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Organisations in Focus

Uniting Care (NSW & ACT)

Uniting Care NSW ACT inclusive post cards

While there has been great progress in recent years, members of Australia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) community are still subject to an array of verbal, physical and mental discrimination. As health and community service providers we should be at the forefront of change, instilling support and advocacy for all members of our community and many QIP clients are doing just that! One organisation that continues to improve and enhance their service, culture, systems and processes to be more LGBTI inclusive is Uniting Care New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) (Uniting).

Uniting is one of the largest not-for-profit community service providers in Australia, and is the primary service and advocacy arm of the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia. Uniting works to inspire people, enliven communities and confront injustice. Uniting provides aged care and early learning; and services for vulnerable children, young people and families, and people with disability, and places a key focus on LGBTI+ inclusion and advocacy, both in their organisation and externally.

With a large spread of service offerings to people from all walks of life, Uniting are leading advocates of LGBTI+ rights. This was recently solidified through the achievement of their second round of accreditation against the Rainbow Tick Standards across 150+ sites.

We spoke with Claire Allen, LGBTI+ Project Officer for Uniting Care, who gave us a better understanding of their service provision, along with great insight into their LGBTI+ advocacy and Rainbow Tick Accreditation achievements.

QIP: What does Rainbow Tick accreditation mean to Uniting, your staff and the people you service?
Claire: We are proud of our Rainbow Tick accreditation (again in 2018) and we celebrate it as an important achievement. The Rainbow Tick, as a third-party verification audit process, is part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen advocacy, inclusivity and safe environments for members of LGBTI+ communities, their families and friends. We celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of all people. Uniting is an inclusive faith-based organisation that encourages people to be who they truly are, without judgement.

QIP: What processes did Uniting implement to achieve accreditation on such a large scale?
Claire: We took a whole-of-organisation approach but the sponsorship of the executive team helped mobilise our teams throughout the accreditation process. We started with broad communication across the organisation but then tailored it so that the information about Uniting’s efforts to secure accreditation was relevant to each team. This helped us to be very specific about the type of information we were looking for including the evidence required, within the timeframes. Identifying the right people to assist, from each of our different services, was also invaluable because it enabled us to identify the experts who were able to detail the “this is how we do it here” and to help gather local evidence. This, and a good numbering system for referencing our evidence was vital.

QIP: Having achieved your second Rainbow Tick, was there a difference between initial transformation and the improvement journey Uniting has been on between the two?
Claire: Our efforts to strengthen advocacy, inclusivity and safe environments for members of LGBTI+ communities, their families and friends, are ongoing. Uniting NSW and ACT has embedded our LGBTI+ inclusion strategy into our organisational strategy and it has strong executive support. We’re also very proud that we’re continuing to improve our understanding of LGBTI+ interests and issues. Our inclusion strategy is also maturing and we’re strengthening trust with our LGBTI+ clients and staff. As an example, Uniting has been marching in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade since 2015 but it wasn’t until 2017 that five of our clients felt confident enough to march with us. We also have more comprehensive systems for recording LGBTI+ feedback and complaints and are streamlining our services for all stages of life.

QIP: What are some the highlights from your recent Rainbow Tick experience?
Claire: There are many highlights but a few that come to mind include some of our senior gym clients, discovering that they had been in the original 1978 Mardi Gras together and reminiscing. We also captured some great quotes including “I am who I am and that’s the way it is”, “Uniting is a beautiful organisation that creates a sense of acceptance and belonging” and “this is the organisation where I know wherever I go, I feel safe”. You can’t ask for better feedback than that.

QIP: How did your teams celebrate your recent achievement of your Rainbow Tick?
Claire: Celebrations have been low key, but have included a morning tea with our CEO. This is mostly because we have lots of other exciting LGBTI+ initiatives that have our attention including an LGBTI+ short film being filmed in one of our aged care facilities, our Mardi Gras parade preparations and the relaunch of our LGBTI+ Consumer and Carer Advisory group.

QIP: Outside of your direct services, Uniting also celebrate and participate in a variety of LGBTI+ related community events across NSW and Victoria – what importance do you believe these events hold in terms of LGBTI+ support and progression?
Claire: Visibility is very important to Uniting, we only cover NSW and ACT but we have a sister organisation in Victoria. As Uniting is a faith-based organisation, people may assume that we are not LGBTI+ inclusive. We want to make sure we take every opportunity to demonstrate our inclusivity and that we celebrate LGBTI+ diversity. We know that some older LGBTI+ Australians do not access health or care services for fear of discrimination and we say to them that Uniting “welcomes you exactly as you are” and we want them to be confident in using our services, inviting their loved ones to our services, and in disclosing their sexuality (should they chose to do so). This is also why we actively participate in many LGBTI+ events, often with our Uniting Church colleagues
by our side.

QIP: Is there any advice or insights you would like to share with other community organisations in regard to the LGBTI+ support and rights within the industry and how they can better support the LGBTI+ community?
Claire: Ask for help – most other services will share their inclusion initiatives as we are all working towards a more inclusive culture. Reach out to LGBTI+ peak bodies, such as AHRI, Gender Centre, ACON, GLHV, National LGBTI+ Health Alliance for their expertise and resources. People can also signup to be part of Pride in Diversity and Pride in Health and Wellbeing in order to have a relationship executive assist them on their journey and to use their benchmarking tools to monitor their progress.

The QIP Team would like to thank Claire and the Uniting team for taking the time to answer some questions and give an insight into the great work they are doing. To find out more about Uniting Care and their LGBTI+ inclusion, visit https://uniting.org/who-we-help/lgbti-inclusion.

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