Black Rainbow National Leadership Group

The Black Rainbow National Leadership Group (BRNLG) is a reference group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Trans and/or Intersex (LGBQTI). Including Brotherboy and Sistergirl. Membership will also extend to a member who identifies as Heterosexual. The formation of the BRNLG is to highlight, work partnerships with other, the issues facing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI community. The BRNLG will assist reversing the paucity of information on the causation of any potential suicidality at the intersection of Indigeneity, gender variance and diverse sexualities through the coordination of national social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) workshops. These workshops will inform a briefing paper identifying the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI community. This paper will be used as an advocacy tool to create the opportunity for a national gathering with members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI community. This gathering will be an opportunity to unpack the issues (highlighted in the briefing paper) and identify best practice responses. It is hoped that the culmination of this exercise will be the establishment of The Black Rainbow Foundation dedicated to supporting the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI Sistergirl & Brotherboy community.

Rationale:

For the LGBTI community homophobia, either perceived or actual, is a precursor to one’s level of psychological distress. And if, as suggested, same-sex attracted Australians are up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, then homophobia, transphobia, cisgenderism, biphobia, sexism, and hetereosexist behaviours play a big part in how well someone lives and someone dying.

For Indigenous Australians, other factors are at play and overlaid. These include racism, social location, socioeconomic disparities and intergenerational trauma. The psychological distress caused by these determinants can lead to complex mental health and drug and alcohol issues, such as manifestations of violence toward oneself (self harm) or others; domestic, family and lateral violence.

Background:

LGBTI people are said to have the highest rates of self-harm and suicide of any population in Australia. Same-sex attracted Australians are said to exhibit up to 14 times higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 996 suicides reported across Australia between 2001 and 2010 among Indigenous peoples. We are told that 1.6 per cent of all Australians die by suicide but for Indigenous peoples, this rate is more than 4.2 per cent, or one in every 24.

However, when we aggregate the data for the Kimberley region and take one particular town during 2012, there were 40 young people whom died by suicide. That’s nearly 100 times the national average. Now, I’m not suggesting that these young people were members of the LGBTI community. However, when the social determinant affecting Aboriginal people are seen as a causation of suicidality, the question does have to be asked, what is the amplified risk if they are LGBTI?

Determining the size of the Indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population is almost impossible, as it is equally impossible to estimate this number of people who identify in Australia as a whole (Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria 2011). However recent study by Gates and Newport (2012) in the United States (US) puts the LGBT population at approximately 3.4%. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics “Within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population there were an

estimated 294,000 children and young people, representing 4.2% of the total Australian population aged 0–24 years” (ABS 2011). Therefore, when using the US figure of 3.4%, albeit cautiously, there are approximately 10,000 Indigenous Australians who are LGBT, whose needs are yet to be identified. This also suggests that there are up to 10,000 Indigenous LGBTI Australians whom are at four times the risk of suicide than Indigenous Australians whom are not LGBTI; whose suicide risk is already higher than the general Australian population. The question of the implications of and to what extent sexuality plays in “excessive high rates” of suicide in Maori males has also been asked (Aspin 2011).

The Project Outcomes:

  • Creation of The Black Rainbow National Leadership Group
  • Creation of a national stakeholder network to undertake half day workshops to determine the health issues, healingneeds and the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI persons
  • Bring The Black Rainbow National Leadership Group together for a week in Canberra to meet with key stakeholdersto generate discussion and create partnerships
  • Identify a national network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and stakeholders to support andassist in a national gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI persons that will determine, and unpack appropriate and agreed healing activities which can generate empowerment, healing and leadership that will inform national health plans and strategies
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