Friday, November 6, 2015

Health in Difference Conference Report By Elizabeth Proctor Health Care Consumers’ Consumer Representative & Eleanor Kerdo Policy Officer HCCA


Elizabeth Proctor:
In mid August I was lucky enough to attend the first day of the 9th National LGBTI Health Conference Health in Difference (and I apologise for the delay in reporting back!). The most striking thing about the conference was how thoughtfully the program and speakers engaged with the overlaps and interactions between healthcare provision and marginalisation of groups. A special focus was placed on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse LGBTI peoples face multiple disadvantages, both when seeking healthcare and more broadly.

The conference speakers shared stories that showed how far we’ve come in LGBTI communities, but also how much work remains – a lesbian mother who in the 1990s snuck into hospital to care for her baby (it took the hospital a week to notice there were two mums taking turns), Bob Brown’s memories of shock therapy and seeking out so many psychiatrists before finding one who gave him the best advice (‘Bob, sounds like you’re gay. Why don’t you try accepting it?’), Muslim-Australian siblings challenging the western notion of ‘coming out’ (instead, invite your loved ones into your life), and lawyers advocating for sex-positive aged care facilities (why aren’t there any double beds?). In a bright spot for aged care, Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs pointed out that the recent change of law for inclusive facilities was almost surprisingly uncontroversial; updating the Sex Discrimination Act so religious aged care facilities were not exempt from LGBTI non-discrimination was met with general acceptance across the community.

Eleanor Kerdo:

On day 2 Eleanor swapped in and attended the ageing and aged care stream. There are lots of organisations working on making aged care facilities (ACF)  and services more LGBTI inclusive, both at a policy and personal level. Silver Rainbow is offering training on inclusive practice to ACF staff, while the Department of Social Services is developing formal standards for LGBTI inclusive aged care. Palliative Care Australia is similarly working on LGBTI specific policy frameworks. On a frontline service level, Switchboard Victoria provides community connections to isolated LGBTI elders through the good old cup of tea, connecting them to new friends who can build their confidence and support them settling into aged care.

Philomena Horsley of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria (LaTrobe University) presented on LGBTI people’s experiences in end of life care and reflected on the history of end of life care in the LGBTI community. At the height of the 1980s HIV-AIDS epidemic, the LGBTI community was at the centre of an underground end of life care and euthanasia movement to support terminally ill patients with AIDS. At that time a large number of nurses and doctors could see a clear need for those services and took big personal risks to provide care. As conversations about dying with dignity become prevalent again it is timely to reflect on those moments in history that were so compelling to past generations.


Several community groups expressed an interest in HCCA’s Advance Care Planning Project, and Christine is looking forward to working with LGBTI communities in Canberra to help people develop aged care plans that work for them.

Thanks for sending us to this conference we thought it was excellent!

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