Exciting partnership for Canberra’s LGBTIQ youth
A new partnership between the AIDS Action Council of the ACT and newly established LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) youth project Encampment has just been signed by both organisations will see a bright future for many of Canberra’s LGBTIQ young people.
Encampment started in mid-2014, led primarily by Mirja McLean-Engstrom and Joel Wilson as an activity-based project for young LGBTI people in the Canberra region, especially aged between 12 and 17. Encampment wants to create safe spaces for these young people to connect to one another, express themselves as well as access information and support they might not have access to in mainstream school settings.
‘Partnering with the AIDS Action Council has been a major step for us. It's meant that we've been able to really get some traction and get the project off the ground. It's awesome because without the Council, Encampment might be just a pipe dream. It's fantastic to be partnered with an organisation that is so supportive and really shares our values of youth development. Having people we can turn to for advice about what we're doing is also really helpful’ Says Encampment cofounder Mirja McLean-Engstrom.
The partnership with the AIDS Action Council will see the Council auspice the fledgling Encampment project so it is able to apply for grant funding, take part in peer activities, provide Encampment volunteers with education and training as well as access to the resources of the Council to support encampment and the work they are doing.
The AIDS Action Council has worked closely with Canberra’s LGBTIQ community since it was started as a grass-roots community organisation nearly 30 years ago in the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as gay men were disproportionately affected by HIV. This relationship has continued to this day, with gay men and HIV in Canberra, but also through workshops, community forums, sexual health outreach and Counselling services for the LGBTIQ community as well as the services provided to the broader Canberra community.
AIDS Action Council Executive Director Philippa Moss is very enthusiastic about this new partnership. ‘We know a lot of young people struggle with their identity growing up and experiences of homophobia are still sadly too common. Projects like Encampment will ensure those young people are connected and don’t feel they have to hide who they are’.
This will compliment other LGBTIQ youth initiatives in the ACT such as the Bit Bent groups run from Woden and Belconnen youth centres, as well as the Safe Schools Coalition of the ACT which the AIDS Action Council are also a partner in supporting.