This year, Auckland Council’s Community Development and Safety Committee has co-hosted its meetings with the council’s advisory panels.
This month, the committee proudly co-hosted with the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel with the panel requesting the theme of belonging and participation for the August meeting which took place at Auckland’s RainbowYOUTH offices.
The council’s Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel offers advice based on their experiences living as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people, to help us improve outcomes for this community.
Councillor Cathy Casey, chair of the committee, said that the theme reflects the fact that LGBTIQ+ people are more likely than others to face mental distress, homelessness, and social isolation because of discrimination and stigma.
“The speakers who presented at our meeting talked about some of the great work being undertaken with Rainbow communities, but we still have a way to go when it comes to stopping discrimination,” says Councillor Casey.
“We want Auckland to be a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging and can participate without barriers. It’s a sad fact that, for some people in our rainbow communities, this is still a battle.”
Julie Radford-Poupard, co-chair of the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel, appreciated the opportunity to co-host the committee meeting and stressed the importance for all people to feel a sense of belonging.
“When people have a strong sense of identity this can be a source of wellbeing. Co-hosting and presenting at the committee meeting gave us an opportunity to share, on a deeper level, some of the issues facing our diverse Rainbow communities."
"These conversations help create a better understanding of the issues and opportunities our communities face and also raises the visibility of Rainbow communities within the council’s work,” said Radford-Poupard.
A summary of the speakers
The panel invited guest speakers to share their stories to relate what belonging means to them, where in Auckland they have a sense of belonging, what gets in the way of belonging and what enhances belonging for Rainbow communities.
Guest speakers included Moira Clunie, a member of the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel, who outlined community research findings from the panel’s ‘3 Questions’ Report, and Amanda Aarons who set up Holding Our Own when her son came out and she realised there was no support available for families in Auckland at the time.
What’s the council been up to?
"Proud centres certainly have made us all feel proud. The role your team and Auckland Council has played in Auckland Pride 2019 is outstanding. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for adding this new and exciting dimension to the Auckland Pride Festival." Auckland Pride Festival Chair.
Auckland Council is the first local government organisation in New Zealand to receive the Rainbow Tick. We are now moving forward with implementing Rainbow Tick’s recommendations and connecting with other stakeholders to strengthen the response. The council continues to work to better understand and respond to the needs of rainbow communities and to foster an inclusive Auckland where everyone belongs.
Here is a quick summary of some of the initiatives the council has been working on.
- The council undertook a literature review to help build an understanding within the council of the challenges that Rainbow communities in Auckland face. Three broad themes emerged from this work - the challenges of visibility, discrimination and health impacts.
- The Auckland Plan was updated and has a key focus area of ‘an inclusive Auckland where everyone belongs’. The Auckland Plan’s ‘Belonging and Participation’ outcome envisages a future where all Aucklanders will be part of and contribute to society, access opportunities and have the chance to develop to their full potential. Based on feedback from Rainbow communities, 'gender, gender identity and sexual orientation' were included in the council's definition of diversity within the plan.
- We made a submission to Statistics New Zealand on developing a statistical standard for sexual identity. This was followed by the collection of well-being data for people of different sexual identities for the first time as part of the 2018 General Social Survey.
- The council’s Rainbow Staff Network actively supports the council’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and its leadership has helped to embed rainbow inclusion into the workplace. We have also introduced ‘all gender’ toilets in all of our corporate buildings.
- The council’s Inclusive Auckland Framework illustrates our strong commitment to diversity and inclusion
- We were a sponsor of the Big Gay Out this year.
- During this year’s Pride Festival, our community centres held 30 free community-led activities across eight council-owned community facilities. ‘Proud Centre’ events included films, talks, sporting events, markets, exhibitions, workshops and a drag competition. All of our corporate buildings and many of our libraries proudly flew Rainbow, Trans and Bi Pride Flags and provided information about the Pride Festival and resources focused on Rainbow communities.
- Our Central City Library continues its outreach to the Rainbow community through a series of targeted programming and events. In September, the library is running “Speed Dating for Queer Friendships”, a sober event for ages 18+ that focuses on fostering new friendships and building community. We also workshops for library staff on Rainbow issues and we are working to establish an adult literacy initiative that will support Rainbow community members to change their name and gender markers on their documentation.
The council’s Diversity and Inclusion team is currently working on a Rainbow Plan to strengthen inclusion and belonging for Auckland’s Rainbow community, both within the council and through council facilities and actions. We plan to utilise the knowledge, skills and experiences of the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel and our Rainbow staff to design and finalise the plan.
 Statistics New Zealand also announced in June 2019 that the gender diversity of New Zealanders will be better reflected in future statistics with new information collected in household surveys.