It’s official. The Victorian Gay And Lesbian Rights Lobby is now the Victorian Pride Lobby. In a special general meeting on July 18, the Lobby’s members voted to change the name of the two-decade old organisation.

“There have been significant changes over the last 20 years in the LGBTQIA+ community and the Lobby was actively considering how we can better reflect and be more inclusive of the community we advocate on behalf of,” co-convener Nevena Spirovska told Star Observer  when explaining the reason behind the name change in an email interview.

“Over the past decades, our work has expanded from a focus on legal rights to a broader focus on social justice and equality. We advocate with and for not just gay and lesbian Victorians, but queer, bisexual and same-sex attracted Victorians who may not use the labels ‘gay and lesbian’ to describe their sexual orientation. We value and celebrate the diversity of sexual orientations in our community.”

The Lobby’s name change is not unique. Other organisations have tread a similar path in the past. Victorian AIDS Action Committee, Australia’s oldest HIV/AIDS organisation founded in 1983, changed its name to Victorian AIDS Council. In 2018, it changed its name to Thorne Harbour Health – after two community leaders Alison Thorne and Keith Harbour. The AIDS Council of New South Wales is now known as ACON. The Western Australia AIDS Council last year had asked for suggestions from the community about a name change.

 The Lobby  was set up in 1997 as a community-based lobby group. It says it is not aligned with any political party and works on political campaigning, advocacy, law reform and media. Its work has included campaigns to improve the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, Rainbow Votes to highlight the priorities of the LGBTQI communities for state and federal elections, workplace diversity and initiatives to tackle homophobia. The name change was first proposed in 2019 and internal consultation had shown that it had broad-based support with 98% of members in favour of a name change.

“Over the coming years, we will continue to work together with and lobby on behalf of the whole community as we aim to achieve equality, human rights, and social justice for LGBTQIA+ Victorians. Our areas of focus will continue to be engaging with local, state, and federal governments and MPs to create positive change in the areas of policy and legislative development as well as working with government departments and agencies to improve processes and outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people,” said Spirovska.

Melbourne is currently battling a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and stage three restrictions are in place. The long term impact that the current health crisis will have on the community is an issue that LGBTQI organisations are concerned about.

 “Although our community is strong and resilient, we cannot underestimate the impact COVID-19 is going to have on us. Maintaining connections to each other and our cultural spaces will become increasingly difficult as ‘stay at home directions’ continue in areas of Victoria. We also can’t underestimate the impacts it’ll have on people within the LGBTQIA+ community who already face unique and intersecting challenges and discrimination in their experiences of housing, employment, and healthcare,” Spirovsk pointed out.

With the year-long process for the name change finally complete, the organisation is keen to emphasise that its remit and values remain the same. The Lobby has also clarified that it will not “speak in place of bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, and asexual community members, but rather, we will continue to work alongside bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, and asexual organisations to achieve positive social change for the LGBTQIA+ community.”

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