South Pacific Private’s Cultural Safety Officer, Emma Mansell, share’s why for her, ensuring we offer comprehensive support for LGBTQIA+ clients is more than just a job.
As someone who’s been fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights for over a decade, I’m proud to be advocating and supporting LGBTQIA+ clients during their stay at South Pacific Private. I identify as ‘gender fluid’ myself, which means that over time I evolve my gender identity and gender expression. I work in a place where I am proud to be who I am and support others who are discovering themselves. For me, this work is personal.
When my wife and I decided to start a family, we realised at times we didn’t always fit in to the heteronormative mould. I was pregnant with our first child and at antenatal classes at a hospital there was only the discussion of ‘mums’ and ‘dads’. My wife was less than impressed with being allocated to the ‘dads group’. The discrimination we have faced is sometimes difficult to swallow. Often people will ask ‘how’ we had our children. I often reply by asking how they had theirs – they get the point.
Over time, my resilience has grown stronger, and having three kids who have adopted that resilience is a huge achievement. They often gloat to their friends how lucky they are to have two mums. Sometimes other kids’ parents come back to tell me how their child wants two mums!
My kids explain at school how they have a ‘donor’ who gave their mums a gift. We read them books about diverse families, teach them that some children are raised by a single parent, two dads, aunts/uncles or grandparents. All that matters is that they love each other.
When it comes to seeking care and treatment within our healthcare system, often the system fails our community. Programs and facilities have been primarily built for heterosexual people, and it’s an inbuilt assumption many healthcare practitioners carry. It only serves to further isolate us both individually and our community collectively.
In the LGBTQIA+ community, we have more than our fair share of those of us who have struggled with abuse, trauma and addiction. Many know what it’s like to feel fear and denial growing up. We often have been taught to feel ashamed for who we are by institutions, society and the media.
Personally, I didn’t come out until my late teens, in fear that I would be rejected. Many close friends and family friends couldn’t accept the truth. I believe they were scared of knowing me and couldn’t see past my sexuality. Yet, this pain that we experience can be transformed to make us stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate to others.
While LGBTQIA+ Australians achieved marriage equality in 2017, there is still more work to do. The abuse, stress, trauma and discrimination that LGBTQIA+ Australians endure continues to be disproportionate to our heterosexual and cisgendered peers. This continues to contribute to higher rates of mental health issues, addiction and suicide – so for treatment centre’s like South Pacific Private, it’s especially important to to provide an environment that is tailored, supportive, safe and effective for all clients, no matter what their background.
South Pacific Private: Proud To Be A Rainbow Treatment Centre
At South Pacific Private, we understand the importance in acknowledging and validating the complexity of people’s lived experiences as we work in partnership through their treatment and in recovery. Inclusivity is a priority for us. We recognise that gender is a spectrum, and wherever you are on that spectrum is respected by our team and the broaders community here. We also work to ensure all our therapists, nurses and doctors have a deep understanding of the many ways in which sexuality and gender can intersect with our experiences of mental health challenges, trauma and addiction. That includes how sexuality and gender identity can complicate our self-perception in childhood and adulthood, and how homophobia and intolerance from parents and other authority figures can impact our development.
Quality of care is essential in helping every member of the community – and their families – find appropriate treatment. South Pacific Private seeks to provide a safe and open environment for treatment, with the aim that everyone feels able to openly share and discuss their experiences without fear of judgment. We pride ourselves on using respectful language, promoting awareness and training staff on gender identity, sexual orientation, and name and pronouns usage.
Supporting Rainbow Families
Health doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it exists within our society – and in many areas, especially outside of major metropolitan centres, there’s still much work to do to help build a more inclusive, thoughtful and caring society. That’s one of the reasons South Pacific Private is so proud to support initiatives like the Rainbow Families – an organisation devoted to supporting non-traditional families at every stage.
Rainbow Families was created to support any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people who have a child or children or are planning on having a children. The group seeks to provide support and resources so that every family can succeed and live their best and most colourful lives.
Among many other projects, Rainbow Families created an antenatal class for LGBTQIA+ families. My partner and I attended when I was pregnant with our second child, and it was so comforting to see families that looked like ours and be educated in a way that was inclusive. It was inspiring to meet gay and trans dads who went through moving countries, using surrogates and the struggles of adoption to create their family.
We became involved with Rainbow Families and helped to create a ‘Resilience Camp’. The Rainbow Families Resilience Camp is now run every year at The Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation in the Northern Beaches. Families from all across Australia join to have fun together and make connections with others in a resilience building environment. This year, South Pacific Private is sponsoring Rainbow Families Resilience Camp. It will run 5th to 7th of November 2021.