BY CELINE SABAN-FRIEND
Forcibly Displaced People Network is breaking the silence about LGBTIQ+ refugees in Australia.
Launched on social media, the network is the first community-controlled organisation in the country dedicated to forcibly displaced LGBTIQ+ people.
The network aims to provide advocacy, peer support and training to better target the issues that impact LGBTIQ+ refugees, asylum seekers and others forcibly displaced.
Co-founder and academic Tina Dixson said the existence and experiences of LGBTIQ+ refugees are not recognised.
“There is no acknowledgement that LGBTIQ+ refugees exist, and that they are seeking safety because they are persecuted for who they are and who they love,” Ms Dixson said.
“This narrative of ‘oh, well you are in Australia, what else do you want?’ fails to understand that many have had to hide who they are for most of their lives.”
Since LGBTIQ+ refugees and asylum seekers are part of two marginalised groups, they are more vulnerable to violence and discrimination, Ms Dixson said in a report to the United Nations.
Australian-based refugee and LGBTIQ+ organisations do not cater to the combined challenges queer refugees experience, she said.
“Refugee spaces are very heteronormative, cis gender and talk about refugees as this homogenous group, perpetuating … that people flee only one type of violence like war,” she said.
“In LGBTIQ+ spaces many organisations due to historic funding are male centric … so, they lack that engagement with other members of the community.”
CEO of the LGBTIQA+ non-for-profit support service, Switchboard Victoria Joe Ball said they are conscious of the concerns around diversity in queer organisations.
“At Switchboard, we know that addressing this issue doesn’t come from wishing and hoping, it comes from policies, procedures and interventions to change things,” Ball said.
“As a peer-based community-controlled organisation, we have to be as diverse as the community we serve and that must be reflected at all levels.”
However, Ball acknowledges queer organisations do lack awareness surrounding issues faced by LGBTIQ+ refugees and asylum seekers.
“I think the criticism is valid … we need to be listening and supporting their organisations more, but not taking over, as asylum seekers and refugees need control of their own projects,” they said.
The Forcibly Displaced People Network’s objective is to offer LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people with a safe space and a platform for self-determined change.
“It is important that nothing about us is without us [and] that we are driving what changes are necessary, but we are also able to understand each other like no one else,” she said.