While health services in the ACT may appear simple enough to access, advocates say it can often be a difficult and daunting experience for members of the LGBTIQ+ community.
A new survey being rolled out by the ACT Government encourages people from the LGBTIQ+ community to share their experiences with the Territory’s health sector and provide feedback on how services can be improved and become more inclusive.
“It is a huge step forward,” Tate McAllister from advocacy group A Gender Agenda said.
“The ACT Government is recognising that there are some barriers here and there have been some problems.
“One of the biggest barriers [for trans people] is a fear of access – when people come out, they do not know who is going to be safe to talk to. It is not about the services not existing, it is about people not accessing them because they do not know if it is safe.”
However, anxieties and tribulations about accessing and approaching a variety of health services extend beyond social services and into the emergency department, Mr McAllister said.
“[There are] stories I do hear about people who do not go to the ED because they do not know how they will be treated, or are scared to pick up the phone,” he said.
“Education is one of the biggest barriers. Everyone is doing their best work and trying to be the best professional that they can but … you could be interacting with people who do not know how to use the right names like pronouns, or how to ask the right questions.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says she wants the Territory to live up to the status of being the capital of equality.
Ms Stephen-Smith said more investment in drug and alcohol services is being undertaken to help counteract the disproportionate impact of addiction on members of the LGBTIQ+ community.
“The ACT aims to be the most LGBTIQ+ welcoming and inclusive jurisdiction in Australia,” she said.
“This means ensuring LGBTIQ+ people have equitable access to services and support that is both appropriate to individual experiences and responsive to specific needs across all stages of life.
“We are conscious that LGBTIQ+ people get surveyed and asked about their experiences a lot [so] co-designing this survey with community stakeholders has been critical to ensuring that it reflects and respects what we have previously heard.”
The survey takes around 15 minutes to complete online and will close on 20 August.
For more information or to complete the survey, visit Health ACT.