coastout-conference.cfm

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