GLBTI discrimination remains a problem

A new report warns that gay, lesbian and transgender aged care recipients are being forced back into the closet.

Aged care providers could be breaching anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation by discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) care recipients.

A report on the experiences of seniors released today by La Trobe University says the majority of providers are unaware or unresponsive to the needs of GLBTI clients, forcing them to retreat back into the ‘closet’.

Initiated in response to anecdotal reports of discrimination against sexual minorities in aged care, the qualitative report is based on 19 interviews with GLBTI clients of residential and community aged care services, along with family members, carers and friends.

Most participants said they were unable to be themselves and were forced to hide their true sexual identities, with many experiencing threats, harassment, ridicule or invasions of privacy from other residents or staff members.

The report’s author, Dr Catherine Barrett from La Trobe University said discrimination against GLBTI clients is often the result of ignorance.

“Some people don’t necessarily understand that their behaviour is discriminatory,” she said.

“For example, a staff member may have witnessed abusive behaviour between a couple of clients and not intervened, even though they are required to do so.”

“But I don’t subscribe to the theory of demonising aged care. Most people in the industry haven’t been educated in this area and don’t necessarily understand what they need to do.”

Although there were some accounts of empathy and sensitive care, Dr Barrett said there is an urgent need for more education in aged care services to reduce discrimination.

She would like to see Government providing financial support for training programs dealing with GLBTI-sensitive care.

“Some providers will change because they have a fundamental commitment to equality but unfortunately some providers will not change unless they are told to,” Dr Barrett said

“And if government got behind this issue, that would show that they endorse it. I think education providers also need to include information about sexuality in their training courses,” Dr Barrett said.

The results from the second stage of the project – which is based on consultation with service providers – are expected to be released soon.

“We need a partnership approach to change practice. There are a lot of people doing wonderful work in aged care services who would welcome any support and resources in this area,” said Dr Barrett.

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