NSW to establish nation’s first LGBTIQ health centre

NSW LGBTIQ Health Strategy 2022-2027 policy documents launched today. Photo: Brandon Bear.

By BRANDON BEAR

In a never before seen commitment to the health of sex and gender diverse communities in New South Wales, Health Minister Brad Hazzard today launched the first ever NSW LGBTIQ Health Strategy.

The launch, held at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, was accompanied by the announcement of a $4.2 million dollar investment in a health centre specifically catering to the needs of LGBTIQ populations, set to deliver primary health care, mental health, sexual health and cancer screening services.

The long awaited strategy stemmed from a commitment at the previous state election, made in response to key health requests from various community groups, led by ACON – the state’s peak LGBTIQ health and wellbeing organisation.

Support from both sides of government and the involvement of many LGBTIQ community members culminated in an initiative that was described by Hazzard as a “breakthrough health strategy which aims to address long-standing health inequities”.

Speaking at the announcement today, deputy CEO of ACON, Karen Price, reflected on the breadth of the strategy.

“It’s broader than our community. It’s for our families and our friends,” she said.

Price welcomed the investment in training and education for frontline staff in public and private healthcare.

“If there is one thing Covid has taught us, it is that health is a fundamental pillar for our society,” she noted.

The launch invited Mardi Gras ’78er and vice president of InterPride, Robyn Kennedy, to speak on the potential impact of the policy.

“The strategy is timely given the ageing of the LGBTI community,” she said. “Many older LGBTQIA people are the first generation to have lived their entire adult lives out and proud. Previous generations did not have this opportunity. The implications for the healthcare system are significant – we are afraid to lose our identities in aged care services – identities we have worked hard for.”

Robyn Kennedy pictured at the 2018 Honour Awards. Photo: ACONhealth/Twitter.

Kennedy shared her experiences with the healthcare system, echoing the experiences of event host, Associate Professor Anthony Schembri, CEO of the St Vincent’s Hospital Network Sydney. Both highlighted past experiences of their sexuality being assumed by clinicians, forcing them to make constant decisions about the impact of ‘coming out’ time and time again in healthcare settings.

“As a fierce advocate, I never let the assumption sit,” said Kennedy. “It meant I had to psych myself up not just for the physical impacts of my treatment, but also the emotional impact.”

Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich welcomed the announcement of the multi-million dollar investment in the LGBTIQ Health Centre, a project which has been advocated for by ACON and key partners for many years.

The centre will be the first of its kind in Australia, bringing together healthcare, health promotion and research, and working to reduce the stigma and trauma many sex and gender diverse people experience when accessing healthcare services.

LGBTIQ-themed cupcakes at today’s NSW LGBTIQ Health Strategy launch. Photo: Brandon Leith Bear/Facebook.

Planning for the centre will now move into overdrive, with a project team at ACON set to identify a suitable location based on information about the prevalence and health of LGBTIQ communities.

On the vision for the centre, Price said: “We aim to directly improve access to healthcare that is appropriate, inclusive and responds to the particular drivers of poorer health outcomes for our communities.

“We will provide access to a wide range of services all within the same service and with peer support.”

The strategy also provides significant funding to other community groups and organisations working in the LGBTQI+ health space, including $3.4 million annually for a specialist service to support trans and gender diverse youth and adults; $2.65 million to support workforce education and training activities delivered jointly with on the ground community organisations; and $1.78 million to ACON and Twenty10 for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.

Brandon Bear is the queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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