Michelle Lensink

Same-Sex Discrimination

This speech is to indicate that the Liberal Party will be supporting this particular motion put forward by the Hon. T.A. Franks.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

That this Council:

1. Expresses its concern that young people who are same-sex attracted and/or gender questioning continue to face discrimination and stigma in our society and consequently are more likely to attempt or commit suicide, to be at risk or homeless and to suffer unnecessary mental illnesses or other indicators of a higher health burden than their peers;

2. Welcomes and encourages all efforts to counter this discrimination and stigma;

3. Notes that programs offering peer and group support are uniquely effective in tackling the isolation that some young same sex-attracted and/or gender questioning people may experience;

4. Congratulates the longstanding Government-run programs at Second Story, including Inside Out and Evolve, for their continued efforts to support young people who are same sex-attracted and/or gender questioning; and

5. Urges that the valuable role of targeted support and counselling programs for this vulnerable group be continued with at least current levels of funding and with access by young people to group support and peer education as well as counselling and health services and advice.
(Continued from 8 June 2011.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:35): I rise to speak on this motion and provide some remarks and indicate that the Liberal Party will be supporting this particular motion. Reading between the lines of how it has been reported in the media, I am taking it that there has been some dispute between volunteers at the service and some of the management, and I am pleased that the particular programs involved, which were Evolve and Inside Out, will not now be cut.

I was contacted, as other honourable members may have been, in mid-April by Blaze Magazine which said that they had received information that Second Story would be closing those two projects—Evolve and Inside Out—which focus on same-sex attracted youth in peer education and group drop-in sessions in favour of one of counselling which requires referral and greater evidence of vulnerability than having a diverse sexuality or gender. Blaze wrote to me and stated that:

Concerns have been raised that this will see same sex attracted youth placed at further risk as the current preventative services of peer education, mental and social support and HIV prevention information will be exchanged for remedial services.

They have concerns about this new service model. They wanted to know what we thought the motives would be for such a change in the current service model and what evidence had been provided that discontinuing such services would be of benefit. We contacted the health minister's office, which was quite prompt in providing a reply to us to advise that those services would not be cut. That letter to me of 29 June states:

What is currently underway at The Second Story Youth Health Service is a new planning and development process to ensure the provision of high quality, effective, best practice and safe health services for vulnerable young people, including those who identify as gay, bisexual or same-sex attracted.

There are a few weasel words in there, but I accept that the program will no longer be cut. I should just say, before I refer to a letter that the opposition received, that this issue was raised during the recent estimates process by my colleague the member for Unley who, in questioning the Minister for Youth, asked whether Second Story and indeed the issue of ward 4G had been directly raised with her and whether she had had advice sought and what advice she had provided. I think it is telling that the minister—who has a very important portfolio, which is quite directly relevant to this particular issue—had not been consulted about it. I am sure that, if she has been, she would have told them that they should retain the service.

The government policy, known as Youth Connect, directly infers in its first few pages that it wants to be inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (GLBTIQ) young people. So, in seeking to cut those services, I think the government was ignoring its own strategy.
I received a letter via one of my country colleagues in the Liberal Party, whom I will not name because I do not wish to identify the person who wrote it. This person wrote to his former local member expressing concern about these two programs being cut. His story is, I think, probably quite typical of young people in the country who may be experiencing sexuality issues. He states:

After moving to the city I at first felt I had no support and nowhere to turn to find other youth my age who I felt comfortable associating with. I was, however, lucky enough to hear of this service—

that is, those services at Second Story—

and was invited to come on a Friday evening. Within the group, I found acceptance and like-minded youth who helped me form friendships both within and outside the project while also gaining advice on sexual health, personal safety and other important areas.

He makes several other comments and then states:

These struggles are magnified when the youth in question is 'different', and I imagine you would be concerned to hear that queer youth are still grossly overrepresented in youth homelessness and youth suicide. I fear from this cut in funding that parliament may no longer consider queer youth to be at risk—a worrying assumption indeed.

And I concur with his remarks. As I said, I think that is fairly typical of the experience of young people in country areas who may come to the city needing some support, advice and assistance. Clearly, a peer model is of great benefit to them, rather than what had been proposed: to change the structure of those particular programs. So, I endorse all of the points expressed in this motion and commend the motion to the council.

 

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