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Breaking down the walls

One area of LGBTQI life remains little examined: the challenges of growing older and issues around housing, writes Matthew Parkhill

For all the focus on LGBTQI research in recent decades, the challenges of the closet still limit examination of some key aspects of life, a leading gerontology researcher says. Tonye Segbedzi, a senior research and policy officer at the Australian Association of Gerontology, has warned of "significant research gaps in the experiences of older LGBTI Australians and housing”.

Ms Segbedzi published her findings on LGBTI Ageing Research in 2019, and presented a paper from the Housing for the Aged Action Group at the recent Castlemaine Pride Festival. "My research focuses on the older LGBTI community but for a lot of those people, they've remained closeted for much of their lives so they’re just a bit harder to find,” she said. “In terms of discrimination, I found there was evidence of discrimination even in Australia, and when people tried to get housing, older LGBTI people experienced some discrimination and that also there was a widespread fear of it.”

She said existing research tended to “lump everyone together” in the LGBTI community. Currently, the Australian Census Household form does not account for the personal identity of citizens but instead tracks “same-sex relationships” within a household. The HAAG surveyed 228 participants for its 2019-2020 study, 68 of whom were interviewed in person at the Midsumma Pride Festival, and after publishing their report were accredited with the Rainbow Tick for achievements and inclusivity in their work. Ms Segbedzi said her project was looking at the international research that had been done over a 10-year period. She had only accumulated four Australian and New Zealand studies.

She attributed the lack of data o a fear of discrimination and a lack of awareness of the LGBTI community.


Sherene Clow, right, with co-host Amalie O'Hara at the Phee Broadway Theatre for the premiere of season two of their Pride Across The Ages podcast. Photo: Matthew Parkhill

Sherene Clow, LGBTQIA+ engagement officer at Delkhaya Health and co-founder of Castlemaine Pride, said such events created a “safe space” for people to “collaborate and create” as well as to express their concerns to the wider community which can assist services trying to reach the LGBTI community. “In the wider community, you have to pick and choose when you’re out," she said.

"These spaces provide an opportunity that you don’t have to. We can demonstrate then that people want to come to these events, that they want to collaborate and create spaces, and I think that’s what Castlemaine Pride does, it provides that safe space to do that. “This event last year dictated a lot of what happened in the shire because people that were involved ... stood up and said 'I got involved because of this, and we’re missing this'.

"A couple of MPs were here and said 'How do we fill that gap, how do we make this happen?', and then things happened. So, it's having those discussions, because I can’t begin to know what other people of the LGBT community need, or want.”



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