Living Proud LGBTI community services face uncertain future

Update (15/06)

A spokesperson for the Mental Health Commission (MHC) told OUTinPerth funding is still available for Living Proud WA in the form of a grant, should they choose to reapply.

“In 2016, through a competitive grant process, Living Proud were awarded a 13 month grant for the delivery of suicide prevention training and workshops to a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) target group.  The grant term started on 1 June 2016 and ends 30 June 2017,” the MHC spokesperson said.

“Another round of suicide prevention grants will open in the next financial year and Living Proud is welcome to apply.”

Article (14/06)

Living Proud is likely to close most services after 43 years of working with the LGBTI and general community after the state government decided to cease its funding for the organisation from 1 July 2017.

Established in 1974 as the Homosexual Counselling and Information Service of WA, Living Proud has evolved through many guises including and Gay and Lesbian Community Services of WA before adopting the more inclusive Living Proud name in 2013.

According to Reuben Edmonds, the Chairperson of Living Proud the service has helped more than 10,000 people over four decades.

In the early days of the service there were days of great discrimination against LGBTI people. WA did not decriminalise male acts of homosexuality until 15 years after Living Proud began.

“We have been there when people have had no one else to turn to and there are a great many challenges still facing LGBTI+ people,” Mr Edmonds said.

“For so many people who have come out as LGBTI over the years, we were the first people they came to, the first they could share their secret with. We were there to get them through the hard times and move forward with their lives.”

“There are still so many challenges for the LGBTI community and for many they still need someone who can support them, maintain their confidentiality and assist in moving forward positively. Mental health statistics remain troubling showing in that compared to the general population, LGBTI young people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime. This is just one reason why Living Proud is needed by the community.”

Living Proud has also been responsible for capacity building in Western Australia including the award-winning Opening Closets training package that helps organisations tackle homophobia, transphobia and improve their accessibility and services for LGBTI clients.

Living Proud has helped hundreds of organisations with training in LGBTI inclusive practice, mental health and well-being.

Mr Edmonds said he was disappointed with the lack of financial support from the state government. This is despite WA Labor’s state platform for the election including their commitment to valuing diversity.

Mr Edmonds praised the work of the volunteer team at Living Proud, “We would not have been able to conduct the work we have without the wonderful support of our volunteers. Our longest serving volunteer has been with us for over three decades. Unfortunately, due to the confidential nature of Living Proud we cannot identify any of our volunteers, which includes celebrating their successes.”

Anonymously, a long standing volunteer reflected on the many achievements of Living Proud over time. “I have spoken to so many members of the community about so many issues over so many years” the volunteer said. “Hundreds, maybe thousands would tell you they could not have easily come out or gone forward without the team at Living Proud. It is an essential part of the LGBTI community that has been there to support our community from the time it was illegal to be queer.”

Living Proud are asking the LGBTI community to dig deep and donate to its appeal to help the organisation maintain a level of services for Western Australia by going to their website.

The QLife counselling service, which is federally funded, will continue to operate.

The Living Proud Board is also looking at alternative funding sources according to Mr Edmonds.

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