A Sydney Mardi Gras board member and human rights activist has detailed the unique challenges faced by older LGBTIQ+ people in the aged care system.
Robyn Kennedy, who marched in the original Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978, spoke during the launch of the NSW LGBTQIA+ Health Strategy 2022-2027.
The event announced the opening of Australia's first state-funded LGBTIQIA+ healthcare centre.
Kennedy, who is 68, said that many older people of diverse sexualities and genders do not feel safe enough to come out to their aged care service provider.
“Many older LGBTQIA+ people in Australia are the first generation in our society to have lived their entire adult lives out and proud,” she said.
"Previous generations did not have this opportunity.
"The implications for the healthcare system are significant – we are afraid to lose our identities in aged care services – identities we have worked hard for.”
The NSW government will commit $4.2 million to the AIDS Council of Australia (ACON) to develop the new health care facility in Sydney.
The centre is part of a major overhaul to address ongoing stigma and discrimination in healthcare.
Kennedy shared her own personal experience while fighting breast cancer in 2006.
"I had multiple encounters [in hospital] where I was asked about ‘my husband’,” she said.
“These assumptions about my sexuality simply added another burden to be overcome.
"Before each treatment I had to psych myself up not only for the physical impact, but the emotional impact of coming out again and again at a time of intense vulnerability.”
The NSW LGBTIQ+ Health Strategy 2022-2027 contains measures to improve access to services and to design tailored education programs for health workers.
It also contains a 'gate keeper' initiative for health staff, including aged care workers, which will deliver suicide awareness and prevention skills training.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters it was "disturbing" that a dedicated health strategy for LGBTIQA+ people hadn't been planned until now.
“The community really should have had this years ago,” Hazzard said.
“Information that comes from people who understand what the challenges are is critical.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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