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‘I can still be who I am’

Uniting director people and systems Jill Reich with Uniting resident Bernette Redwood

A new program aiming to make service provision within the aged care, health, human services and wellbeing sectors more inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people was launched in Sydney yesterday.

After Uniting aged care resident Bernette Redwood attended a recent Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, the recreation officer who accompanied her asked where she wanted to hang the photo.

The 70-year-old said she could have the photo in her room, but instead it sits beside the main television at her facility.

“It made me feel accepted; it is important enough to put in the public profile,” Ms Redwood told Australian Ageing Agenda at yesterday’s launch of Pride in Health + Wellbeing.

The new program, developed by NSW LGBTI health organisation ACON as part of its Pride Inclusion Programs, aims to make service provision within the aged care, health, human services and wellbeing sectors more inclusive of LGBTI people.

ACON also delivered the Commonwealth Government’s national training program to upskill aged care workers to provide inclusive care to LGBTI seniors.

Ms Redwood said life at Uniting was inclusive and allowed her to be all aspects of herself.

“I still feel I’m Bernette. I’m gay, I’m Jewish and that’s incredible to me,” Ms Redwood told the launch in her video presentation.

Pride in Health + Wellbeing is a national membership-based program that aims to provide partners year-round support, training and guidance in LGBTI inclusive service delivery.

Dawn Hough, director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs said fear of abuse or discrimination forced many LGBTI people to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity when they accessed care and wellbeing services, leading to an increase in anxiety or depression.

“It’s a very serious issue and providers across the board really need to be taking action to ensure they provide a sufficient duty of care.”

Membership will provide organisations with sector specific support, resources, training, advice and frequent interaction with other health and wellbeing sector organisations active in LGBTI inclusive service provision.

Uniting a foundation member

The program has eight foundation members including NSW aged care provider Uniting, which has also received the Rainbow Tick, accrediting it as an LGBTI-friendly provider for corporate and aged care services.

Uniting director people and systems Jill Reich has been instrumental in driving the LGBTI-inclusion strategies across the organisation.

With this new initiative, she said they would be working together to set the standard for best practice inclusive service delivery across the aged care sector.

“We will be learning from other members about new innovation and different initiatives to build on our inclusive service practices,” Ms Reich told AAA.

She said it was critical to provide places that were safe for people to be themselves and to receive equitable treatment.

“The program improves service provision because it means we are constantly educating our staff on best practice and learning ways to make our clients feel more relaxed in our care all of the time,” she said.

Ms Redwood, who has worked in LGBTI rights since the 1970s, said the new program was very positive.

“I am very pleased. Fifty years on and I must say we have come a long way,” she said.

Ms Redwood said when she spoke with the facility manager and they asked her “what do you need us to do,” she felt reassured.

“I thought what a relief I can still be who I am.”

She encouraged other aged care providers to be proactive about inclusiveness so all residents could have that same feeling of identity that she has.

The program was launched at Uniting in Sydney by NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health Leslie William and LGBTI health advocate Professor Kerryn Phelps.

Professor Phelps, who is Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney said: “LGBTI-competent healthcare … is an environment where it is easy for a person to talk about themselves, their relationship, and their family.”

The other program foundation member are Medibank, Flourish Australia, Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, Reliant Healthcare, Lifeline Australia, ViiV Healthcare and NurseWatch.

See the program’s website for more information.

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