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Canberra’s LGBTIQA+ community: Our voices matter

What did the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) landscape look like for me growing up?

Fifteen LGBTIQA+ community members across generations asked themselves this question, and now they’re sharing their stories in a new set of videos to be released by Canberra’s Not So Straight Up LDAT.

The LDAT helps sexuality and gender diverse people reduce the harms associated with the use of AOD, by working with their peers to co-design primary prevention activities and support services.

Barriers to accessing health care for LGBTIQA+ communities

Meridian ACT, a community-controlled, peer-led organisation that provides health and social support services to communities in the ACT region, is a partner of the LDAT.

Lee Caldwell, Manager (Community Engagement) at Meridian says the LGBTIQA+ community can face barriers to getting support. They may not seek help, fearing that mainstream drug and alcohol support services will not understand their issues, or they’ll experience stigma.

He says that the trauma of grappling with sexuality, often from a young age, and being subjected to prejudices, made the LGBTIQ+ community vulnerable to mental health issues. Because of this, AOD is sometimes used as self-medication and a form of stress relief.

During the COVID pandemic lockdown periods, the community’s feelings of isolation and anxiety were heightened.

“The LDAT encouraged us to look at the issue in a broader sense rather than just looking at people in a crisis situation. We saw it as an opportunity for people to question the place of AOD in their lives more broadly.”

Sharing stories across generations

The videos feature LGBTIQA+ role models as well as specialists in AOD and mental health, including peers. They will be live-streamed progressively from mid-June and viewers will be able to chat with a facilitator.

“We are super excited about the videos. We did a call out to our networks, community groups and partner organisations to ask for input.

“In our co-design discussions, a caveat was that we weren’t to use people with lived experience. The story is told by people looking into the AOD landscape as a witness.

“We’ve got footage from a wide range of generations, told from their own perspective.  We’re looking at how AOD use has changed over the years. It used to be a staple of the LGBTIQ+ community’s social life. It was glamourised and part of every celebration,” Lee explained.

“But today the younger cohorts have a different experience. They do more outdoor activities and activities without AOD.”

Lee says that some older Canberrans are still struggling with use and that services and messaging need to be tailored to certain groups. The three main areas of concern are alcohol, cannabis and prescription drugs.

A big success has been Meridian’s Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) groups that support LGBTIQA+ Canberrans who would like to start a conversation around their use of AOD. The sessions are very popular and attract people from all over Australia.

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