Queer feelings in your new home

MAKING a new home in Australia can be a great challenge for immigrants, with new laws and cultural norms to take on board; and if you’re a member of the LGBTQI+ community there’ll be a few more levels of complexity to get your head around.

Many have come from countries where they faced marginalisation, discrimination, abuse – or even the death penalty – and knowing how their adopted family is going to react can be daunting.

Language barriers can also make it harder to connect with like-minded community members.

Now a new project, Rainbow Migrants, is being run by Umbrella Multicultural Community Care with the aim of providing LGBTQI+ newcomers support.

Umbrella’s communications manager Donna Gibson said they met with the Department of Home Affairs a few months ago to get a handle on the situation and found it quite an eye-opener.

“One of the interesting things we discovered is that partner visas… don’t discriminate,” Ms Gibson said.

“There might be a couple where it might be two men, or two women, or whatever the gender diversity, they don’t actually record that, they just keep them all together in one basket.

Rainbow Migrants is holding an inclusive event called “Karaoke with an Accent,” a Eurovision-themed singing competition for members of the Perth LQBTIQ+ community from multicultural backgrounds. It will be hosted by Connections Nightclub from 7.30pm to 10pm on Saturday, September 23 and entry is free.


“It’s quite fascinating because you can see that the intention is wonderful, because it’s not to discriminate, but then it creates the other sort of issues in terms of ‘well, then, how do we approach and find these people and reach out to them and offer them services or support.”

It also exposes partners who experience domestic violence to a vicious trap; if they leave to escape the violence, they risk having their visas cancelled and being sent back to their home country.

“Home Affairs and a few other organisations are trying to raise awareness about that and saying that these people can come to the Department of Home Affairs, and can say ‘this is the situation’ and there are exceptions that can be made.”

Ms Gibson said the barriers have made it difficult for Rainbow Migrants to contact LGBTQI+ immigrants, and it’s been a “one-by-one word-of-mouth” process so far, but they are busy in the social media space where anonymity is afforded.

“Some are coming to Australia as students and their families back home have no knowledge they are queer.”

They’ve also been running information sessions on issues such as cyber bullying, vehicle licensing, tenancy and other bits of everyday life they might not necessarily know about on arrival.

She said they’ve only got one year’s funding from the WA government’s Office of Multicultural Interests, which runs out in January, but Home Affairs was impressed with their passion for the issue and is looking for ways to keep the funding going.

Ms Gibson said the project was branching out for Umbrella, which is known mainly for its aged care services.

Rainbow Migrants is headed by UWA academic Lukasz Krzyzowski.

“The more work we do in this space, the more we identify the gap in social support and networking opportunities for LGBTIQ+ migrants who now call Perth home,” Dr Krzyzowski said.

“I am grateful to Umbrella Inc for supporting this project.”


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