Recently, a number of Odyssey House Victoria’s staff, including our Executive Manager, Community Programs and Odyssey Institute, Neos Zavrou, attended the Human Rights Conference that was part of Sydney World Pride 2023. These are Neos’ reflections on the two events.
“One may wonder why an Alcohol and Drug Treatment organisation is sending staff to such an event. The sad fact is that we see many clients who have had their basic rights transgressed in such a way that leaves them both traumatised and vulnerable to mental health issues, alcohol and other drug misuse as well as many other health and wellbeing risk factors.
We sat through the appalling statistics of mental health presentations, drug and alcohol misuse and other related poor health outcomes of persons who identify with the LGBTIQA+ community experience. We heard first-hand the experiences of discrimination, overt abuse (both physical and verbal), harrowing details of state and systemic attacks on a person’s identity and regrettably the all too frequent, harrowing details and statistics of hate crimes for just being who they are. We learned how the Religious Right has regrouped after the marriage equality legislation to target our Trans community and the importance of us standing together to support all of us in the face of these attacks. We heard stories of hope, strength and resilience of the LGBTIQA+ community and how the communities existed, flourished and were cherished in many cultures before colonisation. We also learned the importance of fairness and equity of all, rather than the privileged and the benefits that bestows on all our communities not just the LGBTIQA+ community.
All of this through an intersectional lens of global politics, culture, faith, gender, race and climate change. Our colleagues from small island nations reminded us of when their very existence is under threat, that if we don’t have a planet to live on, what relevance are human rights.
People who identify with the LGBTIQA+ community present with complex intersectional issues at our treatment services. They are often, and understandably, apprehensive and anxious on how they will be received given the histories of abuse and marginalisation they have experienced.
At Odyssey House Victoria, it is important for us to demonstrate that we are inclusive and respect everyone, no matter who they love, no matter what their identity, no matter where they live. We came to the conference to learn, understand and in our small way redress the many inequities that the LGBTIQA+ community experience.”
For those interested, there are videos of various speakers and panels on ABC iView. If you have limited time, I would definitely encourage you to view the speech by Victor Madrigal-Borloz, First Nation Justice in Asia Pacific and the panel discussion on Bodily Autonomy. You can find these at: https://iview.abc.net.au/show/sydney-worldpride-human-rights-conference