Personal story

Thorne Harbour Country – Let’s talk about it

Thorne Harbour

The Regional Victoria LGBTIQ LDAT, led by Thorne Harbour Country, are making strides in helping to prevent and reduce harms from alcohol and other drugs (AOD) within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.

The partner organisations forming the LDAT are Bendigo Community Health Services (BCHS), Youth Support & Advocacy Service (YSAS) and Headspace.

Thorne Harbour Country is a Victorian LGBTQI health organisation. As part of their LDAT activities, they decided to focus on the LGBTQI community in the regional area of Bendigo. The LDAT has used the funding from their Community Action Plan to create a suite of video resources called Let’s Talk About It which address the use of AOD and provide alternatives for how people can engage with their community without relying on substance use and partying.

The videos were premiered at the 2019 Bendigo Queer Film Festival (BQFF), held in April 2019. This was the 16th year of the film festival, which this year occurred as part of the inaugural Bendigo Pride celebrations. The series of short videos were screened before other LGBTIQ films, ensuring they reached the largest audience possible.

Chris Butler, the co-convener of BQFF, said that the festival was very pleased to be able to show the short videos that Thorne Harbour had produced.

There’s still a lot of stigma in some communities around being different. One of the ways that queer people can cope with these stresses is to use either drugs or alcohol as a way of escaping the sense of being disapproved of. That’s something we would like to be able to reduce. (Chris)

A unique challenge

Recent research highlights the fact that drug dependence is reported to be more common among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).[1] On top of this, people living in regional and remote areas are more likely to drink frequently or at levels that are harmful to their health.[2,3,4] These areas often have limited access to health and information services, especially LGBTQI specific services.

Shannon, a volunteer with Thorne Harbour Country, said he wanted to be a part of the project because “it wasn’t about disagreeing with use (of AOD), it was about harm minimisation and self-care.”

Living in a smaller country town, there is that isolation where you may not be able to access services or find someone going through the same things, particularly being a LGBTI person. (Shannon)

The team wanted LGBTQI people watching the videos to feel understood and to feel a sense of belonging. They wanted to make it clear that support is available.

Community consultation is key

Over a 12-month period, the LDAT held two community forums in Castlemaine and Bendigo, as a platform for LGBTQI people to come together to talk about AOD issues. From these forums, a community reference group was created, which met weekly to talk about key themes that they wanted to incorporate into the digital resources.

Thorne Harbour Country’s Program Coordinator, Damien Stevens-Todd, said that the organisation had done well engaging with their community for this project.

“Getting a cross section of LGBTI people from right across our community engaging with a range of organisations was really important to the success of this project,” he said.

The most important part of working on a project with LDAT is being authentic about engaging with the very people you are working with. Keeping your community at the centre of your LDAT is essential to the success of it. (Damien)

“These video resources will really add to what’s most important to festivals like this, which is improving the wellbeing and health of our community,” Damien added.

Increasing impact

“The purpose of our Local Drug Action Team is to engage with LGBTI people and to support them to create a suite of digital resources that allows them to educate their peers across the community about how to reduce the harm associated with alcohol and other drug use,” said Damien.

The resources that the Alcohol and Drug Foundation have provided to us to best support our Local Drug Action Team have been significant in making sure the project was a success. (Damien)

The Regional Victoria LGBTIQ LDAT have recently been successful in receiving more funding from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation and the LDAT has big plans for the next six months. They plan to take the campaign and video resources across the Loddon-Mallee region, where there are other LDATs. They will also run workshops to enable communities to better understand their AOD use.

The LDAT would like to spread these resources as far as possible into isolated communities who may not have had access to any LGBTQI-focussed content or discussion before.

To watch the videos please visit the Thorne Harbour Country Facebook Page

Working within the LGBTIQ community?

Check out our new resource that aims to inform LDATs about key considerations when working with LGBTI communities.