In a world embracing the new normal, many community organisations are forging ahead through Covid-19. The Sentinel spoke to the team at Aurora, a charity that has supported LGBTQI+ communities for decades, as they pivot through Covid-19 and prepare for the much-anticipated Aurora Ball: Metamorphosis in June. By Brandon Bear.
A recent report developed by the Aurora Group and GiveOUT found that only 0.2% of charities in Australia have LGBTQI+ communities listed as their main beneficiary, with under 3% including these communities as any kind of beneficiary.
The report also found that only five cents out of every $100 received by Australian charities go to LGBTQI+ organisations.
Amidst this scenario, Sam Turner, the current chairperson of the Aurora Group board, reflected on the importance of this longstanding community organisation.
“We have so few LGBTQI+ community-led funders, so few people who are providing grants into the community. Also, there are not really any intermediaries or advocates, telling people who they should be funding and why,” Turner said.
“Aurora has a strong fund-making and community support capability, stretching over more than twenty years. We are developing our capacity to work with more big funders who want to fund our communities, and fund the issues that affect our communities, like mental health and homelessness, but don’t know how.”
During the lockdown, the organisation took the opportunity to reflect and grow.
“We switched from a heavy operational focus to deliver a more strategic board. We have been able to come back in the house to look at what a sustainable, thriving growth strategy looks like, not just for Aurora, but for the whole community,” she said.
“Covid gave us more thinking time and more planning time. We had been going from ball to ball which we have learnt is not sustainable. We needed to think about the way that people gather and the way that people give money.”
Key to the respect Aurora has in the community is their grants program, which, through strong advocacy and campaigning, continued through lockdowns.
“The most important thing is that we fund projects that make a tangible difference on the ground – and projects that don’t otherwise find funding,” Turner noted.
The recipient of one of this year’s grants was the Shine a Light group, a cancer support network for sexuality and gender diverse people that has been running for more than a decade. Gary Morrison, a member of the Shine a Light management committee spoke about the project the Aurora grant would fund.
“The Stephen Ball Suicide Prevention Project was developed after we lost a member of the group to suicide during Covid, which was a huge blow to us,” Morrison told The Sentinel.
“The project is developing a website and an app that will enable support group leaders in the LGBTQI+ space to be able to download resources to initiate discussions on suicide. While there are a lot of places one can go to read about the subject, there were very few resources available where you could provide a set of tools to run a group discussion on the issue,” he said.
“Aurora is an extraordinary organisation. The way it supports projects embodies the idea that from little things big things grow. A small grant like this is enough to get our project off the ground and allows us to go further. What they provide is meaningful grants to parts of the community who would never have the opportunity.”
A significant source of funding for the foundation comes from their annual fundraiser The Aurora Ball. Held in June each year to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, the show-stopping event has been on a Covid-19 related hiatus for two years.
This year the event returns, more spectacular than ever before, on the 4th of June at a new venue, the Crystal Ballroom at Luna Park.
Turner is still holding the cards close to her chest, as the ball is renowned for secrets, surprises and spectacle, but is willing to share some information.
“The ball is a reflection of the change in Aurora, celebrating all of us coming out of our Covid-19 cocoons. It is an opportunity to celebrate our community but also highlight the critical need for funding after a hiatus,” she said.
She makes no bones of the fact that their fundraising goal for the night is double their usual ideal, but thinks revellers will understand the importance of Aurora and the event.
“We play a critical role in celebrating community – while there are many organisations we know and love and work with, not so many events in the community are focused on fundraising and giving straight back.”
The 2022 Aurora Ball: Metamorphosis will be held at 6pm Saturday, 4 June, 2022 at the Crystal Ballroom, Luna Park, Milsons Point. For more information and tickets, visit https://aus.givergy.com/TheAuroraBall2022.
Brandon Bear is the queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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