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Working It Out (WIO) History - Getting It Bent

Working It Out (WIO) is a Tasmanian sexuality, gender and intersex status service that provides support and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) Tasmanians, and education and training programmes to schools, workplaces, government and non-government organisations.

Written by Julian Punch, President, Rainbow Communities Tasmania Inc.;

LGBTIQ+ / Human Rights Activist

It is important to record the beginnings of WIO, including the initial funding and advocacy that were the beginnings of the organisation. WIO was launched early in 1994 and had a special support base in Tasmania's northwest.

For more than 40 years, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) has backed young people and youth-led initiatives to create change, including Working it Out in Tasmania and Outlink as a National support body. The beginnings of FYA may be traced back to the 1977 launch of the Queen’s Trust for Young Australians, as well as the 1988 establishment of the Australian Youth Foundation (AYF). These two prominent charities merged in 1999 to form the Foundation for Young Australians - a bigger, more powerful force for young people with an invested base of $30 million.

After being recruited by Human Rights Commissioner, Brian Burdekin in 1991, Julian Punch was appointed as Governor of the AYF in 1992 and worked as a volunteer for eight years on a number of national projects set up by the AYF . Julian is a founding board member of the National Children and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC); a member of the management committee of the national project, Young Australians Making the Future Work, and Chairperson of the AYF Housing/Homeless Working Group.

Commissioner Brian Burdekin - Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

In 1994, after Julian and Commissioner Brian Burdekin, as members of the AYF (now the Foundation for Young Australians) travelled around Tasmania to meet with small, informal groups of gay and lesbian people and after listening to their struggles, they proposed funding and the establishment of a support service on the northwest & west coast, where the need was greatest. This proposal to the AYF by a small representative group gained AYF funding from Working It Out for a Tasmanian counselling service for LGBTIQ+ people in those areas.

Commissioner Burdekin and the AYF Board insisted that the basis of WIO be established and maintained on the northwest & west coast of Tasmania where gay and lesbian discrimination and hate-crime was most prominent, rather than be centralised in Hobart.

To the dismay of Commissioner Burdekin and then Commissioner Chris Sidoti, Foundation Secretary of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which jointly supported the WIO organisation and Outlink, funding of the WIO program was moved to Hobart against the stated mandate of funding for the northwest & west coast of Tasmania.

Commissioner Chris Sidoti -

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Most importantly, Commissioner Burdekin and AYF Governor Julian Punch met with the then Tasmanian Premier, Jim Bacon to encourage the Tasmanian government to provide ongoing funding to WIO and legislation change to protect the very vulnerable gay communities. Following the funding, Julian was appointed to the interim committee of the board of management of Outlink, a national project to co-ordinate organisations supporting LGBTIQA+ people experiencing discrimination in rural areas.

Rodney Croome – National Coordinator, Outlink;

LGBTIQ+ / Human Rights Activist

Initially funded as a nine-month project, Rodney Croome was appointed Outlink's Project Co-ordinator. As proposed by Chris Sidoti, the project was launched and funded by the Federal Human Rights Commission in order to build a national network of support and advocacy services for young gay men, lesbians and bisexuals living in rural Australia, to bring individuals and community organisations together to share knowledge, skills and resources, and to have a national voice on issues such as community education, service provision, funding and government policy. In establishing the Outlink organisation, Rodney Croome was appointed as National Coordinator.

It was noted at the time by Commissioner Sidoti that, “Young gays, lesbians and bisexuals living in rural Australia often experience extreme isolation, as well as discrimination, violence, family conflict and a lack of appropriate services". In addition Commissioner Sidoti noted, "These factors place them at a high risk of drug and alcohol abuse, early school leaving, homelessness and suicide. By raising awareness of the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual rural youth, and by helping them find real solutions to the issues they face, the Outlink project will encourage them to remain involved with their families and communities".

Board member Julian Punch noted that, "The AYF is proud to be a joint sponsor of this most worthwhile project. Outlink will facilitate a variety of initiatives including:

  • education programs for service providers; targeted community awareness campaigns on issues affecting young gay people

  • support and education programs for families and friends of young gay people

  • establishment of peer support groups for young gay people and

  • support for further research and projects in the area of youth sexuality".

Regrettably, the Outlink project failed to gain ongoing funding and subsequently national co-ordination has fractured at states levels.

It is unfortunate, given WIO's initial funding base and support from the people involved in its establishment, that these factors have not led to greater co-ordination and collaboration between WIO, a welfare organisation, and advocacy organisations such as Rainbow Communities Tasmania Inc.

- Julian Punch

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