Why we have developed this resource
Members of the LGBTIQA+ community know that they are safest when interacting with people they know they can trust. Peer mental health support from LGBTIQA+ friends, workers and service providers can alleviate the anxiety of interacting with services that might not be safe or reliable, and protects marginalised LGBTIQA+ people from potentially unsafe interactions with police, hospitals and the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team.
That’s why Healthy Equal Youth (HEY) has put together this guide to the COVD-19 restrictions in Victoria, for workers and young peers who are going to provide care for LGBTIQA+ community members who are struggling with mental health concerns or family violence.
For LGBTIQA+ young people, lockdown is exacerbating an already significant struggle with isolation and mental illness. LGBTIQA+ Australians experience depression at triple the rate of their heterosexual peers. Transgender Australians aged 25 and under are nearly ten times more likely to be diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Despite these statistics, mainstream mental health services are often not equipped or trained to help LGBTIQA+ community members. Being locked down in situations of family violence or with non-affirming family or flatmates can also increase risks for LGBTIQA+ young people.
Additionally, we know that increased policing due to COVID-19 puts LGBTIQA+ people at increased risk of violence. Police interactions will feel even more dangerous for every LGBTQIA+ community member who might also be a person of colour, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, a disabled person, a sex worker, or an illicit drug user.
It is important that anybody (especially LGBTIQA+ people) who is leaving their home to provide care to another person understands the COVID-19 regulations and their rights when interacting with police.
For young people
With Stage Four restrictions in metro Melbourne and Stage Three restrictions in regional and rural Victoria, there are only four reasons to leave home:
- shopping for essentials
- medical appointments and care
- heading to work or school
In Melbourne, additional restrictions apply on exercise (1 hour per day in a max group of two), shopping for essentials (1 person from each household for 1 hour max per day), schools are closed and you must stay within a 5km radius of home unless you must travel for work or an emergency. Curfews are also in place from 8pm–5am each night to reduce the movement of people.
But there are exemptions for safety, compassion and care. Social isolation from the ongoing pandemic is having a huge impact on young people’s mental health and other existing issues.
You are exempt from the curfew and the 5km restrictions for urgent medical care and caregiving, or if you are not safe in your home environment.
You can provide care and support to a relative or other person – such as shopping, cooking or house-cleaning – because of their disability, sickness or chronic health condition, they are pregnant or have health or mental health concerns.
If you are visiting another person to provide care, where possible you should still practice social distancing, sanitise and wash your hands regularly, and wear a mask.
If there is an emergency or if you are in a situation of family violence, or other violence by someone in the home, and you are at risk, you can also leave.
It is worth noting that even if you have a legitimate reason for leaving the house, you may still be approached by police and asked questions about why you are not at home.
What to do when interacting with the police
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, these are guidelines to support you safely through any interactions. If you require legal advice, you should call YouthLaw via 9113 9500 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm) or Victoria Legal Aid Help Line, 1300 792 387, (24/7 support).
Interacting with the police can cause understandable stress and anxiety, even if you know you haven’t done anything wrong.
By law, you are required to provide your name and address to a police officer who asks you.
For trans and gender diverse people whose legal name or ID might out them or not reflect their gender, this can be very stressful, but you are still legally required to provide your name and address. If you feel safe to do so, you can give them your legal name and then tell them your preferred name and your pronouns.
Keep in mind that if you are under 18, the police might talk to your parents or guardian using the preferred name you gave them. If you’re not out to your parents or guardian, make sure you don’t give the police information that might out you accidentally.
Telling the police your name and pronouns isn’t a guarantee that they will use the right name and pronouns while speaking with you. They might even intentionally misgender you or use the wrong name. If a police officer is misgendering you or misnaming you, it is important to be as calm and polite as possible. If they believe you are becoming hostile or aggressive, the situation might escalate. You can choose, based on how safe or calm you feel, whether you correct them on your name or pronouns or not.
When the police ask for more information as to why you are breaking restrictions, you can choose not to provide the police with any more information than yourname and address.But this may result in getting a fine for breaking restrictions, especially if you are outside a 5km radius from home.
If you are stopped by police when travelling to provide care to an individual because of their mental health concerns, explain this to the police, and refer to the DHHS guidelines stated on their website.
The person you are caring for does not need to have a mental illness diagnosis. From a mental health perspective, mental health concerns are inclusive of, but not limited to, mental illness. Mental health concerns also include suicidality and undiagnosed psychological distress.
If a person is experiencing family violence, they can leave their home. They can call Safe Steps on 1800 015 188, or Switchboard on 1800 184 527 to assist with finding safety. If you are in this situation and are stopped by police, tell them you are unsafe at home and again refer to the DHHS guidelines that state that if you say this “the police will help you”.
If you believe that telling this to the police might put you or your friend in a difficult situation, such as the police deciding to intervene, you can state that you are going to care for someone who is feeling unsafe.
You can record a police interaction on your phone as long as you tell them that you’re recording the interaction. It’s a good idea to be clear that you are reaching for your phone, where it is, and why.
You can ask a police officer for the reason you were stopped, and for their name, station, and rank. They do not have to give a reason for stopping you if you were driving, but they do have to provide the other information.
You might be issued a fine by a police officer no matter what you say, even if you are within your rights to have left your home. Rather than refusing to take the fine or arguing with the police, it is safer to accept the fine and seek legal advice afterwards. You can more easily dispute a fine after it has been issued than dispute it being given to you, which the police might interpret as hostile or uncooperative (even if you’re right). Your safety is the most important thing.
After interacting with the police, take notes on what happened, when and where it happened, what you remember being said, and notes about how you felt in the moment and why. If you feel like the police officer was intentionally misgendering you or being homophobic or transphobic in any way, make a note of it, as it might have motivated them to fine you unfairly. Then, if you were issued a fine, contact a community legal service for advice. If you left home for a good reason that fits within the restrictions, the legal service should be able to help you fight the fine.
QLife – Call 1800 184 527 (everyday 6pm-10pm) or text chat (everyday 3:00pm-12am). QLife provides anonymous and free LGBTIQA+ peer support and referral for people in Australia wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.
WithRespect - Call 1800 542 847 (Wednesday 5:00pm-11:00pm, weekends 10:00am-10:00pm). If you call afterhours, leave a message and your call will be returned during the listed hours. WithRespect is an LGBTIQA+ family violence service that provides resources and support for those experiencing difficulty in their relationships, including family violence.
- YouthLaw – Provides free legal support for young people aged under 25 via 9113 9500 (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm)
- Victoria Legal Aid Help Line - 1300 792 387, 24/7 support available
- LGBTIQ Legal Service – Contact form online – 5 business day response
- YouthLaw also has a Ballarat-based youth lawyer who can be contacted at 0407 854 223 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm)
24/7 support services for Mental Health and Domestic/Family Violence
- Lifeline - Call 13 11 14 for crisis support and counselling, with a focus on suicide prevention. (Lifeline are LGBTIQA+ inclusive).
- Kids Helpline - Call 1800 55 1800 for free, private and confidential phone and online counselling services for young people aged 5 to 25. (Kids Helpline are LGBTIQA+ inclusive).
- safe steps Family Violence Response Centre – Call 1800 015 188 for professional help to understand your situation, explore your options, work with you to develop a plan to ensure the immediate safety of you and your closed ones, and, if needed, connect you with other support services e.g. crisis accommodation, economical and logistical advice, migrant services, etc. (safesteps are primarily an organisation for cis women and their children, but are LGBTIQA+ inclusive. You can read their inclusivity statement here).
- 1800RESPECT – Call 1800 737 732 for support to people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. (1800Respect are LGBTIQA+ inclusive).
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line (SACL) - Call 1800 806 292 (weeknights 5pm- 9am, weekends and public holidays 24/7). SACL provides telephone crisis counselling and support to people who have experienced sexual assault. Afterhours crisis care response is also available for victims of recent sexual assault, and referrals to appropriate services for ongoing support. (SACL is run out of the Royal Women’s Hospital, but work for anybody who has experienced sexual assault. They try to use inclusive language. Their LGBTIQA+ statement is available here).
- If you are in immediate danger and feel comfortable doing so, call 000.
- Women's Information Referral and Exchange (WIRE) - Call 300 134 130 (weekdays 9am-5pm), email at email@example.com, and text chat (9.30am- 4.30pm). WIRE provide risk assessment, support, information and referral for Victorian women, nonbinary and gender-diverse people. (WIRE include trans women, cis women, and anybody who is trans, nonbinary, or gender diverse who has experienced violence or discrimination as a woman. View their TGD Policy here.)
- InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence - Call 1800 755 988 (weekdays 9:00am-5:00pm) to get in contact with a specialist family violence centre for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, their families and communities. (InTouch are pursing becoming an LGBTIQA+ inclusive service, but for now they are focused on cis women).
- Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) - Call 03 9635 3610 for phone support from CASA, who focus on case work for people who have experienced sexual assault. (CASA is run out of the Royal Women’s Hospital and assume that all or most perpetrators are cis men, and all or most survivors are cis women. They do not use gender inclusive language.)
- National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline - Call 1800 880 052 (weekdays 9am-7pm). This government hotline is a free, independent and confidential service for reporting abuse and neglect of people with disability. (There is no information about the LGBTIQA+ inclusivity of the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline).
- Men’s Referral Service - No to Violence (NTV)- Call 1300 766 491 (weekdays 8am–9pm, weekends 9am-5pm) or text chat (weekdays 8am–9pm, weekends and public holidays 10am-3pm). The Men’s Referral Service provides telephone counselling, information, and referral services for support for men, as well as people of any gender seeking information on behalf of their male partners, friends or family members. (NTV is an LGBTIQA+ inclusive service that primarily focuses on helping cis men change their behaviour).
Briar Rolfe is the Rainbow Projects and Communications Officer at YACVic. Thomas Feng is the Media and Communications Manager at YACVic.