The success of the Australian marriage equality survey in 2017 thrusted the LGBTIQ+ rights movement into the public spotlight. But the long, arduous process was a significant toll of LGBTIQ+ young people's mental health.
More recently, the polarising debate around Israel Folau's public views have again brought out negative commentary against LGBTIQ+ people being themselves, particularly in the workplace.
We spoke to Frances Gamble, Out for Australia's Victorian Director, about how mentoring can help LGBTIQ+ young people navigate the future, and the next steps for the movement.
What is Out for Australia and what programs does it run?
Out for Australia is an organisation that seeks to support and mentor aspiring LGBTIQ professionals as they navigate their way through the early stages of their career and beyond. We aim to bring the community together, to offer a supportive environment in which people can network, build relationships and assist each other in their professional journeys.
Our main offering is our mentoring program that pairs students (tertiary level i.e.TAFE or university) and young professionals with more established professionals.
We also host regular events and workshops where we highlight role models, tackle key issues related to workplace inclusion and authenticity, provide professional development training, and build a sense of community among professionals and students.
Why is mentoring important in LGBTIQ+ communities?
Despite some landmark changes both in the law and in the public perception of LGBTIQ+ people over the past few years, it can still be extremely challenging and daunting for aspiring professionals to be out in the workforce and not fear discrimination, particularly when they are just about to enter or are new in the workforce.
The process and journey of securing a new role is complex and daunting enough, figuring out who your people can be a stressful process- OFA seeks to provide those real life mentors who have walked the path previously and are able to share their thoughts and experiences, not only allowing people to feel comfortable on that journey, but also providing a visible marker of success for aspiring LGBTIQ+ youth. We want young LGBTIQ+ people to feel confident in their career progression!
Mentoring is our flagship program because not only does it serve to bring the community closer to create meaningful, intergenerational connections, it also helps in normalising diversity in a work setting and acknowledging the challenges that LGBTIQ+ people face in the workplace.
Ultimately, our vision is to create an Australia where every LGBTIQ+ student and aspiring professional is confident to be their authentic self in workplaces which celebrate diversity and are inclusive.
It can still be extremely challenging and daunting for aspiring professionals to be out in the workforce and not fear discrimination, particularly when they are just about to enter or are new in the workforce.–Frances Gamble, Out for Australia Victorian Director
The issue of marriage equality brought together the LGBTIQ+ community and allies in solidarity to push for change. What is the young LGBTIQ+ community pushing for next?
Our focus has always been in creating solidarity and a sense of community within the student/young professional sphere and you could say that it’s going to be focus for the foreseeable future.
Within that, diversity and inclusion is one of our core values and transcends into everything that we do. So whether it’s women, people of colour, people with disabilities, trans and gender diverse people, or any of those intersecting identities and other voices that are still on the liminal spaces, we seek to include and amplify those voices and push for equality.
What is your hope for LGBTIQ+ young people in the future?
My hope for LGBTIQ+ young people is that they feel confident to be their most authentic selves, knowing and feeling that they are part of a supportive community, that they are not alone.
We may still have a way to go, but change in the long term starts on a smaller scale, within our everyday workplaces and personal spheres. Our diverse LGBTIQ+ community and networks are a source of strength we can lean on, indeed, it's exactly what has helped us move forward so far.
How can young people get involved with Out for Australia?
The best way to get involved is through the mentorship program. We use an online platform called Mentorloop which is a social network designed to forge mentor-mentee relationships. Our website has more information about this and guides on how to sign up and set up your profile.
We also have a strong presence in NSW, VIC, QLD, ACT and WA and a building presence in TAS, SA and NT where regular events are held. They are typically advertised on our Facebook page.
We are also often on the lookout for volunteers and student ambassadors for universities which we piloted this year. These vacancies are advertised on our website.