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Indigenous LGBTQ+ support body stands up for community caught up in public debate

Jarred Cross -

For individuals who identify within multiple marginalised groups, their opinions and concerns in a climate of change can often go without consideration.

In Pride Month, members of the First Nations LGBTQ+ community and leading organisations are shouting for their voice to be heard while creating an environment of support for those left out of the discussions effecting them.

Indigenous LGBTQ+ advocacy group BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation founding director and chairman John Leha said recent policies ostracising trans people took an increased toll on First Nations people within the community.

Mr Leha described the recent religious discrimination bill and ban of trans women competing in elite swimming, international rugby league and policy reviews in other sports as a targeted onslaught.

"I think the onslaught of this type of anti trans movement or people not having a true understanding of what it looks like and means for the community is the is what is of concern," Mr Leha said.

"Aboriginal trans people are one of the most highest populations that are faced with mental health, suicide rates across the country, and particularly young people.

"The other part of this is that they're not actually thinking about how it has impact on younger members of our community."

Mr Leha drew parallels with how the Federal Government's push for a constitutional voice and treaty, and controversy around flying the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, threatened to be taken away from the people it impacts.

"(They) are demonstrations of where governments make these commitments but don't have a real appreciation for the way in which those messages are rolled out, or an appreciation for ensuring that communities are a part of a change as opposed to the recipients of it," he said.

While Mr Leha was encouraged by the positive steps, he conceded there was work to be done on their implementation.

Mr Leha said the "difficult times" for First Nations LGBTQ+ people, often marginalised within their own culture and let down by high profile Indigenous leaders and sportspeople, was slowly shifting.

"Members of the LGBT community have taken it upon ourselves to re-educate, reinforce our society to ensure that we are safe in these spaces, that's a key part of BlaQ's strategic direction," he said.

"It really is about networking, supporting each other, and ensuring that there's a network of people, ensuring that there are culturally safe spaces for LGBT people and that we're informing society (on) how to be inclusive."

The organisation has helped members navigate barriers into housing, employment and champions educational pursuit.


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