´Use your voicebox´ – challenging homophobia in health and community services in Queensland, Australia
Issues: Independent Australian research has found that 38% of Queenslanders believe homosexuality to be immoral, a figure that increases to 50% among those living in regional/rural areas. A separate study found 25% of Australians would not want a gay person as a neighbour. Negative attitudes towards homosexuality can detrimentally impact the quality of service provision from health care providers and delay LGBT people accessing health services. Social exclusion on the basis of sexuality can also contribute to increased risk taking behaviours among gay men, including risky sexual practice.
Description: A social marketing campaign highlighting the unacceptability of homophobia, encouraging feedback on the experience of using health and related services and promoting LGBT friendly services was developed by an LGBT community organisation in partnership with an advertising company. Feedback on experiences provided via the campaign website was provided to service providers, along with information and resources on how to make their service more LGBT friendly. Resources included a self-audit checklist, charter for inclusive service and an offer of LGBT awareness training. Services that received positive feedback or who undertook development work to increase their LGBT friendliness were promoted as places where it is safe to ‘speak freely here’.
Lessons learned: Achieving social change in a large, homophobic state on a small, one-off budget is a significant challenge. Using the pro-bono services of an advertising agency enabled greater expertise in the development stages, but was not able to be followed through to the extent needed in the implementation phase.
Next steps: The state health department has funded an additional roll-out of the campaign through their services, with the endorsement of senior management. Larger scale social marketing campaigns are required to influence longstanding, entrenched homophobic attitudes. Follow-up evaluation with services provided with feedback is planned to identify any changes to work practices.
-Abstract available at link below-