This pride month, some of Richmond Wellbeing’s LGBTIQ+ staff reflected on their experiences of diversity, and what it means to be able to bring their whole self to work in a welcoming and inclusive environment. In their own words, here’s what they had to say.
Stevie, LGBTI Champion:
I have worked in the mental health sector and with the LGBTI community for a number of years in peer and education based roles. As a queer, trans and non-binary person, I think it’s important for me to talk about my experiences, and be the representation I wish I had seen when I was younger.
I know that my experiences are quite unique, and can really add great insight into providing culturally safe services for LGBTI people which is why I love the work that I do; I love helping and working with my community.
I started working at Richmond Wellbeing a few months ago as the LGBTI Champion, and have felt nothing but welcomed and supported by staff and management from the beginning. I now get the honour of ensuring others feel just as safe and welcomed when accessing Richmond services and working here.
I’ve worked in places before where I have had to hide who I am, so I feel so lucky to be somewhere that not only accepts me for who I am, but also celebrates and values my lived experience. I want to work towards a society where being accepted and celebrated for being LGBTI isn’t a matter of luck, but a bare minimum. Everyone has the right to feel safe and included.
Giselle, Executive Director, Business Innovation:
Inclusion to me means that regardless of my gender, age, interests, passions and sexual orientation you’re not excluded from anything. That those qualities and attributes are acknowledged, celebrated and harnessed to make the world a better place. The world is a more interesting and a better place to be when people are free to be themselves. Imagine how incredible it could be if it was truly free of discrimination?
Being able to bring my full self to work was not something I immediately thought about when I started working at Richmond Wellbeing because I intrinsically knew when I first walked into the building, started on my first day and met my fellow Exec colleagues that I was seen for me and the strengths I bought to the business, not for my sexual orientation, the colour of my skin or the clothes that I wore. I’ve read some really forward thinking and life changing statements in the last 12 months and there is one from Pride in Diversity has really stuck with me “every single person has a sexual orientation.
For the majority of the population, that is heterosexual. For many heterosexual people, their orientation doesn’t come into question. It’s no innate that it doesn’t even occur to heterosexuals that this orientation is on display 24/7. Heterosexuals talk about family, bring their partners to work, even have photos on desks and in wallets. Weekends are talked about, healthy normal conversation is had about partners, husbands, wives, babies. Anniversaries and weddings are celebrated and babies are coo’d over. Team mates are likely to know the names of partners. And yet, if someone mentioned the name of a same-sex partner or if they tell someone they are gay, in some instances this part of their persona takes over. And from here in, there are undoubtedly times in some workplaces and people’s lives where that person becomes known as the gay lawyer instead of the great lawyer. We wouldn’t dream of talking about the heterosexual woman who just started on Level 1.”
At Richmond Wellbeing we pride ourselves on that not happening through education, training, standards for service provision, talking the talking and walking the walk and when it happens, we challenge it and we take it as an opportunity to grow. We demonstrate we understand that its not about someone’s sex life, but someone’s orientation and the two are very different. We are all equals, but celebrated for all our differences. I’d like to think that we are constantly working on creating a place for people to come to work where they don’t need to think about being LGBTIQ+ other than to celebrate that and that our employees and our consumers don’t need to safeguard themselves forever.
Richmond Wellbeing embraces diversity from the top. We make inclusion an Executive approach. We are dedicated to equality and human rights and we as leaders attempt to create an inclusive workplace. We take inclusion seriously. Dignity and respect and the values of inclusions are integrated into all aspects of our day to day. I believe we are also humble enough to know when to stop, to listen and learn and we’ve being doing that a lot lately. We might have been the first Rainbow Tick accredited organisation in WA but we are never too bold that we can’t stop and REFLECT and we’ve learnt so much in the process. We are also really fortunate to have some incredible members of the community working with us. Really truly brilliant minds with incredible passion. I am fortunate to have them working in my team and they make coming to work a joy!
Jose, Program Manager, Multicultural Mental Health:
I feel I wear so many hats. I am a non-binary person, who grew up in Kerala, India. I migrated to Australia in 2010. I have been with Richmond Wellbeing for eight years, where I currently work as Programme Manager for Multicultural Mental Health Services. I love working for WA’s first Rainbow Tick Accredited organisation. Each day, I get to develop innovative mental health programmes for diverse communities and strongly advocate for greater diversity in LGBTIQ+ inclusiveness in organisations and programmes, and I have a special interest in the way people of colour experience the journey to acceptance.
What I want people to understand is that people of color in the LGBT community will have different experiences with discrimination.
To start with, it is fair to say that LGBTIQ people of colour face higher rates of unemployment, violence, and poverty. As an LGBTIQ person of colour, my colleagues and management at Richmond supported my journey towards accepting my identity. As any human being it was not an easy journey for me but having amazing people around me in the work place made it much easier and encouraged me to talk for people going through similar experience.
Since 2018 I have worked as a proactive member in the sector and fearless advocate along with other LGBTIQ leaders who all are Multicultural and multi faith LGBTIQ+ people, for the rights of minorities within our community. We are scared to come out because of a lack of safety and inclusiveness in both LGBTIQ+ and our own cultural communities. Being a minority in the minority communities is hard and both CaLD communities and religious and community leaders need to acknowledge that its Queer community members are also a part of their own communities and families”.
Maryanne, Executive Manager, Finance:
From the minute that I walked into work at Richmond Wellbeing I felt I belonged. There is an amazing mix of people from all different heritages and it is this mix of cultures, religions, and identities that makes Richmond Wellbeing truly one of the most unique and diverse workplaces that I have ever worked in.
I feel really privileged to be a part of the executive and understand the responsibility I have and the changes I can make to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for our staff and consumers, not only now but in the many years to come. We embrace diversity at Richmond by collectively creating an environment where everyone feels safe to bring their full selves to work and our consumers feel they too can be their true selves while they receive care and support.
We celebrate diversity in all its forms and have a big focus on acknowledging our diverse community, our traditional owners, our elders and those who came before us and paved the way for a more prosperous future often and in all we do. I already know that I have made lifelong friends at Richmond.
Reg, Aboriginal Program Coordinator:
Diversity and inclusion means to me people feeling that they belong. It means valuing everyone in our community. People should not be excluded from a community because of things they cannot change about themselves.
The old adage “variety is the spice of life” applies to diversity and inclusion.
I don’t know if it is truly possible to bring ones whole self to work because we will be wearing our professional hats, but I do believe that I should be able to bring all that is me that I cannot change to work and have that valued, respected and utilised without judgement or penalty.
Richmond Wellbeing is on a journey and I like the honesty to say they are not perfect but are committed to have a workplace where diversity is valued and all people that experience inclusion.