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Where do I go? Easy access to LGBTI support in the workplace.

LGBTI employees may find themselves in sticky situations on a daily basis, some harsher than others, but the accumulative impact of micro-aggressions and discrimination can have a significant impact on one’s wellbeing and mental health. Unfortunately, in the 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Employee Survey, only 45% out of the 10 lowest ranking number confirmed that they knew where to go for more information about LGBTI inclusion. How do we make these paths for reaching out easier and more accessible?

Here is an experiment you can run: take three new employees and ask them to act on the following scenario – their closest workmate had a chat with them and told them they were gender diverse and thinking about transitioning. They seemed anxious and depressed, and this process has a major impact on their wellbeing. You want to help. Now go to the organisation’s intranet and find two people you are absolutely confident your friend can contact and get support from as an LGBTI individual, one from HR, one not.

Now sit down and have a look at how they try to get this information from the intranet. Where do they go first? What is the logic that guides them? Do they start with the HR page? Do they go to the diversity page? Is there a designated LGBTI area? Is it clear and easy to find? What comes up when you type LGBTI support in the search field?

This first part of the experiment will help you assess how accessible the information is to all staff. It is important to note that the specific scenario was not chosen without thought.

First, the reasons why the AWEI asks for LGBTI friendly contacts that are both HR and non-HR are to do with confidentiality, disclosure and safety. Some people might want to have an off-the-record conversation with a colleague or a manager who can provide some insight about the organisation’s approach, without worrying about their personal files or policies and procedures. Some will feel more comfortable talking to a HR contact that can help refer them to the organisation’s policies and track record in LGBTI inclusion and assist them with references to relevant information for their situation.

Second, LGBTI individuals are the ones who will usually seek out help and support, however everyone might find themselves in situations where other people in their lives may need support and assistance, and all employees need to be able to access this information. Many times we see great intentions translated into poor structures as HR/D&I individuals are convinced that the platform they created is accessible and easy to find without actively testing the waters. When it comes to support, it is vital that you are able to find what you are looking for quickly and easily. Reaching out is incredibly difficult and challenging for many people, which means that every additional click/phone call/question that stands between them and getting support may serve as another indicator that it is not safe for them to be their full self within your workplace. If you can reach support easily via your intranet home page while following a clear, logical, and intuitive path – you nailed it. Anything more complicated than that may be counterproductive.

Now to the second part of the experiment. Let us say that all three of your new staff got to a list of LGBTI-friendly contacts, including HR and non-HR, and provided you with two names as requested. Keep enquiring: are you sure these people can effectively manage gender affirmation processes or advice related to them within your workplace? Are you sure your friend can trust them to use inclusive language and to refer to them appropriately? Are you sure confidentiality will be kept? How do you know this? How did you assess the emotional safety required for such sensitive processes?

Once again, we need to walk in the shoes of an LGBTI person in need, or someone who is trying to access necessary support or information. The bottom line here is that explicit language is vital in order to create a level of safety and accessibility for LGBTI people and peers. It is not enough to just provide the names and numbers, it is essential to also mention credentials, relevant training, confidentiality, processes etc. Do not assume that people know or will assume these things. The contrary works – assume they know nothing, and provide them with all the information you can in order to make it easier to make a very hard decision – reach out, come out.

The good news is that these structures do exist and operate successfully in some of our member organisations. In comparison to 45% of the employees in the 10 lowest ranking members who knew where to go in order to seek information about LGBTI inclusion, a whopping 87% knew where to access this information in our 10 top ranking organisations. This is a strong reflection and demonstration to how LGBTI inclusion permeates to different layers of the organisation over time. Taking into consideration that the 10 top ranking members have been working with Pride in Diversity for a number of years, they have had the time, and often a number of AWEI submissions to fine-tune their structures, policies and procedures for maximum impact. Constant exposure to events, executive sponsors, visual inclusion cues, information, policies, training sessions and other initiatives create an environment in which reaching out is simpler and safer for LGBTI employees.

It is important to rely on the recommendations in the AWEI, as they stem from years of experience of organisations that have been with Pride in Diversity since its inception in 2009. These high resolution items carry the same spirit of visibility, accessibility and clarity, and provide LGBTI employees with an experience that counteracts their inherent sense of exclusion and replaces it with inclusion and safety. Isn’t that what we all want from our employer?

Shai Feniger, a Relationship Manager for Pride in Diversity, comes with over 15 years of experience working and volunteering with marginalised groups, with a focus on LGBTI, Indigenous peoples and mental health. He is experienced with Team Management, Program Development, Training and Facilitation, Community Development and Service Provision, and with experience in LGBTI inclusion in the workplace.

Direct: +612  9206 2196 | Switch: +612 9206 2000 | Mobile: 0419 583 034

Transgender Day of Visibility- Is Visibility Enough?

Visibility for transgender and gender diverse people provides a vital tool for workplaces working on improving inclusion for transgender and gender diverse people, but is visibility alone enough to build an inclusive society or even an inclusive workplace?

Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March) is a day set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the lives of transgender and gender diverse people. Increasing visibility of transgender and gender diverse people is essential to acknowledging diversity and building inclusion.

It is important for us all to realise that visibility of transgender and gender diverse people has already made a significant difference in some of our workplaces, it informs those who have struggled with identity, that they have options, it assists organisations to benefit from talented individuals who would otherwise not have an opportunity to shine, but there is much left to do.

Visibility alone is not enough to build an inclusive society or even an inclusive workplace. Visibility however does provide a vital tool for workplaces working on improving inclusion for transgender and gender diverse people.  The risk of this visibility is that it may burden our people with a task many may not want to bear.  Most transgender and gender diverse people just want to go about their day like everybody else, being recognised as valuable for the work they do regardless of their gender identity. Although there are occasions when people will be comfortable to address appropriate questions and provide information related to their identity and experiences, they should not be automatically expected to bear the burden of repeatedly having to educate others. When we also consider that most transgender and gender diverse people consider that cisgender people should not speak on behalf of the community, how then can an organisation work towards greater inclusion without expecting too much of their transgender and  gender diverse employees?

This is where organisations can benefit from resources provided by ACON’s Pride in Diversity and Pride in Sport programs. Both these programs provide expertise, consulting services, training, printed resources, , informative and inspiring guest speakers, including speakers with lived experience. By accessing the expertise available within these programs, workplaces and sporting organisation can become better informed about the challenges faced by transgender and gender diverse people, without forcing employees to disclose their history or placing them in situations where they constantly have to educate others about what it means to be transgender or gender diverse.

What can your organisation do on Transgender Day of Visibility, to celebrate the lives of people while being respectful of transgender and gender diverse colleagues and employees?

  • Invite a transgender or gender diverse speaker to address your workplace;
  • Undertake LGBTI or transgender specific training;
  • Simply direct employees to some of the fantastic video resources that are available via ACON’s Pride in Diversity program, or;
  • Hold a celebration acknowledging the diversity of your workforce

ACON’s Pride in Diversity and Pride in Sport’s programs wish you a fantastic and insightful Transgender Day of Visibility 2017!

Kimberly Olsen is a Manager within ACON’s Pride Inclusion programs. Kimberly is able to draw from her perspective as a transgender woman in order to help organisations meaningfully engage with people of not only diverse sexualities, but also diverse gender identities. Email

Why Benchmarking is so critical in Diversity and Inclusion

While I think most Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) professionals would say that we have made some progress and that the business case for diversity is now widely acknowledged and communicated (even it is does sometimes appear a little well-rehearsed and a somewhat tired piece of diversity rhetoric), this D&I game is still a tough gig. Many would argue that support is still just lip service, that while we just roll the benefits off our tongue and get the executive nod when its needed (because it’s something we should all be paying attention to), when it comes to the crunch ie. the tough stuff (additional resources, budget or Senior Leadership KPIs) there is still some considerable pushback.

Many of us would passionately argue that we are still falling behind, not making enough progress in terms of seeing more women on boards or in C-suite positions, Indigenous employment, cultural diversity or in the areas of accessibility & disability; and yet we see some extraordinary growth and some amazing work by passionate “on the ground individuals” in areas such as LGBTI inclusion.  I’m not saying that LGBTI inclusion is there yet, by no means, but the impact of passionate individuals desperately wanting to help drive the change in their own organisations in support of their diversity and that of loved ones, is becoming a force for change that is drawing the attention and getting the buy-in of many a one-time diversity-worn sceptical leader.

For as many papers being written on the positive impact or otherwise of D&I initiatives, there as many arguments for and against what are deemed to be the best approaches.   Is it all about targets and accountabilities or about focus groups, listening circles and tailored solutions?  Do we roll all D&I initiatives into one bucket leading to a collective set of outcomes or do we created pillars of focus running the risk of perceptions that we are giving more attention to one set of diverse individuals over another?  Do we follow the latest trend or deep-dive into our own culture, understand it first and then devise the strategy?  And if we take the latter approach, do we risk being so inwardly focused that we lose track of the progress that other organisations are making outside of our inner circle?  Welcome to the life of a diversity practitioner.

I personally have no doubt that there are answers in many of these seemingly opposing views, but I still keep coming back to the need for local benchmarking, as tedious as the process can sometimes be.  If we have a regularly updated national benchmark on what currently constitutes good practice, then we have a road map, a current roadmap, a local roadmap to guide us.  Not one derived from what other countries are doing based on their different histories, different workplace cultures, different laws and different experiences of diversity but on what we are doing here in Australia.  If the benchmark has a way of identifying the areas of current and leading practice, provides quantitative and qualitative feedback on the work that we doing in the assessed area and a means by which we can track progress year on year, then we can not only drive our internal initiatives in a culturally appropriate way, but we can, move with the benchmark as it moves ensuring that we are always on top of the game, not independent of it.

Important in any benchmark is the ability to measure not only what the organisation does in order to meet the current standard, but the impact that it is having on the lived experiences of those on the ground; whether they belong to a diverse community or not. We need to balance the work of the organisation with the impact on the culture, on the people and on the very lives of those we are trying to improve through the provision of equitable and respectful workplaces.  Combined with comprehensive metrics we can then track the impact that these initiatives have on retention, engagement, promotions, team compilation and leadership representation.  Benchmarking also gives us that all powerful insight into what our peers are doing, how we compare to our competititors, our suppliers, those in the same industry or sector.

Benchmarking does take time admittedly, but the value you get during the lifespan of your work within the different aspects of D&I is invaluable. It’s well worth the commitment.

Dawn Hough is the Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs specialising in LGBTI inclusion within Australian workplaces (Pride in Diversity), sporting contexts (Pride in Sport).

Pride in Diversity are also the publishers of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) – a national benchmarking tool for LGBTI workplace Inclusion.  The AWEI is a free service offered to all Australian Employers regardless of where they are on the LGBTI Inclusion journey.  For more information on the AWEI (submissions close in mid March every year), visit:

Maximising the Effect of LGBTI Inclusion Initiatives

In the 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index employee survey we asked employees of participating organisations whether they believed their organisation genuinely supported LGBTI inclusion. While 90% of the employees in our 10 top ranked organisations strongly agreed with the statement, only 66% of the employees in our 10 lowest ranking organisations felt the same. How do we make sure our LGBTI inclusion initiatives are reflected in the DNA of the company, and that the change permeates to all layers of the workplace?

Since 2013 and the significant change in anti-discriminatory laws, the Australian work environment is experiencing a fast-tracked process of change around the meaning and the importance of inclusion initiatives in the workplace. On top of an array of impacts that self-editing employees may suffer, as LGBTI identities are now considered protected attributes, businesses are liable for LGBTI discrimination, bullying and harassment, and any type of emotional distress that an individual might suffer as consequence.

In the past three years Pride in Diversity experienced a 365% growth in membership, and witnessed a significant shift in the way businesses endorse LGBTI inclusion, embrace its benefits and use it for branding and marketing. Despite these rapid changes, the end experience of LGBTI employees is not all positive, and in this front changes can be far slower, as they permeate gradually into the different layers of the business.

Quite often we encounter professionals who assess inclusion based on vague ideas and concepts and not based on facts and numbers. We hear about an inclusive vibe, about not having an issue with LGBTI people, about a few employees who are ‘out’ and fine with it. While all of these observations might be true, they neglect to thoroughly address all layers of the business, and address possible roadblocks that LGBTI individuals might encounter in different departments, locations, environments or under different management. As LGBTI individuals more often than not come with an inherit experience of exclusion, it is essential to remember that unless their  identities are explicitly and proactively invited to be celebrated as part of the business’s DNA, they will not necessarily feel included no matter what the vibe is. The art of LGBTI inclusion is about incorporating LGBTI inclusive initiatives, while communicating them clearly, visibly and explicitly.

Further to the belief in businesses’ genuine support in LGBTI inclusion, in the 2016 AWEI survey, we looked into employees’ belief that their organisation communicates LGBTI inclusion initiatives internally. Within the top 10 ranking organisations, 82% of the employees strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, in comparison with 43% of employees of the lowest ranking organisations. This is consistent with other markers, such as employees’ knowledge of where to get more information about LGBTI inclusion in the workplace (87% vs. 45%). In short, members who reach out more, communicate more, and promote accessibility – maximise the impact of their LGBTI inclusion initiatives.

Let us take policy review as an example. For many organisations, amending the existing policies into including LGBTI identities, relationship and specific benefits is one of the first stages taken in their LGBTI inclusion process. It is also the first question in the AWEI, aiming to build a strong structural framework which serves as a foundation for eliminating major roadblocks LGBTI people might encounter. But what happens when the job is done? How do businesses harness the wonderful job that HR people put into the policy review as an explicit cue for inclusion? There are a few ways to do this, including informing all staff via an email from an executive, or by launching the new gender affirmation process policy in a special event. If there is no communication whatsoever, uninformed LGBTI employees will most probably not bother checking for any updates to the policies unless something specific happens, and as a result will miss out on possible benefits, as well as the sense of inclusion that comes with such a significant change to the DNA of the business.

Here are the four elements that need to be addressed in order to maximise the impact of LGBTI inclusion initiatives in the workplace:

Visibility: show and tell as much as you can, while ensuring that what you are selling is top notch. Make sure you can stand behind the inclusion initiatives you create, make sure that the suppliers that you work with are on board, and make sure you use the right language and the right methods. Once you have something great in your hands – let people know. Send the message out there. Celebrate successes. This is not just about branding – this is about creating a new awareness for LGBTI and non-LGBTI employees. Do not assume they know, make sure that they do.

Accessibility: make it easy for LGBTI individuals to access information and support. Nominate specific HR people as LGBTI go-to people and compile a list on the intranet. Make sure that allies are branded in their email signatures, on the intranet, in their workspaces. Identify LGBTI inclusion leaders and provide them with public platforms to express their thoughts and ideas. Make sure that explicit language is out there in a user friendly, accessible way. If you are not sure about it – ask employees to look for the information and assess accessibility.

Sustainability: think long term; do not trust enthusiastic individuals to carry the vast majority of LGBTI inclusion initiatives, as they will move on at some point and will leave a void behind them. Incorporate LGBTI inclusion responsibilities into HR, D&I and executive management job descriptions. Delegate tasks to different people, departments and locations. Make LGBTI inclusion strategies part of the organisation’s wider strategy. Shift from innovation into maintenance, as LGBTI inclusion becomes an integral part of the DNA rather than a mixed and inconsistent array of events and messages.

By taking all three components into consideration, you will be able to make sure that your LGBTI initiatives tap into the core of the business and the essence of LGBTI lived experiences in the workplace. This is a win-win situation, as LGBTI individuals enjoy the privilege of bringing their authentic selves to work, and the business experiences higher productivity, enhanced creativity, longer retention, brand loyalty and satisfied workers.

Authored by Shai Feniger, Relationship Manager, Pride in Diversity. To read Shai’s bio, please click here.

A Mental Health Check

Dawn Hough

Source: This article was featured in the Australian Institute of Company Director’s magazine, December 2016- January 2017 edition, authored by Domini Stuart.

Untreated mental health disorders costs Australian employers $10.9 billion each year. Domini Stuart explains why now is the time for boards to address mental health issues in the workplace.

In the Australian Institute of Company Director’s magazine, (December 2016- January 2017 edition), Pride Inclusion Programs Director Dawn Hough explains the need for creating a workplace culture where “whoever you are – you can come into work and get on with your job.” Dawn’s excerpt from the article is below and to download the full article, please click here.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) demographic is vulnerable to heightened stress and anxiety at work as a result of what academics refer to as an “invisible stigmatised identity” – an identity an individual may choose to conceal for fear of stigmatisation. This requires specific attention from the board.

“The stereotypes some people hold about the way in which LGBTI people act, speak and look are only true for a very small percentage of the community. The majority of LGBTI people have the ability to hide their identity at work,” says Dawn Hough, director of Pride in Diversity, a workplace inclusion initiative of ACON, which was set up specifically to improve the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI employees through the reduction of discrimination, bullying, harassment and homophobia within Australian workplaces.

“We’re talking about workplace behaviour creating a culture where whoever you are – you can come into work and get on with your job.”  “Unless there are very clear visual cues of LGBTI inclusion, there is a risk that they will stay closeted for fear of negative repercussions on their workplace relationships and their career. This is not good for their mental health or well being, nor is it good for business in terms of productivity, engagement, authenticity and morale.”

The fear of being “found out” is a relentless pressure. “At work, you’re surrounded by people who can talk freely about their weekends, their weddings and the birth of their children – but when LGBTI people are asked about these things they face a constant dilemma,” Hough continues. “Do you lie? Avoid the subject? Or tell the truth and risk potentially damaging consequences? When this dilemma is at the forefront of your mind every single moment of your working life, it’s no surprise if it has a negative effect on your mental health.”

The LGBTI community suffers particularly high levels of suicide ideation, depression and other manifestations of poor mental health. Constantly feeling stigmatised can also lead to the use of drugs and alcohol as mechanisms for coping.

“There are consequences of exclusion,” says Hough. “LGBTI people will only feel safe enough to be themselves if inclusivity is genuine and clearly visible. People at a high level in an organisation often tell us that their company is LGBTI inclusive and that they don’t see any evidence of harassment or bullying, but it can be a very different story down on the ground. And chances are they also don’t see anyone who openly identifies as LGBTI either. Given that this demographic constitutes between seven and 10 per cent of the workforce, we would assume that, in this case, a lot of people in the organisation are in hiding. The question is why?”

Boards need to understand what inclusion means and the positive impact it has on the business as well as the health of LGBTI employees. “We’re not talking about taking a political stance or trying to change people’s values or beliefs,” says Hough. “We’re talking about workplace behaviour – creating a culture where whoever you are, you can come into work and get on with your job and be respected for who you are. Personal authenticity is a valued leadership trait; it’s something we should all be encouraging.”

As part of her job, Hough talks to boards about the challenges that LGBTI people face and what needs to be on the agenda. “We start by looking at where you are
now and what you can change,” she says.

“For example, your policies need to make it crystal clear that when you talk about families, you’re including same sex families; when you talk about partners you include same sex partners; and that parental leave applies to same sex parents. If inclusivity is not spelled out, LGBTI people will, by default, read themselves out of it.”

When LGBTI people join an organisation they scan for signs of inclusivity. “They’re looking for people who are out and comfortable, and also a network of peers,” Hough says. “Having a group of people you can talk openly to and feel safe with is important for all diversity groups, not just LGBTI.”


One in two LGBTI Australians hide their identity in the workplace

This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today and The Age on Tuesday 4th October.

Close to one in two gay, lesbian and transgender Australians hide their sexual identity in the workplace for fear being “out” could damage their careers.

Dawn Hough, director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, which collected the data says the new figures are a big improvement on those reported as recently as six years ago when the vast majority of people surveyed would hide their sexual identity.

However, Ms Hough said she was surprised people were much less comfortable to come out in the public sector compared to the private sector.

“It is the first time we have done any significant analysis between the public and the private sectors and we are really quite surprised at that,” she said.

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“People in the public sector feel there is less support, they feel their senior management are less likely to genuinely support inclusion initiatives.”

The new 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index found 45 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex Australians hide their sexuality or gender identity at work because they fear it may damage their career. The other 55 per cent were out in the workplace.

The survey of 65 different organisations from the private and public sectors analysed 13,258 responses.

The most common reasons given for not being out at work included people not wanting to be “labelled” according to their sexual identity and a fear this could limit their career prospects.

Others were concerned their identity might make others in the workplace uncomfortable and some feared they may become the target of jokes and innuendo.

The people surveyed work in organisations that have LGBTI workplace inclusion programs.

“We expect that the results would be significantly worse if we surveyed employees from organisations that were not active in this space,” Ms Hough said.

“What you’ve actually got is quite high levels of people who are comfortable being out.

“Five or six years ago you would not have got anywhere near that.

“There is still a level of uncertainty around what the risk will be to a career and that is one of the top reasons for not coming out, in addition to not wanting to be labelled.”

The Australian Workplace Equality Index found 55 per cent of employees surveyed were completely out about their sexual identity in the workplace.

One third of people who were not out said they spent a lot of energy hiding their sexual orientation. Younger people aged between 18 to 24 were even less likely to be out at work compared to those aged 25 to 34.

Suzi Russell-Gilford, a partner at PwC and founder of its GLEE (gays, lesbians and everyone else) network said many Generation Y LGBTI graduates at university who are out at university go back in the closet when they start their first job.

“They come into an environment with people quite formally dressed and feel they don’t want to show that side of themselves to their colleagues,” Ms Russell-Gilford said.

“I come across that a lot. I am continuously surprised people I come across think it would damage their careers to come out.

“A lot of leadership team embraces difference, but a lot of the graduates aren’t exposed to the leadership team when they first come into a corporate environment. It’s not until later in their career that they realise people are quite flexible about their sexuality.”


Pride in Diversity and ACON are proud supporters of the Mardi Gras Film Festival, presented by QueerScreen, which starts two weeks from today, Feb 18 – Mar 3.
Full program here

Here are just some of the highlights:


That's not us 1

    Three couples – one gay, one lesbian, one straight – on a weekend away at a beach house.
    Dame Maggie Smith stars in The Lady In The Van and is a perfect British comedy.
    If you love Latin America, join Jess & James on a very fun road trip across Argentina.



    Join us for the 25th anniversary screening of In Bed With Madonna, an unmissable outdoor screening.
    Fans of Beyonce must see Waiting For B, a perfect doco set in Brazil, about a group of LGBTIQ youth, who camp outside her concert for two months, to get the best seats.
    HOLDING THE MAN fans, will love Remembering The Man, the documentary on the real people in the book and film.


Scrum 01

    Don’t miss the Australian Premiere of BACK ON BOARD: GREG LOUGANIS, a HBO documentary celebrating the life of the multiple Olympic gold medallist.
    An audience award winner at many festivals Game Face follows the one and only transgender lesbian MMA fighter Fallon Fox.
    Closer to home, the international hit SCRUM highlights the talent of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club at the recent Bingham Cup.
    Out To Win chronicles the history of out sports stars and features high-profile athletes such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Full program here

ANZ Pride Network gives back… and plans to give more in 2016

Encouraging ANZ Pride Network members to utilise their Volunteer leave with LGBTI organisations has been a priority in 2015, and we’re proud to say that our members have been out in force this year.

In 2015, ANZ staff across the bank Volunteered 108,000 hours some of which were Pride Network members volunteering with visits to the Victorian AIDS Council as well as the Lesbian and Gay Archives. Both of these organisations appreciate ANZ’s involvement and have written to the bank or posted messages of thanks on social media.

The most recent of these volunteer activities was making Red Ribbons for World AIDS day on 1st December, where more than 100 hours were volunteers across two ANZ sites for this worthy cause.

Caption: some of our wonderful volunteers with Daniel from the VAC who provided an overview of the VAC and why World AIDS day is so important

In total, more than 2,500 ribbons were made for distribution within ANZ on World AIDS day, as well as 750 pre-cut ribbons for 2016 (we even ran out of cardboard backing!).

Some of our Pride Network committee

MORE volunteers helping to distribute the ribbons on 1st December.

We’re looking forward to continuing our volunteering efforts in 2016 by expanding the number of GLBTI (or GLBTI supporting) organisations where volunteering opportunities can be provided; particularly in each state the Pride Network has a presence.

We’re proud of our diverse and inclusive organisation and the volunteers who continue to give back to the LGBTI community.

Find out more about the Red Ribbon Appeal.

LGBTI Diversity and Inclusion in Australian Media

Like many of the new and emerging areas of LGBTI inclusion and diversity practice, media holds a special place in Australian society.

Australian media can play an important role when it comes to the depiction of characters in TV shows and films. Just like the portrayal of a powerful female boss (think Jessica Pearson in Suits) is impactful, so too is the depiction of LGBTI people in roles or even occupations that do not conform to historical stereotypes.

And whether it’s the use of superseded, inaccurate or stigmatising language, such as hermaphrodite rather than intersex, tranny rather than trans or transgender or sexual preference rather than sexual orientation, or the perpetuation of damaging stereotypes, such as the historically limited, highly sexualised and often mis-gendered portrayal of trans people, there is a strong argument to be made that a lack of inclusive practice and LGBTI awareness in Australian media can lead to a harmful portrayal of our community, not to mention the impact that then filters through to the lived experience of LGBTI people in Australian society.

In an incredibly insightful article, 18-year-old Melbournite, Shaad D’Souza, examines the state of play when it comes to diversity on Australian television.[1] D’Souza recognises the impact of shows like Please Like Me on the ABC, which features a gay protagonist played by show creator, Josh Thomas – a well-known and openly gay Australian comedian. And, since the beginning of this year, the SBS has piloted and heavily promoted The Family Law, a TV adaptation of Benjamin Law’s memoirs of the same name. Benjamin Law is of course another gay Australian icon and one who frequently draws on his story and perspective, including his Chinese heritage, in his creative works.

D’Souza poses a number of important questions in his article, which are not the focus of this post.
At Pride in Diversity, the important question we would ask is: “What impact does a lack of diversity in television and other media programming have on our community, or even the Australian media industry itself for that matter?” We have similar conversations with our member organisations, who together represent most of the significant employers in the country. In a “typical” business environment, where an organisation’s values do not visibly embody those of its customers and the community, including the LGBTI community and its allies, there is a significant commercial impact, comprised of some or more of the following:

  • A diminished capacity to form meaningful client/customer relationships with LGBTI identifying people and their allies
  • Difficulty attracting, but more importantly retaining, the most talented people
  • The impact on the perception and/or reality of the culture or brand of the organisation as one that that is not diverse and inclusive

Another increasingly important consideration is the fact that an investment in diversity and inclusion, beyond gender (for a discussion of gender diversity in the context of LGBTI inclusion, click here), is becoming inevitable – including for some of the reasons identified above. So the discussions we have with organisations who are thinking about becoming members of Pride in Diversity are not around “if” they will invest in LGBTI inclusion initiatives, but rather “when” and “how” they will invest in those initiatives.

The number and diversity of the organisations who are members of Pride in Diversity has exponentially increased over the course of 2015, with elite professional sporting bodies such as the National Rugby League and retail brands such as Westfield Shopping Centres, opening new and exciting portfolios and industries for LGBTI inclusion initiatives in partnership with Pride in Diversity.

Is Australian media next? And who will be first or the leader in this space?

Australian media has a lot to gain by investing in a systematic and meaningful approach to LGBTI inclusion, and doing so would have a tremendous impact on Australian society at large, particularly at such a crucial time in our history with the transformation of LGBTI legal rights in Australia. D’Souza mentions the $5 million investment that Screen Australia have announced to address gender imbalances on Australian screens; organisations or representative bodies in Australian media ought to consider investing a minute fraction of that amount in LGBTI inclusion and diversity initiatives as well.

Pride in Diversity take a ‘deep dive’ into an area of focus in LGBTI inclusion every year, which culminates in an annual publication – previous publication titles include “Let’s Talk Gender” and the “Employer’s Guide to Intersex Inclusion”. Please contact the Pride in Diversity team for more information.



Featured image is Josh Thomas, creator and star of the incredibly funny Please Like Me on the ABC.


Sapphire event shines light on LBT Women in the Workplace

Sapphire event shines light on LBT Women in the Workplace

A panel of inspirational and “out” female role models, spoke openly about their personal experiences and challenges in the workplace and the community as part of Pride in Diversity’s Sapphire event hosted by Clayton Utz Brisbane.

Spanning three generations, the panellists – University of Sunshine Coast Head of the Student Access, Equity and Diversity and Pinnacle Foundation Board Member, Dr Ann Stewart, CU Perth senior associate, Liz Humphry, and Barrister and President of Queensland Young Lawyers, Florence Chen – each shared their own unique “coming out” journeys and spoke candidly on a range of topics including role modelling and parenting.  Lin Surch from Pride in Diversity facilitated the fascinating discussion.

Read the full story here.