Australia Vic appoints Indigenous queer commissioner

00:50  26 september  2021
00:50  26 september  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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Victoria 's first Indigenous queer commissioner is ready to advocate and be a strong voice for the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. "To be appointed as Australia's first openly queer and Indigenous Commissioner really does speak volumes to just how far we've come as a nation." The role is a career highlight for Mr Fernando who grew up struggling to embrace his sexuality. Higher education allowed him to have the space and the opportunity to further explore his identity and how he saw himself.

VIC Premier. The Victorian Government is ensuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer Victorians continue to have a strong voice to advocate for their rights and wellbeing. With a deep personal understanding combined with his background in academic research focused on the social and cultural experiences of LGBTIQ+ Indigenous Australians, Mr Fernando understands the need to recognise and celebrate the many parts that make up the Victorian LGBTIQ+ community.

"When I was in high school I was told that I would never succeed because I'd be an Aboriginal person," Todd Fernando says.

Todd Fernando has been appointed Victoria's first gay Indigenous commissioner. © SUPPLIED Todd Fernando has been appointed Victoria's first gay Indigenous commissioner.

"And here I am as the youngest, first openly gay Indigenous commissioner."

Mr Fernando, a Kalarie man from the Wiradjuri Nation, was this week appointed Victoria's new Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities.

As the state's first Indigenous queer commissioner, he will offer a fresh voice for Victoria's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community.

"In the last 20 years we've seen an incredible shift away from the soft bigotry of low expectations not just for Aboriginal people but for queer people," he told AAP.

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The commissioner would oversee implementation of the Gender Equality Act 2020, which was passed by the state parliament in February. Read more: New laws require Vic public sector to take gender equality seriously. Under the act, public sector entities must publicly report on their progress on workplace gender equality. “The commissioner will set up systems to ensure a high level of transparency and accountability with respect to the progress made towards gender equality in Victoria ,” it said. Get the Juice - the Mandarin's free daily newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Indigenous parliamentary commissioners should be appointed to advance the push for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. The federal government put on hold last September plans for a referendum to constitutionally acknowledge indigenous people until there was The joint select committee on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people heard evidence about the proposed bill in Sydney on Tuesday. Tanya Hosch, a spokeswoman from the campaign movement Recognise, told the hearing indigenous parliamentary commissioners

"To then exist in a state that believes equality is not negotiable - that shows how far we are into the tipping point of normalising the experiences of people with various sexualities and gender diversities."

Mr Fernando, 32, is the second commissioner to hold the role since its creation in 2015, replacing Ro Allen who was appointed Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner earlier this year.

He has always been passionate about human rights and keenly interested in issues facing rural Australians after growing up in small-town Condobolin in central western NSW, which he playfully suggests was made famous by singer Shannon Noll.

When exploring his identity as a teen, Mr Fernando found accessing LGBTIQ+ services and information difficult.

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The high-profile appointment comes at a time when several national targets aimed at closing the gap are not on track.

As one of countless queer Australians to leave the bush for the bright lights, he now questions why so many continue to make that journey.

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"It's often to do with wanting to connect with communities that are similar to them, wanting services that are welcoming and inclusive," he said.

"I'm not saying we need to have drag queens at the local pub every Friday night - but the ability for a young queer person to walk into a health service and get specific medicine or health care related to their sexuality is really important.

"At the same time we need investment in education to ensure Safe Schools can operate in those areas so no one is bullied."

In 2018 Mr Fernando co-founded Koorie Pride Victoria, which advocates for gender and sex-diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

He says Indigenous Australians can sometimes feel the need to "minimise their Indigeneity" in predominantly-white LGBTIQ+ spaces, to connect to their queerness.

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The AFL's governing body has taken steps to address the lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in its boardroom with the appointment of its first Indigenous Commissioner .

Her appointment fulfils the league's promise in May that the next commission appointment would be from the indigenous community. Sydney great Adam Goodes would have been a strong candidate, but he is said to have ruled himself out because of other commitments. Her appointment is timely, given the renewed focus this week on mental health as a major issue among AFL players. Professor Milroy is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who served as a commissioner with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Meanwhile, in heterosexual Indigenous spaces they "minimise their queerness to elevate their Blackness".

"When Aboriginal queer people come together in a room that's designed with them, from them and by them it's an unbelievable space," Mr Fernando said.

"We don't have to minimise any part of our identity because we're in a room that's safe and welcoming for us.

"If we can translate that experience into the services - we're going to see incredible outcomes that combat discrimination and increase opportunities for success. That just seems like a no-brainer for me."

He says COVID lockdowns have exacerbated the mental health challenges faced by many in the LGBTIQ+ community.

"There's a lot of work to be done once we open back up and that's about reconnecting with people and really understanding what the experience is like on the other side of COVID."

As the global pandemic rolls on, Mr Fernando worries about young people locked in homes with families who may not be supportive.

"Them having to minimise their queerness to create a safe space for themselves - we need to outdate that, we need to get rid of it - and part of that comes with education," he said.

The 33-year-old woman who left Taipei to become a shaman .
No longer forced to assimilate, Taiwan’s Indigenous people are reconnecting with their culture.Harvest festival has come to a close, and the pair – from the Indigenous Paiwan – have had a busy weekend visiting houses near the last stop on Taiwan’s western rail line.

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