Prepared for Auckland City Council
By Jenny Rankine
This needs assessment was commissioned by the Auckland City Council in November 2007 and involved a research review, interviews with 20 lesbian, gay, bisexual, takatapui and transgender (LGBTT) community informants, and analysis of 134 survey responses received at the Big Gay Out and through email networks. While the survey sample was small, it generated rich qualitative information.
The report uses the acronym LGBTT to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, takatapui and transgender populations. Takatapui is an inclusive Maori term for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Where appropriate the acronym becomes LGBTTI to include intersex people. When talking about international populations, it leaves out one T for takatapui; overseas organisations may use other variants like GLBT or GLB.
This study found a major need for an LGBTT community centre in Auckland City.
COMMUNITY CENTRES OVERSEAS
- LGBTT populations are highly concentrated in the Auckland City Council area.
- The strongest single need is for safe, non-judgemental and alcohol-free social spaces where isolated LGBTT people can meet others and interact with their communities. This need is particularly acute for people coming out, at all ages.
- Current organisations that provide a drop-in service cater only to specific sectors of the LGBTT population and thus are not able to function as an LGBTT community centre or act as a centre of expertise for the wider community about all LGBTT issues.
- The most marginalised LGBTT populations are those at the intersections of gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality, including takatapui, Pacific peoples, refugees, sex workers, those with mental health problems, and those on low incomes.
- Most community organisations apart from Te Aronga Hou Inaianei work from dominant culture paradigms; it is important that existing organisations and any proposed community centre include tangata whenua in its board and staff, build strong links with iwi, and provide ways for takatapui to maintain tikanga and te reo Maori.
- Young people coming out at school are surrounded by an intensely hostile and dangerous environment. These environments need to change, and young LGBTT people need more support groups and alcohol-free social venues than are currently available.
- All of the LGBTT community groups contacted described their services as supplying only part of the support needs of LGBTT populations and people with HIV. None of the informants or survey respondents said there was any unnecessary duplication in services; to the contrary, they identified major unmet community needs in many areas.
- Mainstream physical and mental health and social services routinely assume that clients are heterosexual and often know little about LGBTT needs and issues. Th ere is a major need for an organised programme of heterosexism training for these agencies and services.
- Housing can be a sudden crisis in the lives of many LGBTT people and the provision of safe accommodation options for young LGBTT people is an urgent need.
- The first generation to live their lives publicly as LGBTT people is aging and will soon need LGBTT-friendly aged-care services, which currently do not exist.
Overseas community centres for LGBT populations are engines of community organising and liberation, and crucial to the health and strength of LGBT communities. There are hundreds currently operating around the world, largely but not only in industrialised countries.
The most common services offered by centres in Australia, Canada and the USA include:
- Support groups for specific LGBT populations, such as youth, women, men, indigenous, transgender, ethnic minority and older LGBT people.
- Drop-in, meeting and office space.
- Recreational and social groups and opportunities.
- Phone and face-to-face counselling.
- Varied and often large event organising.
- Publications and education programmes for LGBT populations and the wider health and social sectors.
- Advocacy on issues such as violence against LGBT people and human rights.
Challenges for overseas community centres have included:
- Debates about exclusion of some LGBT populations.
- Ensuring governance bodies represent the diversity of LGBT populations.
- Ensuring programmes are developed and led by the most marginalised LGBT communities.
The concentration of LGBT people in a city is an important component of an international index of creativity developed by Richard Florida*. Florida says: "Gays predict not only the concentration of high-tech industry; they also predict its growth."
Another 2003 study by Lindsay Rea** compared Manchester, a city that ranked highly on Florida's index, with Auckland. In the 1990s, the two cities both had organised LGBT communities and inner city areas where LGBT people and businesses had clustered.
While Manchester had a local authority that supported gay community development and major events, Auckland had "with the exception of three years between 1998 and 2001 ... Mayors and Council majorities, which have refused financial and other assistance to gay activities and supported extremist homophobic positions".
LGBTT COMMUNITY CENTRES IN AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND
Five organisations currently operate some community centre functions - Rainbow Youth and OUTLines NZ in central Auckland and Te Aronga Hou Inaianei in Papatoetoe; MaLGRA - Club Q in Palmerston North; and Rainbow House Otautahi in Christchurch.
In central Auckland, the Pride Centre Trust operated under different names from 1988 to 2004 and ran an LGBTT community centre in central Auckland for 12 years from 1992.
LGBTT POPULATIONS IN THE AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL AREA
Research and evidence from informants and Auckland LGBTT services indicates that Auckland has a disproportionately large share of LGBTT people.
For example, in the 1996 and 2000 Censuses, gay couples were clustered in the central Auckland zone, particularly in the inner city suburbs of Herne Bay, St Mary's Bay, Auckland Central, Ponsonby West, Ponsonby East, Freeman's Bay, Westmere, Grey Lynn West, Grey Lynn East, Newton, Grafton, Surrey Crescent, Arch Hill, Eden Terrace, Newmarket and Kingsland***.
SOCIAL AND HEALTH NEEDS OF LGBTT PEOPLE
Heterosexism is the assumption that heterosexuality is the only or best expression of human sexuality and the stigmatising of same-sex attraction, behaviour and relationships. It is expressed in individual prejudice, organisational discrimination, harassment and violence and creates a hostile environment for LGBTT populations.
Discrimination against transgender and intersex people is often based on disgust or fear of their non-conforming gender status and the inability of social institutions to accept their right to choose their gender.
This environment creates particular social and health needs.
- Support for the unique LGBTT experience of coming out
- Advocacy and support for young people coming out at secondary school and in tertiary education
- Anti-discrimination and anti-violence campaigns and diversity training in mainstream social and health agencies
- Depression, suicide, alcohol and drug problems as a result of the stress of living in a hostile environment
- Specific sexual health issues; housing; and services for particular LGBTT populations.
Informants and survey respondents identified particular needs that were not met by LGBTT or mainstream organisations. They included:
LGBTT INTERACTIONS WITH AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL
- Safe, social spaces not based around alcohol or sex
- More co-ordination between existing community groups
- Accurate information for and about LGBTT communities and issues
- Coming out support, especially for young people in school
- Community development
- Specific support or services for particular populations, including takatapui wahine, ethnic minority LGBT people; transgender; older LGBTT people and LGBTT families.
The history of Auckland City Council interactions with the LGBTT community is mixed. A majority of informants and three survey respondents mentioned prejudicial remarks about LGBTT people made by one or more current Council members, and saw this as an indication that LGBTT issues would receive no support at this level.
Many interviewees and some respondents mentioned "the Council's discrimination" against the Hero Parade in 1994 and the resulting Council meeting in the Town Hall that enabled the airing of extreme homophobic views.
However, several LGBTT community groups currently receive Auckland City Council funding and had very positive ongoing interactions with council staff.
This study recommends that the Auckland City Council:
- Commission a scoping study of a community centre serving its LGBTTI populations in Auckland City Council facilities in the CBD or inner city area.
- Work with LGBTTI communities to plan the centre.
In the interim:
PURPOSE AND VISION OF A COMMUNITY CENTRE
- Ensure that staff in its community facilities receive training in the needs of LGBTT communities, provide accurate information about LGBTT issues, and that Auckland City Council community facilities are perceived as welcoming by LGBTT people.
- Work with LGBTT community organisations to provide part-time LGBTT satellite services in outlying Auckland City Council community centres.
- Work in partnership with LGBTT community organisations to promote LGBTT community development and the inclusion of LGBTT priorites in current Auckland City Council community development
Drawing together research, informant interviews and survey responses, the purpose of a community centre could be to
OPERATIONAL ISSUES FOR A COMMUNITY CENTRE
- Provide a safe, welcoming and inclusive alcohol-free place for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, takatapui, transgender and intersex people, their friends, whanau and supporters
- Provide support and information services for LGBTTI people about LGBTTI issues
- Host and organise LGBTTI community groups, activities, events and campaigns
- Nurture and develop LGBTTI communities and contribute to LGBTTI-friendly mainstream services
- Counter systemic heterosexism and discrimination against LGBTTI people.
Issues raised by informants and respondents included:
- Ensuring all LGBTT communities are represented on the board and that the organisation serves all their needs.
- Ensuring funding for a centre is sustainable.
- Being supportive of tangata whenua and actively encouraging all cultures.
- Ensuring diversity in staffing so that major community sectors are represented.
- Being inclusive rather than exclusive, welcoming friends and whanau of LGBTT people.
- Building funding and programme partnerships with mainstream agencies.
This has been a brief summary of the report. The full text is available as a PDF document on the link below.
* Florida, Richard. (2002). The rise of the creative class and how it's transforming
work, leisure and everyday life. Basic Books, New York.
** Rea, Lindsey. (2003). From "cotton town" to "tinseltown". A research project
submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master
of Planning Practice, University of Auckland.
*** Hughes, Anthony & Saxton, Peter. (2006). Geographic micro-clustering
of homosexual men: Implications for research and social policy, Social Policy
Journal of New Zealand, 28, 158-172.