Advocates say the federal government’s recognition of the specific needs of the group is a historic step that has gone largely unnoticed
Gay rights advocates are cheering a government decision to recognize the needs of old gay people in Australia, where three aged-care facilities are being built specifically for gays and lesbians.
Dr Jo Harrison from the University of South Australia tells the ABC there are instances of LBGT seniors having to hide their sexuality or ‘return to the closet’ and the official recognition that they are being discriminated against and have special needs is a ‘historic turning point’
‘They announced an enormous swathe of aged care reforms and in amongst those reforms was that the Government is going to legislate and include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex older people in the Aged Care Act as a special needs group for the purposes of aged care,’ she said.
‘And that’s an incredibly significant turn around from like virtual invisibility at Federal Government level two years ago.’
It was announced in April that LGBTI seniors will be considered a ‘special needs group’ under the Act, following a recommendation made the report Caring for Older Australians last year.
Peter Dickson, who is developing what could be the first groundbreaking aged-care facility in Linton, Victoria speaks of a gentleman wants to move in: ‘He would like to live in Linton where he can put a picture up of a male and not be discriminated and feel like he has to put these things in cupboards because his carers or somebody will walk in and basically pass judgement on him.
‘Because it’s not always the staff, it’s also the residents that pick on people, which is sad.’
According to the National LGBTI Health Alliance, those who grew up pre gay liberation have endured a lifetime of having been vilified as ‘sinners’ by the church, ‘criminals’ in law, and pathologized by medicine. This group is, therefore, ageing differently than the baby boomers.
Getting older for many also means an increased fear of being ‘outed’ after a lifetime of avoiding disclosure, or a fear of being sent back into the closet at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.
At present, only state laws recognize discrimination on sexuality or gender identity grounds, but the government is change discriminations to give sexuality and gender identity the same discrimination status as race or age, with proposals coming later this year.
While gay rights activists are questioning whether church groups, which provide about half the aged-care facilities, will keep an exemption, Uniting Care Ageing of the Uniting Church has claimed an industry first by appointing a specific project officer to reach out to LGBTI seniors.
The Australian government is also funding groups to provide aged care that does not discriminate against sexuality, including Care Connect.