A Covid-19 vaccine blitz targeting Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ groups could be rolled out in the coming weeks in a bid to inject life back into the queer community once the state reopens.
Australia’s first openly queer and Aboriginal commissioner Todd Fernando is behind the move after the Victorian government officially appointed him to the role on Thursday.
Speaking to NCA NewsWire, the 32-year-old said he wanted to focus the attention on how Victoria’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer people could reconnect post pandemic.
“We’ve been building a campaign for a rainbow vaccination week and that’ll occur some time soon as a way in which to highlight the need for LGBTIQ+ people to get vaccinated,” Mr Fernando said.
“It also ensures they can be vaccinated in a safe and welcoming way so that we can cheer on and get ready for Pride 2022.”
Mr Fernando, a descendant of the Kalarie peoples of the Wiradjuri nation who identifies as queer, said constant lockdowns were a trigger for younger LGBTIQ+ Victorians to “revert back into the closet”.
“Victoria has experienced six lockdowns now and every time we go back into a lockdown I always think about the young LGBTIQ+ people who might be living in lockdown with families who aren’t as supportive as others,” he said.
“That experience reverts them back into the closet and minimises their sexuality – while sensible for safety – it shouldn’t be something that young people still should have to do.
“While it is a tough time Covid-19 has exacerbated some of the isolations and some of the strains on systems that really need to be fixed and the Victorian government is working very hard on ensuring that is done.”
As Mr Fernando grew up in his rural NSW home town of Condobolin he noticed a lack of LGBTIQ+ services.
“The older I got the more I wanted to understand who I was and what my story is and how that connects into my own aboriginal culture and found very little information that could connect those dots,” he said.
That sparked his passion in human rights and social justice where he went on to study anthropology in Sydney and a post graduate in medical anthropology in Melbourne.
In 2018, Mr Fernando co-founded Koorie Pride Victoria, an advocacy organisation that campaigns for the social inclusion and advancement of Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ Aboriginal community.
Mr Fernando said he was passionate about improving the lives of LGBTIQ+ people, particularly those living in regional Victoria.
“We know there are still many clear needs and concerns of many LGBTIQ+ people across the state,” he said.
“Part of those concerns is about listening and meeting people where they are particularly our young regional and rural friends.
“We know that its an experience that has largely been done in isolation and what I’d like to see is some of our services in Melbourne replicated in and around regional Victoria.”
Victoria became the first state in Australia to have a commissioner for LGBTIQ+ communities, previously known as the commissioner for gender and sexuality, when Ro Allen was appointed to the role in 2015.
The commissioner for LGBTIQ+ communities works closely with Victoria’s queer communities and advises the state government about the best policies, services and programs that can help improve the lives of LGBTIQ+ Victorians.