Three Years On From The Rainbow Tick

 

Portrait of a happy young couple enjoying a piggyback ride in a park

Merri Health

Key Learnings:

  1. LGBTIQ inclusive practice should be standard practice for health services
  2. Complete organisational commitment and resourcing is needed to meaningfully implement LGBTIQ inclusive practice
  3. Rainbow Tick gets your house in order but the neighbourhood is where the real work begins

Merri Health creates healthy, connected communities through local health services for people at every age and stage of life. With sites across the northern metropolitan and rural regions of Victoria, we support people throughout life, with a range of wraparound services spanning from children’s health to aged care. We have been committed to working with our LGBTIQA+ communities for over 20 years, focusing on partnering with people, responding to local needs, and strengthening the health of the whole community. We deliver a range of LGBTIQA+ specific programs including YGLAM Queer Youth Theatre, a social support group for adults with mental health issues and Q Health, an AOD program in partnership with drummond street services. 

We know that LGBTIQA+ communities experience discrimination, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, leading to poorer health outcomes than the general population. As a local health service we wanted to create a safe and inclusive space for LGBTIQA+ communities to transform their own health and wellbeing and address health inequalities. Through the use of research, policy, Rainbow Tick Accreditation, co-design and implementation, we have responded to our diverse local LGBTIQA+ communities, ensuring all our services are welcoming as well as creating tailored programs to address specific needs. In 2014 and 2016 we achieved Rainbow Tick accreditation. 

Our journey to Rainbow Tick Accreditation took commitment and resources from every level of the organization. The steps involved are listed below:

  • In May 2013, with support from our Board and Executive, we formed our LGBTIQ Working Group
  • The working group had representatives from every Program Area, including Quality
  • We undertook an Organisational Audit against the Rainbow Tick Standards and developed an action plan based on our identified gaps in inclusive practice
  • We conducted a staff survey to determine staff attitudes towards and knowledge of LGBTIQ inclusive practice as well as experiences of LGBTIQ staff and consumers
  • We reviewed every single policy and procedure to ensure they were LGBTIQ inclusive
  • We reviewed our mission, website, contracts, induction process and organisational plans to ensure they were LGBTIQ inclusive
  • We reviewed every single brochure and intake form to ensure they were reflective of the diversity of our community and that the questions we asked people were inclusive
  • We conducted LGBTIQ community consultations through focus groups and on line surveys to find out if consumers experienced our service as inclusive and if they had ideas about how we could improve
  • We developed and delivered an annual calendar of staff professional development on LGBTIQ inclusive practice
  • We developed a community engagement, marketing and communications plan to promote our service to the community, being actively involved in key annual events such as Midsumma, IDAHOBIT Day and Wear It Purple
  • We were successfully accredited against the Rainbow Tick Standards in November 2014 and again in 2016
  • We followed up on recommendations for further improvements from the Accreditation
  • The LGBTIQ Working Group continues to meet regularly, undertaking annual staff and consumer surveys and consultation, delivering staff training, developing new programs in response to identified service gaps and continually reviewing and improving the quality of our services to respond to emerging issues with our communities

Since Rainbow Tick Accreditation we have:

  • An increasing number of consumers feeling safe to be open about their sexuality and gender identity, allowing us to provide more tailored and appropriate health services
  • Improved collaboration between teams, with staff contacting our LGBTIQ specific programs for information, referrals and secondary consultations
  • A growing range of LGBTIQ specific programs which are attracting increased funding
  • Newly emerging programs that address the intersectionality of our LGBTIQ communities lives, such as family violence, cultural diversity, and disability

We recognize that our LGBITQ communities continue to face discrimination and violence, from personal and family relationships, to community attitudes, to political and structural homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The Rainbow Tick accreditation only ensures that our internal practices and services are LGBTIQ inclusive and as an organization, we need to continue to advocate for inclusive families, communities and society.