Monday 16 April 2012

We're family too

I was privileged to attend the launch on 10 April of the "We're Family too" report on a community consultation on the impact of homophobia in Arabic speaking communities. The report also draws attention to the discrimination experienced by same sex attracted (SSA) people of Arabic speaking background in the gay & lesbian communities and offers recommendations for how these issues may be addressed.

"We're Family Too", launched by NSW MLC the Hon. John Ajaka, was produced by ACON's Lesbian & Gay Anti-Violence Project under the guidance of a steering group which included a wide range of community representatives.

In launching the report Mr Ajaka said: "Homophobia must be stopped ... it should not exist in our community. ... While homophobia exists in all communities, its existence in the Arab community contradicts the compassionate, hospitable emphasis of the Arab culture."

Randa Kattan, CEO of steering group member the Arab Council of Australia, spoke at the launch about the Council's unanimous decision to support the consultation. After much deliberation the Council decided that although talking about homophobia and same sex attraction had the potential to attract more discrimination against Arab-speaking communities, they could not ignore, or delay addressing, the suffering experienced by SSA community members due to homophobia.

Ghassan Kassisieh, author of the report, gave us a flavour of the report's findings, quoting the experiences of SSA Arabic speaking people and their families. As MC the Hon. Helen Westwood AM MLC said afterwards, there was hardly a dry eye in the house; not only because the stories were moving but because of the project's great achievement in bringing together such disparate communities to work successfully on such a significant issue.

You can view all the presentations on ACON Health's YouTube channel, and you can download the report from the We're Family Too website.

It was inspiring to hear about the great commitment of all the project's participants to ensuring its success through great attention to ensuring cultural appropriateness. It occurred to me that organisations embarking on similar projects could learn a lot from this consultation - and it would also be interesting to hear about similar success stories - please add your comment below if you have insights you'd like to share on this issue.

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