The Auckland Council Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel is now up and running, setting the stage for how Auckland’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (GLBTI) and Takatāpui communities, or Rainbow communities, will provide strategic advice to council on issues of importance to them.
The unique issues and social obstacles faced by the GLBTI community were presented in a report to the council’s Governing Body earlier this year. It highlighted that GLBTI people continue to experience discrimination on an institutional and individual level as well as high levels of addictions, mental health issues and suicide. It also explained that people of diverse gender identity still face legal and social obstacles that impede their ability to lead their lives fully, safely and openly.
Jordan Harris, interim co-chair for the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel says there was a lot of aroha and passion among members at the panel’s induction meeting on 21 September. He said all members shared the sentiment that there was much the panel could achieve to address the interests and needs of the GLBTI and Takatāpui communities.
“The overwhelming sentiment shared by everyone today was the need to give our communities a voice. Our task now is to take what we know about our unique communities, their needs and wishes, and create an achievable work plan that will elicit real, tangible results,” Jordan said.
The Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel is the first of its kind in New Zealand local government. Its establishment was first signalled by Auckland Mayor Len Brown at the 2014 Big Gay Out.
“For Auckland to become the world’s most liveable city, it must be liveable for all Aucklanders,” Len Brown said. “Auckland’s diversity is its strength and I am proud of the support Auckland Council has provided to events such as the annual Pride Festival and now to the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel.”
Len Brown welcomed the panel members at their first meeting and acknowledged their contribution to the council.
“This is an historic and very significant moment for our rainbow communities and Auckland as a whole. Over the course of your term you will experience a diverse range of views from all sides. Your challenge is to lead well and to lead with pace. You have our very best wishes.”
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse was also in attendance and noted the important role the panel will play in the council’s commitment to diversity.
“The Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel is all about this council walking the talk around inclusivity. This is about taking your issues considerately and respectfully through the council process. We cannot do these things without acknowledging the full diversity of our communities, so I am thrilled our rainbow communities are sitting around the table adding their voice,” she said.
Councillor Cathy Casey, Chair of the Community Development and Safety Committee is a long-time supporter of establishing a Rainbow Communities Panel and says it has been a long time coming.
“For many years over successive councils the rainbow community in Auckland has been asking for representation in the same way other communities are represented. So I’m absolutely thrilled that the council has truly acknowledged Auckland’s incredible diversity and given a formal voice to GLBTI Aucklanders.”
The inaugural members of the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel are:
Jordon Harris (Interim Co-Chair)
Julie Radford-Poupard (Interim Co-Chair)
The next meeting of the Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel in October will also be a closed administrative meeting to focus on draft work planning.
The third meeting in November, of which a date is yet to be announced, will be open to the public. Thereafter, the panel will hold open meetings every six weeks.
The Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel’s annual work plan will be presented to the Regional Strategy and Policy Committee meeting on 3 December 2015.