western sydney The marriage equality postal survey had significant impacts on LGBTQ people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) living in Greater Western Sydney, with many experiencing challenges when reconciling their sexuality and gender with their cultures, faiths and families.

But while some had a negative experience during the marriage equality debate, for others it helped break the silence around discussions on sexuality and gender with loved ones, or brought them closer to their families, according to new research published today.

The report Home is Where Our Story Begins: Family, community and belonging for sexuality and gender diverse CALD people, explores the experiences of LGBTQ people in CALD communities in Greater Western Sydney following the same-sex marriage vote in 2017.

A collaborative research project between the NSW LGBTIQ Domestic & Family Violence Interagency, ACON, and Western Sydney University, it was designed to deepen understanding of issues facing LGBTQ CALD communities in the region.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said: “For many in our communities, the 2017 marriage equality debate was a harmful, divisive and stressful experience, significantly affecting people’s health, wellbeing and relationships. The impacts were particularly acute for LGBTQ people living in some areas, such as in Western Sydney, where the region overwhelmingly voted ‘no’ in the postal survey.

“This ground-breaking research helps us broaden our knowledge of those effects and raise awareness of how we might improve support for LGBTQ people from CALD backgrounds.”

Among the key findings in the report were:

  • 52.8% of the 60 respondents said that the disclosure of their identity affected their relationship with family ‘for the worse’, 30.6% said ‘for the better’ and 16.7% said there had been no impact.
  • Participants who had disclosed their sexuality and gender identities with positive responses from family described a greater intimacy, closeness and trust with their relatives. Some participants reported that following disclosure, their families formed a more supportive position on the topic of LGBTQ acceptance and marriage equality.
  • Others faced negative reactions from family including disappointment, shock and even guilt. Following the initial disclosure of their identity, many participants faced silence and denial from family. Around 43% of the 60 participants also disclosed experiences of family violence.
  • Some participants felt a disconnection between their cultural identity and their sexuality and gender, often having to decide between their connection to LGBTQ services and community, or to family and culture. Some participants felt left behind and invisible to mainstream LGBTQ services.
  • 25% reported that they experienced prejudice-related abuse from the broader community during the Marriage Equality campaign. Many participants actively resisted these attacks by being vocal on the issue, attending rallies and putting up ‘yes’ campaign material in their workplaces.

Nicole Asquith, NSW LGBTIQ Family and Domestic Violence Interagency co-convenor, and Associate Professor of Policing & Criminal Justice, Western Sydney University said the research aimed to highlight the diverse voices and experiences of LGBTQ CALD people in Greater Western Sydney.

“There is no ‘one’ story of what it is like to be LGBTQ and CALD in Western Sydney, and our hope that by amplifying the voices of the community, we can support positive change and also help to breakdown harmful stereotypes or assumptions about CALD communities, including from within LGBTQ communities.”

The report details recommended actions to make a positive difference in the lives of CALD LGBTQ people in Greater Western Sydney, such as legal reform in relation to banning ‘conversion therapy’, greater acknowledgement of intersectionality in policy and legislation, greater inclusion training and support for services, and creating support groups for CALD families in the area.

“The report highlights the clear need for inclusive and accessible services, and it is heartening to know that there are many service providers and community groups in the Greater Western Sydney region that are really committed and interested in this work,” Parkhill said.

“It’s vital that organisations working to support the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people are inclusive and connected to all community members wherever they are. We hope this research helps us in this endeavour to ensure that no one is left behind.”

Asquith added: “This report has shown that there is a diversity of LGBTQ CALD voices and experiences in Greater Western Sydney. For this reason, it should not be assumed that the findings are representative of all LGBTQ CALD communities in Western Sydney.

“However, as the first study of its kind, this research is a vital step in understanding the lived experiences of CALD sexuality and gender diverse communities living outside of inner-metro areas in Australia.”

Home Is Where Our Story Begins project was supported through a City of Parramatta Council Community Grant.