LGBTIQA+ people are experts in the needs of our own communities. We’re best placed to use our lived experience and unique knowledge to understand how best to support our peers.
By effectively and respectfully engaging LGBTIQA+ people in the development and design of public policies and services, governments can create better services and outcomes for the LGBTIQA+ South Australians accessing them.
Yet too often LGBTIQA+ people aren’t consulted or considered in the design of new strategies and services. This frequently results in services that fail to meet our communities needs.
When we are consulted, we’re rarely reimbursed for our time and expertise. Instead we’re expected to volunteer to help make services better suited to our communities out of our free time and goodwill.
What needs to be done?
We need governments and non-government organisations to effectively and respectfully engage with LGBTIQA+ communities to ensure that public policies, services and strategies meet the needs of the people using them.
Effectively and respectfully engaging with our communities looks like:
- doing your research and being informed about the LGBTIQA+ basics before you engage with us
- being clear about what you want our input on
- supporting our safety by recognising and minimising the emotional burden that engagement may have on LGBTIQA+ people
- valuing our time, skills and expertise by paying LGBTIQA+ individuals and organisations for their contribution.
Funding community consultation
The Australian LGBTIQA+ community sector is significantly underfunded, with 48% of LGBTIQA+ community organisations having an annual budget of less than $10,000 per year (Our Community and GiveOUT). This significantly limits the capacity and resourcing of LGBTIQA+ organisations to actively participate in government consultation and engagement activities.
Additionally, very few South Australian government agencies provide reimbursement to recognise contributions made by external individuals who bring knowledge, skills and experience that’s not generally obtainable by public sector employees. For those that do, including SA Health, community engagement costs are rarely budgeted for or offered to LGBTIQA+ bodies unless actively requested.
Appropriate financial reimbursement for LGBTIQA+ community organisations engaging in consultation and engagement activities is essential to recognise the experience our community brings.
Engagment with the SA Public Sector
Engagement in the South Australian public sector is guided by Better Together, a framework ‘guiding best practice engagement to improve outcomes for the South Australian community’. Yet the framework has some key gaps when it comes to effectively engaging LGBTIQA+ communities.
While engaging with under-represented groups and individuals is a component of the framework, it makes no mention of LGBTIQA+ communities and provides no guidance on how to engage with us.
This goes to show the scale of our invisibility – our communities are so under-represented, we’re not even represented in guidance on engaging under-represented groups.
Second, the framework fails to acknowledge the need for a trauma-informed approach to consultation. With high rates of mental illness, depression and suicide, understanding the needs of our communities and how to treat us with respect is vital to keep our communities safe while engaging with us.
Lastly, while the framework acknowledges that ‘lack of money’ is a barrier that makes engagement with government inaccessible, little guidance is provided on how to overcome this barrier.
To conduct effective and respectful consultation with our communities we recommend:
1. organisations seeking to consult LGBTIQA+ about making their services more inclusive reimburse individuals and organisations for their expertise.
2. all South Australian Government agencies develop and implement a policy setting out appropriate Sitting Fees and Reimbursement for community consultation, similar to SA Health’s Sitting Fees and Reimbursement for External Individuals Policy
3. the South Australian Government update the Better Together framework to:
- provide clear guidance on engaging with LGBTIQA+ communities
- provide guidance on a trauma-informed approach to consultation for relevant communities
- provide guidance on reimbursing individuals and organisations for their expertise.