A new report into the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people in Greater Western Sydney has found that within the community, over half experience high to very high levels of psychological distress, compared to 13.5 per cent in the general population. The report, "Advancing LGBTQ+ Safety and Inclusion", released from ACON and Western Sydney University (WSU), details the findings of an 18-month long scoping study informed by local advisory group established by ACON, into a range of LGBTQ+ needs and experiences in Greater Western Sydney.
While the report identifies significant issues of discrimination and isolation experienced by LGBTQ+ people in Greater Western Sydney, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people and people with disability, it also offers insight into opportunities for community-led leadership, community connection, support and visibility.
Some of the key findings include:
- 56 per cent of survey respondents reported ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of psychological distress. This is in comparison to 13.5 per cent in the general population. 70 per cent of respondents who reported ‘very high’ psychological distress, cited that the lack of access to a counselling or mental health service had caused them worry or stress.
- 67 per cent of participants experienced homophobic attitudes, 52 per cent experienced misogyny or sexist attitudes, and 28 per cent experienced racist attitudes.
- High rates of psychological distress were reported to increase for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander participants as they aged.
- 1/3 of CALD participants reported experiences of racism and a quarter reported experiencing negative attitudes about their culture
- 67.2 per cent of trans and gender diverse (TGD) participants reported that a lack of access to counselling or mental health services caused them personal worry/stress. However, psychological health improved with experiences of greater inclusion.
The study found that respondents who reported feeling included and safe showed better mental health.
“We are seeing sexually and gender diverse people across NSW wishing to be more visible and greater recognition of health disparities LGBTQ experience. This includes in Greater Western Sydney where we saw the strong objection to Marriage Equality,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.
“With the support of the NSW Ministry of Health and South East Sydney Local Health District and the projects stakeholders we were keen to learn what this has meant for sexuality and gender diverse communities living in one of Australia’s most culturally diverse regions.
“There is a large, culturally diverse and vibrant LGBTQ+ community living in Greater Western Sydney, with a long history of LGBTQ+ specific services, groups and events championed by community, as well as mainstream health and community services for many decades. Research around the world has consistently shown that health services often under serve and in not being inclusive may marginalise people of diverse genders and sexualities and this can be exacerbated where there are multi faith and multicultural intersections.
“While highlighting areas of concern, the report also identifies opportunities to strengthen collaboration and partnerships between LGBTQ+ services and communities, as well as health and community sectors, to increase social and support options for sexuality and gender diverse communities.”
Report researcher and WSU Diversity and Human Rights Research Centre Director, Professor Kerry Robinson said that the report findings demonstrated a clear need for comprehensive engagement with LGBTQ+ communities in Greater Western Sydney.
“The need for inclusive, culturally safe, confidential services, with trained professionals in LGBTQ+ issues, especially in health care, including GPs, specialists, and mental health and sexual health care professionals, especially for TGD people, was a major finding,” Professor Robinson said.
“Concerns about the safety of LGBTQ+ people living in the region were raised, as were the need for low-cost inclusive housing, particularly for those most vulnerable, including the unemployed and older women. The implementation of recommendations will begin to address the higher levels of psychological distress amongst LGBTQ+ people living in the region, contributed to by exclusion and a lack of access to appropriate services and resources.”
Advisory group member and Community Development Officer at Bankstown Community Resource Group Inc., Anna Certoma said: “As one of the Community Development Workers in the Canterbury Bankstown area, and a member of the local Inclusive Communities Network, we welcome this report.”
“The scoping study findings will support local service providers to improve their inclusion-based practice and develop strength based culturally appropriate services. The report will also help focus Canterbury Bankstown and Greater Western Sydney’s future initiatives so that we can offer more positive experiences for the LGBTIQ+ community and coming generations.”
The report contains recommendations that are goals for whole of government, health, social and community sectors, LGBTQ+ Leaders and others that provide services to sexuality and gender diverse communities in Greater Western Sydney. A number of the issues and recommendations contained in this report are relevant to NSW more broadly and so consideration should be given for approaches that can be scaled-up and locally contextualised across the state.
The report also outlines community recommendations to improve LGBTQ+ safety and inclusion in Greater Western Sydney, including more local/regional services, training and education of service providers and community leaders on LGBTQ issues, and local support networks for which ACON has commenced and will undertake through 2020/21.
Parkhill added: “LGBTQ+ community groups and leaders are key to changes in their own local communities. As such, existing and emerging local community groups and leaders need to be included in strategies designed to build resilience, connection and affirmative health care.”
“It is essential that Greater Western Sydney LGBTQ+ residents have sufficient access to a range of services, including counselling and mental health, that are staffed by professionals who are knowledgeable and affirming of sexuality and gender diversity, and intersectionality.
“We know that the work towards greater inclusion for our communities, wherever they are, is far from over. Helping to support and empower LGBTQ+ people of all backgrounds, and providing inclusive and safe areas wherever they are, is a critical determinant of the health of our communities and seeing sexually and gender diverse people of Greater Western Sydney be embraced and thrive.”