Working with stakeholders to protect LGBTIQA+ rights in Western Australia
24 October 2022● News and media
A new case in ANZSOG’s John L. Alford Case Library outlines the efforts by Legal Aid Western Australia to develop legal information resources to help LGBTIQA+ young people facing exclusion in education and employment settings understand their legal rights – despite having a busy workload of existing commitments and no additional budget to devote to the project.
The case provides lessons about the benefits of the public sector being flexible and open to community-initiated projects, as well as the value of partnerships with community organisations. The project was heavily influenced by the partnerships between Legal Aid and the Youth Pride Network which ensured that the factsheets were relevant for the LGBTIQA+ youth community, and the information could reach the intended audiences.
Jessica Baynes, Senior Solicitor, at Legal Aid Western Australia said that the experience helped her to learn the importance of being open to different communication strategies and that ‘we need to collaborate with people who are in the know’.
The Case outlines how Ms Baynes and her team worked with the community and the Youth Pride Network to develop the factsheets. The Youth Pride Network are a group of young people from the LGBTIQA+ community who have advocated for inclusion and acceptance of LGBTIQA+ youth within the broader WA community. A key feature of their advocacy is seeking systematic change to embed the rights and inclusion of LGBTIQA+ young people within the WA community. The Youth Pride Network have also provided targeted advice and resources for LGBTIQA+ young people, as a response to numerous requests from its members about legal rights in a range of settings (such as schools and the workplace)
The laws that exist to protect rights of the LGBTIQA+ youth community in WA are numerous and challenging to navigate, operating as they do at state, federal and international levels. These include the WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, as well as International Human Rights that are upheld by the Australian Human Rights Commission. These laws and rules aim to prevent discrimination – such as in education and employment – based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. For many LGBTIQA+ youth, a lack of knowledge by individuals and their advocates (who could be organisations, peers, family etc) about their rights under the law have left them vulnerable. Informing LGBTIQA+ young people of their legal rights, and empowering them to self-advocate, allowed these laws to better meet their potential.
Empowering groups within the community is what drove the Early Intervention Services team, while collaborating with the Youth Pride Network enabled this to be achieved. The developing partnership between Youth Pride Network and Legal Aid also had benefits, in building long term alliances. Importantly it also enabled Legal Aid to become an ally of the LGBTIQA+ community and to be seen as such. Young people will not access a service unless they either see demonstrated evidence that the service is inclusive, or that they have friends that have gone there and will vouch for it.
The factsheets were a first of their kind in Australia for the LGBTIQA+ youth community. They created further opportunities to empower more people. For example, the Community Legal Education Network (CLEN) provided an opportunity for Legal Aid offices from across Australia to share information on projects, resources, and community legal information. Ms Baynes noted the factsheets were an ideal project to share at this forum. Moreover, they could be adapted for other marginalised groups within the community, or LGBTIQA+ youth in other states with different state laws.
The Case concludes that there is an opportunity to learn from this experience and look to other areas where legal advocacy is needed, and to appreciate the value of partnerships and community-initiated projects.
The full case can be found in ANZSOG’s John L. Alford Case Library. The Library contains almost 300 examples of public policy challenges from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, available for free and designed to be used in the development of public managers.