Recognising the unique needs of rural and regional communities, the innovative new Connect Project is developing a network of regional volunteers to represent QLife in their local communities.
We know from our data that LGBTI people live in every part of Australia and that 20% of all QLife contacts are from people living in regional areas*. This figure is growing. It is clear that specific focus is needed to ensure that LGBTI people in rural and regional areas know about, and can access, the support and referral services of QLife.
The Connect Project increases QLife’s reach into regional LGBTI communities with an aim to both increase contact numbers from regional areas as well as to develop a better understanding of the services that are available in these areas and whether they are appropriate to refer LGBTI people to.
Connect is a truly national project with each of the four existing metropolitan-based QLife partner sites in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia being funded through the Connect project to engage volunteers to access their states regional populations. Volunteers located in ACT, Tasmania, The Northern Territory and South Australia are supported by the Connect project National coordinator.
All Connect volunteers take part in specifically designed training including modules on engagement and service promotion, inclusive language and work place health and safety.
As well as receiving direct support and supervision from the local Connect project officers volunteers can access national structures that allow them to take part in regular catch ups and debriefs with other volunteers across the country. These national structures create a sense of community amongst the volunteers allowing them to share information and ideas as well as minimising the feeling of isolation that can occur when people live in regional areas.
Connect project aims
The development of the national project proposal was informed by data from QLife and related research, work being undertaken by QLife Queensland (Diverse Voices) to develop a network of volunteers in far north Queensland, and consideration of some other volunteer-centred programs.
The Connect Project aims to:
- increase the awareness, access to and use of QLife in regional and remote locations;
- establish a national network of regional volunteers;
- support and enables regional volunteers to identify and develop local support networks in locations otherwise not served by mainstream LGBTI support services;
- collect, utilise and disseminate detailed local information gathered by regional volunteers to cultivate a national picture of networks, allies and support that exists for the LGBTI community away from metropolitan and suburban locations.
The National LGBTI Health Alliance would like to thank the Departmental of Social Services for funding the Connect project under the Strengthening Communities programme.
*(There is currently no breakdown between rural, regional and remote, so all contacts from outside of metropolitan centres are referred to as ‘regional’.)
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