Are you an LGBTI inclusive provider?

Last updated on 16 November 2022

There are some key things aged care providers can do to indicate their workplace is a safe space for LGBTI staff and residents. [Source: AdobeStock]

More and more Australian employers are considering the diversity of their workforce and looking to create an inclusive environment for their people. Staff that identify as LGBTI are increasingly looking for employers that are supportive and where they don’t need to hide their true selves in fear of rejection and prejudice.

For LGBTI older people, going into an aged care facility can be a really daunting experience, often due to having previous negative experiences with discrimination.

As the world moves in a more progressive direction, providers should listen to their staff, residents and advocacy groups to recognise the importance of being LGBTI-inclusive and ensure all people in your organisation feel safe and welcomed. 

Ways to create an inclusive environment

Some basic guidelines on how to provide a supportive environment for residents and employees, created by LGBTI advocacy organisation ACON, include taking the time to understand terminology and the challenges faced by LGBTI people.

Other ways you can create a more inclusive organisation are:

  • Being visible inclusive with posters or badges, especially for potential employees who will look for cues of inclusivity
  • Talking about diversity initiatives to let potential employees know that they are talking to an employer that values diversity, and allows those who are uncomfortable with some aspects of diversity know what your values are
  • Being familiar with what team you are placing openly out LGBTI employees in to avoid conflict 
  • Respecting confidentialities if a person wants to or doesn’t want to reveal how they identify
  • Never assuming that someone belongs to the LGBTI community because of the way they look, or assume that someone else will be as comfortable working with members of the LGBTI community as you are

Signal you are safe for LGBTI people

There are some key things you can do as an employer and provider of aged care services to indicate your workplace is a safe space for LGBTI staff and residents, and those indicators can begin before the hiring or moving in process.

Director of Training & Capacity Building at LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, Robert Hardy, recommends putting clear inclusion statements in job advertisements and on your company website to signal you are an ally.

As the sector brainstorms ways to attract more staff to aged care, and workers are looking for a workplace where they feel values and supported, it is particularly important to indicate you have no tolerance for discrimination or harrasment within the cohort to provide a safe space for LGBTI workers. 

And providing an inclusive work environment will also benefit your residents or clients identifying as LGBTI people.

“Organisations should make clear statements that they value and celebrate diversity within their business and diverse staff is better able to meet the needs of the diverse pool of aged care residents,” Mr Hardy explained.

“[LGBTI people] are more likely to feel safe to share some more information about themselves and therefore have their needs met.”

Lifeview Aged Care Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Samantha Jewell, ensures an inclusion statement is at the end of all job advertisements to show potential employees where they stand and what they will tolerate. 

“If [LGBTI inclusion] is not for them, that’s okay but this is who we are and we don’t accept any harassment or bullying,” said Ms Jewell.

“If you can’t accept everybody as they are, then we’re not the place for you because it’s not up to us to choose who someone is.  

“People should be able to feel safe when they come to work and when they enter our facility as a resident, it’s a basic human right.”

When it comes to signalling alliship to residents, more subtle features like rainbow flag posters in the facility or staff wearing pride badges can help assure residents they are in a safe environment to express their sexuality and gender freely. 

The Rainbow tick accreditation and Silver Rainbow training 

The Silver Rainbow LGBTI Aged Care Awareness Training Project is a LGBTIQ+ Health Australia project designed to improve the experiences of LGBTI people as they age and enter the aged care system, following the establishment of the National LGBTI Ageing & Aged Care Strategy.

It is delivered collaboratively with project partners across every State and Territory in Australia and will be funded by the Department of Health until 2023.

Combined with other legal reforms, this has resulted in the ageing and aged care sector being increasingly focused on inclusive practice.

Through the program, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia educates service providers, policy makers, LGBTI people and the general community about how to meet the needs of LGBTI older people while connecting those older people to services and resources. 

Similarly, The Rainbow Tick is another quality framework that helps providers show that they are safe for and inclusive of the LGBTIQ community.

The Rainbow Tick accreditation consists of six standards and is provided through independent assessment provided by Quality Innovation Performance and Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.

The six standards revolve around:

  • Organisational capability
  • Workforce development
  • Consumer participation
  • Being a welcoming and accessible organisation
  • Disclosure and documentation
  • Culturally safe and acceptable services

To receive this accreditation, you will need to submit a variety of evidence showing your company adheres to these standards and is implementing inclusive practices into the framework of your company.

Types of evidence you will be asked to provide include:

  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Protocols
  • Guidelines
  • Pathways

There are webinars and other in depth information available on the Rainbow Health Australia website on the specific evidence needed to become accredited, how to create a Diversity Inclusion Plan and provide inclusion training to staff. 

Lifeview has been Rainbow Tick accredited since 2015 and Ms Jewell is proud it reflects the inclusivity of her organisation.

All new staff undertake the inclusion training covering the lived experience of an LGBTI person and unpacks what conscious or unconscious biases they may have. 

Significant mandatory harassment and bullying training is also interwoven in the onboarding process and is revisited annually.

Inclusion at all levels

Providers wanting to make sure they meet the needs of LGBTI people and all other diverse needs groups should develop a Diversity Action Plan. The Department of Health’s Diversity Action Plan for Aged Care provides information and templates for developing your diversity strategy and framework.

These plans should be revisited to constantly consider how to be more inclusive at all levels of the organisation.

Mr Hardy recommends that a Diversity Action plan includes a self assessment of current practices, policies and staff training and identify activities that could be made more inclusive within the provider’s programs. 

“These could include diversional recreation therapy programs and celebrating key days of significance like Marti Gras or World Pride Day, you can use these opportunities to create an inclusive environment,” he explained. 

An example of this is the ElderPride ethos by South Australian Rainbow Tick accredited aged care provider, Eldercare.

The key objectives of their ethos revolve around:

  • Treating individuals as they are and how they want to be treated
  • Being inclusive, regardless of whether a person discloses their sexuality or gender identity
  • Providing integrated residential care and retirement living services that encompass individualised wellbeing approaches that support the mind, body and spirit

Since Lifeview has implemented a Diversity Action Plan and has engaged in LGBTI key days, Ms Jewell noticed more workers were attracted to the organisation and more residents have either come out or proudly talk about LGBTI-identifying friends or family.

“[Coming out or talking about LGBTI family and friends] is something they may not have wanted to do in the past,” she said.

“We also have residents who march at Pride either because they identify or just because they are an ally and support the community.”

How do you support LGBTI identifying staff and residents in your organisation? Let us know in the comments below.

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