4 months ago we ran a series of check-in days with young people from within the Minus18 Community. After a massive year of growth and projection to the forefront of LGBTI youth media, it was an opportunity to look at what we do well and reflect on areas in need of attention. After a year of looking out, we looked inward to reflect on how we can better fulfil our mission of creating an inclusive Australia for all LGBTI+ youth.
It was great to check-in, hear how everyone was feeling, and talk strategies for 2017. Through this process we learned a lot about what’s been on everyone’s minds, and priorities for the months to come. One of the main focuses of feedback surrounded our inclusion of intersectionalities within our community; specifically what more we could be doing and the areas Minus18 was lacking. Issues surrounding Disability access and the empowerment of People of Colour were highlighted as urgent priorities as not being inclusive is simply letting people down. We invested our resources into determining strategies to be better at centering their experiences and voices within our work.
We recognise that inclusion is a continuous conversation of learning and doing, and that from an organisational perspective, many hours of work go on behind the scenes before results are realised. I want to share some of the work already being done by our Crew Members and Staff, and affirm our commitment to inclusion.
Engage positively through Call-In Culture
We aim to create an environment of respect and safety for all young people, regardless of knowledge or education levels. This is crucial in engagement of young people, particularly those from regional areas, low-socio economic backgrounds, and those who may be disconnected or not yet linked in to activism and political communities.
Self education is a privilege not afforded to all. We recognise that no young person is expendable and have recently set communication guidelines for our volunteers and staff to Call-In (Recognising the difference between slip ups and deliberate oppression, and alerting someone to their behaviour with a sense of compassion and understanding).
Listening and learning
We have established consultations with young people from both within and outside the Minus18 community, listening to their experiences and organising their feedback into immediate and long term goals. We recognise that the experiences of Queer Trans Intersex People of Colour (QTIPOC) need to inform our projects, events and teams. We’ve allocated funds for and established a consultancy group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to inform our events, and have confirmed Inclusive Practice Training with our volunteers and staff for working with people with a disability and people who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Spaces and Events
From November 2016 to January 2017 we prioritised accessibility in the search for our new home. From now, all Minus18 Social Events, youth planning events and working groups will take place in wheelchair accessible spaces within 50m from accessible tram stops. This space is within 5 minutes from Southern Cross Station, the transport hub for regional and rural Victoria.
We will be providing Auslan interpreters at our Formal Events and have engaged in fundraising to implement the feedback of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander as well as to pay for a young Indigenous person to open the event.
We are also exploring the implementation of Safety Officers at our larger events, with peer mentors who work alongside our Youth Work Team to provide education and peer support on different forms of discrimination.
In our most recent December/January Crew intake, we prioritised people from communities we recognise have not been represented at Minus18, including youth who identify as People of Colour, Culturally or Linguistically Diverse, Intersex, Disabled, On the Asexual Spectrum, Trans Femme, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and/or Living in Rural or Regional areas.
In January 2017 we implemented an affirmative action policy for the recruitment of new staff and board members within the organisation that gives additional consideration and criteria to people with lived experience within these communities.
In the past 2 years, our Board composition has shifted significantly, with more people with femme or non-binary identities and who identify as people of colour. Our Board is also by policy comprised of majority young people.
True to our core, we’re committed to the elevation of young people's’ experiences and voice through our resources and promotional platforms. This has, and always will be the forefront of what Minus18 is about.
We’re proud to provide a platform where over 100 LGBTI young people have come to share their personal narratives, including one of the first articles from a young intersex person launching last year.
We’ll continue to provide an environment where young people feel empowered to share their stories, and we hope through these other practices, the demographic of young people joining us to step up and to share their experiences, images, and voice continues to grow and being enriched.
There’s a lot of work ahead for us and I’m sharing this with the recognition that these steps are merely the first on the path to inclusivity. I hope to open conversation and create accountability for us in our quest to provide support and create inclusive spaces for as many LGBTI+ youth as we can.