AS I sit here reflecting on the past 12 months, I realise that so much has happened and been achieved, yet I also know that we still have a lot of work to do. Around this time a year ago I took on the role of President of PFLAG Brisbane. Shelley Argent had been president prior to that for many years and so there was a sense of overwhelming responsibility to ensure that all her hard work was not for nothing. Shelley is a powerhouse and has been the mainstay of PFLAG Brisbane for many years. She also was the National Spokesperson for PFLAG Australia for a number of years.
Now a year later I sit here as both the President of PFLAG Brisbane and also the National Spokesperson having taken over that role from Shelley in October this year. They are big shoes to fill. Shelley continues with PFLAG Australia in the role of community educator which will allow her to continue educating the community about PFLAG and our the issues our loved ones face on a daily basis. We recently saw the launch of the beyondblue resource “Families Like Ours” which Shelley worked directly with them and other supporters. We hope that this resource will reach more people than we can and will have a positive impact on them.
Shelley has been pushing for equality for our children for many years now. She would regularly go to Canberra to speak to politicians about how our children and loved ones are not treated as equal citizens by our various governments. In that time we have seen changes to over 100 laws that now allow our loved ones equal footing in many areas of the law. We have seen many states change their positions and start to fight for marriage equality. This culminated recently in the ACT with the territory introducing laws that would allow same sex couples to marry. We saw the first same sex marriages on Australian soil, and we all celebrated with them. The celebrations were short lived when the High Court ruled that the law was not compatible with the Federal Marriage Act and effectively annulled those marriages.
Upon taking on the role of President of Brisbane PFLAG one of the things that I was passionate about changing was the homophobic bullying in our schools – in particular in QLD. Our secretary Janet Berry and myself started working on forming an Action group to deal with this issue. We have had many organisations within education in QLD come on board with us and we plan on pushing for a Safe Schools QLD similar to the one started in Vic. This work will continue into the future and we hope to work with the Dept Education, Training and Employment (DETE) in the future. We want to ensure that our children and loved ones will be safe and supported whilst at school.
Now that I have taken on the role as National Spokesperson, I have already started lobbying our new Federal Govt for Marriage Equality. This is an important issue for so many of us that want to have the opportunity to see our children marry the person they love. We will continue to lobby and have respectful conversations with those people that have the power to change that for us. PFLAG believes that it is very important to keep a positive focus on this issue and we believe that the best present you can give your loved one this year is to have a conversation with your local MP. Those conversations are very powerful and much more important than many people understand. We believe the formation of the Cross Party Working Group at the federal level will be an important step in achieving Marriage Equality and will be working closely with them to ensure our voices are heard.
Recently I was able to take some extended time off in order to focus some more energy on some of the things PFLAG Brisbane wanted to achieve. I have been volunteering at Open Doors Youth Service here in Brisbane and that has been a privilege for me. The young people that opened their hearts to me and allowed me to be part of their lives have helped me to see and understand a little more how important the work we do at PFLAG is. Every parent that we can support and help to accept their child is a young person that is a little happier and healthier. As parents we sometimes can underestimate the importance of our acceptance and love to our children.
As an organisation PFLAG Australia will be growing their social media and online presence. We will be pooling resources more and trying to collaborate within our groups a little more. We are all just volunteers, many of us work full time in other roles and we have no real access to funding, so much of what we do is by the generosity of the group members and a few other donors. Regardless there is a lot of passion and love within our groups which we often see as extended family! PFLAG Australia will be continuing to support parents, families and friends of the LGBT community, we will continue to educate the community and will also continue to advocate on behalf of those we love.
At this time of year our thoughts always turn to family, whether you are gathering together for Christmas, or are spending it away from family, they are not far from our thoughts. PFLAG Australia wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and promises to do what it can to make it a great New Year.