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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Tough times for Rainbow Wellington

Posted in: Community
By Matt Akersten - 22nd July 2008

The capital's LGBT network is busier than ever with activities and events, but money is tight and membership numbers are down. Why?

"Our membership has fluctuated in the past, but this year has seen a significant fall in our financial membership," explains Rainbow Wellington's secretary Tony Reed. "And in New Zealand now there's almost a total absence of wealthy people who want to contribute to our communities."

Reed thinks that Rainbow Wellington's membership climbed in recent years as the struggle for Civil Unions and other important LGBT issues played out – but now in 2008 gay issues aren't so much as the forefront.

"There's a general apathy – I keep thinking, if we had a really nasty right-wing government, we'll get a boot up the arse," he laughs.

Perhaps the organisation's change of name from GAP (Gay Association of Professionals) to Rainbow Wellington recently may have inadvertently caused some dormant members to take the opportunity to not renew their membership, Reed also points out, since the group's fortunes turned around the same time as the name change. Great feedback on the new name and branding has been encouraging since the revamp, however.

Fran Wilde with Tony Reed at a Rainbow Wellington event
So, how bad is it? Lower turnouts over the last two years mean that fundraising events are producing less profit. Reed says there are some cash reserves, but the Rainbow Wellington belt has had to tighten up. The Board has had to put grants or donations to local community causes on hold for the immediate future.

"We're primarily dependent on memberships. We will redouble our efforts to ensure that we are growing," Rainbow Wellington's chair Tony Simpson told the crowd at their recent AGM. "And when people join, a pretty high percentage of their $40 can go back to something reasonable, because we don't spend much in admin or anything."

Along with a mailing list of over 600 people, Rainbow Wellington has always boasted a comprehensive social programme for its members. Bi-monthly pub nights have seen the introduction of some new venues to the old faithfuls. Those have been supplemented by bi-annual dinners, visits to out of town locales, and the perennially popular Lambda evening at Unity Books. Each Rainbow Wellington event is a relaxed and informal networking get together, and the organisation is always keen for new ideas on how it might titillate more people's fancies with new events.

Like many other LGBT networking and support groups around New Zealand, Rainbow Wellington also takes an active role in monitoring key issues which affect our communities. Recently the issue of sexually active gay men not being able to donate blood (watch out for more on that topic soon), same-sex couple not being able to adopt children, homophobic bullying at New Zealand schools, the intrusive and offensive questionnaires used by some insurance companies when they become aware that the applicant for health or life insurance is gay, and the steps which should be taken to implement the recommendations of the recently issued Human Rights Commission Report on transgender issues have been focussing their attention.

The Wellington-based network is well connected to Parliament's gay Ministers. Labour's Tim Barnett has been fully briefed on their issues of concern, and National's Chris Finlayson recently spent an evening with them, hearing his personal views in advance of National releasing new policies. Rainbow Wellington is now organising their triennial political forum in time for this year's General Election.

Membership of Rainbow Wellington is still only $40 – and has been for several years – so becoming part of the network is still good value, says Tony Reed. "If you value the work we do, we hope you'll see the logic and necessity of becoming a member or renewing your membership. Without your continuing support the future of the group and all these activities cannot be assured."

Contact details and up-to-date information about Rainbow Wellington's activities is available on their official website, linked below.

Matt Akersten - 22nd July 2008