What’s happening at the Pride Centre? 

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By Ashley Flockhart 


This year Australia voted on the right to marry someone you love. 
Of the 79.5% of eligible Australians who voted, 61.6% ticked yes, and the nation waits for the parliament to make its final decision. In Melbourne Ports, 82% of voters voted yes, the third-largest number of all electorates in Australia. Same-sex marriage postal survey’s results came at a time when in St Kilda, the Victoria’s first Pride Centre is starting to take shape.  

The LGBTQI community will soon have a home in St Kilda.  

The new Victorian Pride Centre (VPC) at 78-91 Fitzroy Street will permanently house ten major LGBTQI organisations as well as smaller organisations for meetings, training in health services and collaboration for holding other activities. The facilities will include a library, a prayer room, a café, theatrette and a gallery. 

The VPC asked for people to apply to one of 28 members of the Community Reference Group. The group will give feedback about the structure of the centre and how it should be operated to address the needs of LGBTQI people.  

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Photos from last year’s St Kilda Pride March by Louise Avery

The VPC board — which is made up of gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgender members —had received over 70 applications for the reference group, as of early November. 

Board member Megan Smith said that all members of the board have a very personal connection to the LGBTQI community, and are looking for the same type of intimate connection in their applicants.  

Smith praised the people who applied.  

“It’s a very impressive number and it’s so good to see given difficult times within the community in terms of the adversity we’re facing with the marriage equality survey, so many amazing people have been able to step up,” Smith said. 

Smith said the key criteria the reference group must work together on are social cohesion and collaboration, so organisations that represent different fragmented portions of the LGBTQI community work together in harmony. 

 “We do see a lot of stigma attached with being bi and also being trans as well.  

“So from that perspective I’m really quite honoured because it’s something that’s very personal to me.  

Smith also said that it has been a negative experience for individuals of the LGBTQI community to be the central focus of the marriage equality survey and that a large amount of misinformation has been circulated.  

“I’ve had to ignore social media and mainstream news, I refrain from looking up in case planes are flying overhead and writing a sign in the sky. 

“I think all of us as individuals of the LGBTQI community see a barrage of hate and misdirected misinformation about something as simple as wanting to be married to someone you love. It’s nothing more than that,” she says. 

On November 1, the VPC shortlisted four leading Australian design practices to enter the final stage of the design competition.  

They are Grant Amon Architects in collaboration with Brearley Architects and Urbanistst; BKK and Sibling Architecture; Hayball; and Preston Lane Architects. 

The design competition jury will select a winner in early 2018. 

The primary purpose of the VPC is to celebrate the diverse LGBTQI community in Victoria, it’s capability for future growth and honour the community’s’ members who suffered discrimination in the past.  

Photo: Louise Avery

Competition jury Chair Dimity Reed said the shortlisted entries emphasised the importance of ensuring the design has a relaxed and affable atmosphere. 

“The design approach must balance the need for an open, welcoming civic face with the need to provide a safe, secure environment,” Reed said.   

VPC Board Chair Jude Munro said that the purchase of the site has been finalised.  

Munro also said it will house ten major LGBTQI organisations as permanent residents. These organisations include Joy radio station, the Victorian Aids Council, Switchboard, and Minus 18.  

Minus 18 organises dances and other activities for LGBTQI youths below 18, and Switchboard provides counselling services. 

The organisations will be in place to service the needs of the LGBTQI community, Munro said.  

“Over the last 45 years the needs of the LGBTQI community have changed and maybe it’s that we’re more aware of the full range of needs. “ 

“We know that back 45 years ago that there were only three LGBTQI organisations in Victoria and now there are seventy.” 

“We know that 30 percent of young homeless people are LBGTQI.” 

Munro says the first and foremost service that the service will provide is mutual support, and to encourage fellow LGBTQI Australians to not be ashamed of their identity.  

 “We have middle class and older folk who are well settled and comfortable in their own skin, and then others who don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin … we have ageing LGBTQI people who also need support to legal services or housing services.” 

Steve Barrah, a board member and a jury member for the design competition, said that an essential characteristic for the Pride Centre is accessibility.  

“This is about creating a safe and welcoming home for really diverse communities,” Barrah said. 

“The other elements are about how do you create a space that is fun and engaging for all age groups?” 

“That is one of the challenges of the design competition.” 

The design competition jury will select a winner in early 2018. 

 

 

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