One attendees observations of the Better Together conference

“Better Together – Australia’s 4th National LGBTIQ+ Conference was held in Adelaide from 17 – 19th June, OUTinPerth contributor Colin Longworth attended and shares his observations on the wide and varied discussions that went down.

By way of introduction “The Equality Project is a national LGBTIQ+ charity bringing together LGBTIQ+ people and allies to promote a better, more just, and fairer society for all Australians.” to quote their website.

They go on to say: “In order to facilitate a conversation about LGBTIQ+ rights in Australia we need to have a platform to share our ideas and experiences and build bridges between our diverse communities. We want to do this through a national conference we call Better Together.”

This Adelaide conference (to my eyes) follows in the footsteps of other conferences starting with the first National Homosexual Conference at Melbourne University in 1975. In a similar vein I can vaguely recall attending a WA State Homosexual Conference at the University of Western Australia in the mid 1980s.

This Better Together was the first National LGBTI conference I’d attended, where I joined 611 other registrants in person and hundreds more online.

My observations are just that and reflect my interests, experiences and place in life as an Anglo-Saxon mature-aged Cisgender male. Others will quite possibly have their own observations, based on their own circumstances and the sessions they attended.

The day before the main conference, I attended the SAGE Caucus, being one of five caucus’ on the pre-conference day on 17 June 2021. Other caucus gatherings were held in a number of different venues in Adelaide, with others being the: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Caucus; Transgender, Gender-Diverse and Non-Binary Caucus; Youth Caucus; and the Disability Caucus.

One general observation of the conference overall was that it was at least to some extent overshadowed by news a few days beforehand of the proposed resurrection of the so-called “Religious Freedom” laws, with a number of participants in panel discussions noting how we need to continue the fight against this proposal.

As with any conference with multiple streams and simultaneous sessions there is always the question of which ones to attend?

A few of the more memorable (to my eyes) observations of some of the participants in various sessions I attended, in no particular order include;

How the Adelaide book launch of Denis Altman’s Homosexual Oppression and Liberation about 50 years ago, was reportedly a catalyst for the start of Gay Liberation in Adelaide. (It’s also a book I quoted from in my own presentation.)

Another was the observations of an Intersex participant (in a panel discussion) that they felt the “I” in LGBTI+ stands for “Invisible”, while also noting that Intersex people are about as common in the population as Redheads, although they tend to be invisible. Also worthy of note was reference to the Darlington Statement, from Intersex Australia

Reports of Trans and Intersex people of horrendous experiences in the health system, referring to both relatively recent and more historical events.

LGBTI Aged Care Facilitators (including from WA’s June Lowe from GRAI) being a look at the issue of navigating the system and how many will need assistance to use it, particularly those who are not computer literate.

LGBTQ+ Conversion practices in Australia gave an interesting look at how what are now called SOGICE (Sexual Identity & Gender Identity Change Efforts) practices have “evolved” over the years, and a look at recent events including proposed and passed legislative matters in this area.

Domestic & Family Violence in LGBTQ Communities. Having worked in the (cishet) context of domestic violence, it was interesting to see Ben Bjarnesen of the LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation talking about his experiences of being on the receiving end of these practices. Also, how he was later awarded a Churchill Fellowship to see how the practice is dealt with in other countries. Further information can be found via

Advocacy, Activism and Ageing Well: A panel discussion with The Hon Michael Kirby, Janet Rice, Martine Delaney and Esther Montgomery exploring this topic. With Michael Kirby making the observation that we need to be “joiners” or people who work collectively in the various LGBTQI+ organisations to further our rights and oppose steps like these proposed “Special Religious Rights” laws.

Finally, for those who were not able to attend this conference, the next one is being planned to be held in Cairns and Port Douglas for 14-19 January 2022, and there is (Perth) LGBTIQ+ Health and Wellbeing Day planned for Thursday 25th November (9.30am – 5pm). So, a few dates to add to your calendar. Further details via

Colin Longworth

Colin Longworth is a registered Psychologist in private practice and a long-term volunteer with Living Proud and its predecessor organisations.

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