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Volunteer Profile - Karen

Karen first became involved in Rainbow Families when friends invited her to attend the Erskineville Playgroup late last year.  Karen and her family met some lovely volunteers and attended a number of events where they saw the great way the volunteers were working together to further the Rainbow Families values and message.

When we recently advertised for an Administration Assistant, Karen put up her hand and we jumped at the chance to put her extensive administration and office skills to good use.  Karen is currently working together with Ashley to compile the monthly newsletter and is on call to help with organising events, proofreading documents and anywhere her skills can be put to good use.

Karen is engaged to Lisa and they have a beautiful daughter Lilly who was born in October last year.  They live in South Western Sydney and are enjoying being part of the newly formed Parramatta area Rainbow Families social group. Karen is currently on maternity leave and plans to return to work later this year at which time Lisa will take over full time mumma duties. Never far from their side is their adorable miniature schnauzer Rebel, who joins them on as many adventures as possible.

There are many volunteering opportunities behind the scenes at Rainbow Families, so if you have some skills you think might be useful for us, don't hesitate to get in touch to lend a hand.

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Reach Out Video

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Reach Out Video

Check out this great video of Jesse from the Rainbow Families Youth Advisory Council.

Jesse shares the best parts of living in a rainbow family, and some of the challenges of having a different family structure.

"They've taught me to be accepting of everyone, no matter what race, skin colour, gender or anything."

 

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Playgroup Education Series

As part of Rainbow Families ongoing relationship with Sydney Local Health District, we are thrilled to be presenting a number of education sessions for parents at the Rainbow Families Erskineville Playgroup in August.

On August 9th, Jenni Jones from Child and Family Health Nursing will be talking about Growth and Development for babies and toddlers.

August 16th sees Dani Frisch, a Social Worker discussing the importance of positive parent - child relationship, and how best to create bonds between parents and babies.

And on August 30th, Jamila Solomon, a Childhood Psychologist will be giving us tips and tricks for managing challenging child behaviour.

Finally on September 27th Nicole, a Speech Pathologist will be chatting about developmental milestones for babies and toddlers, and ways to support communication development in babies and toddlers.

These sessions will be informal 15 minute discussion with the parents. The educators will be available afterward to answer any questions from the group, or one on one.

Rainbow Families Playgroup is on each Thursday from 10am - 12pm.

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Guest Blog Post from Jacqueline McDiarmid

Guest Blog Post from Jacqueline McDiarmid - Director at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists.

Jacqueline is a wonderful member of the Rainbow Families community, and volunteers her time at the Making Rainbow Families Seminar each year.

In her blog post below she talks about when things aren’t good at home. 

As a Family Therapist one of the most common presentations I see is separated parents who are continually in conflict or hostile toward each other – and worried about how their fighting is affecting their children.

Some separated parents fight because they have differing parenting styles. Sometimes the involvement of step-parents is problematic. And sometimes there is a parent who does not feel they have enough access to their child or children.

But they all have difficulty stopping the hostility, resentment and fighting.

Any kind of parental conflict (whether it be between parents who are still  together or separated) causes stress on a child. We know from research that a child’s cortisol levels are generally higher when parents are in conflict. High cortisol levels impact a child’s cognitive ability, making it difficult for them to concentrate at school.  We also know that when parents are in high conflict, their children often end up with emotional and social problems. In high conflict families I often see children with high anxiety or low mood – mental health problems.

Many of these children or teenagers tell me they feel caught between their parents. They say they don’t feel able to say what they really think or feel at home, because they’re worried they’ll hurt one of their parents or let them down. Older kids often carry the burden of thinking they have to choose one parent over another. Or, they carry the greater burden of being the emotional supporter of a parent who has disclosed information about the other parent. Sadly, what often happens is children don’t really feel like they want to be with either parent. The pressure is too much.

Research tells us that children of divorced or separated parents are twice as likely to experience social, academic and behavioural problems. However, ongoing high conflict between parents who are separated causes the greatest stress on child/children.  For this reason, setting up good non-reactive communication patterns between the separated parents is crucial.

Here are some examples of inappropriate behaviour I see from separated parents:

  • A parent who demeans or undermines the other parent in front of the child and or other people.
  • A parent who shares information about the other parent’s bad behaviour.
  • A parent who does not support the child to have meaningful time with the other parent.
  • A parent who does not allow a child to talk naturally and positively about their other parent.
  • A parent whose rules are too rigid and does not allow for flexibility on occasions involving the other parent.
  • A parent who asks a child to carry hostile messages to the other parent.
  • A parent who asks a child/teenager intrusive questions about the other parent.
  • A parent who does not allow or encourage the child to communicate with the other parent.
  • A parent who punishes a child or teenager either overtly or covertly for wanting to spend more time with the other parent.
  • A parent who does not work with the other parent to provide a similar routine and rules for the child.

Many parents forget that their child is also part of the other parent and their family. This means when a parent demeans the other parent they are also demeaning their child.

Ten things you can do to reduce potential damage to your children if you are fighting:

  1. Simply make a decision to stop all conflict. If you just can’t agree on parenting styles or decisions, book in to see a Family Therapist and they will help you with this.
  2. Emails and text messages should be just about practical arrangements and information about the child/teenager. Take all emotions and commentary out of this type of communication. If you are upset with the other parent, call them instead and/or consider post-separation counselling.
  3. Make transition from one home to the other a positive, conflict-free experience for your kids. Transition time is not the time for conflict. The child is already likely to be anxious – don’t add to their discomfort by fighting.
  4. If you need to discuss grievances, do it away from the child/children.
  5. Encourage your child/teenager to spend time with the other parent.
  6. Don’t disclose or burden your child/teenager with your feelings about the other parent, and don’t criticise your ex-partner in front of the children.
  7. Don’t disclose your worries that result from the separation with the child/teenager – e.g. financial concerns.
  8. Don’t take it personally if your child or teenager wants to spend more time with the other parent, or says that they miss the other parent.
  9. Make time to communicate with the other parent about your child’s development. Do it regularly.
  10. Discuss with your ex how you can both support each other to be the best co-parents you can be.

High conflict between separated parents peaks in the first three years after separation. This is a crucial time to get help from a Family Counsellor.  A Family Therapist will work with you both to set up positive communication patterns, to set up new routines, navigate through transition from one home to the next, and to manage emotions when you’re around each other.

If you have been through the Family Court for custody or there are step-parents now involved, I’d say Family Counselling is vital.  It is not uncommon for me to do family sessions where there are step-parents as well as the parents in the room.  I would much rather see parents invest in Family Counselling as soon as separation occurs than be in real strife years down the track when relationships are more difficult to repair and teenagers are struggling with significant problems.

And lastly remember you are the adults – your child or teenager might seem adult like at times but they are not.  They do not have the capability to manage adult emotions and stress.  Don’t take your stuff out on them.  Sometimes you just need to make the decision to stop the hostility because that’s the most loving thing you can do for your children.

If you and your ex require help to manage your conflict or parenting styles, please contact Jacqueline today on 0289689397 and she will support you to make the relationship changes you need to minimise the conflict and build a stronger co-parenting relationship..

The information in this article is adapted from a review of the research conducted by Kelly, J. (2012) Risk and protective factors associated with child and adolescent adjustment following separation and divorce: Social science applications, Chapter 3. In Eds. K. Kuehnle & L. Drozd. Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied research for the family court, Oxford University Press, New York.

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Making Rainbow Families Seminar Wrap Up

 

Rainbow Families hosted the third annual Making Rainbow Families Seminar on June 16th. Over 50 LGBTIQ perspective parents attending to hear about the different pathways to becoming a parent.

The day started with couples and family counsellorJacqueline McDiarmid asking the group if they were really ready to be parents, and discussing some of the common issues she sees with families.

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Attendees were then able to chose between three talks tailored to the different needs within our community.

Home insemination and IVF which was presented by IVF Australia and Jo Perks.

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Surrogacy which was presented by Families Through Surrogacy and Rainbow Fertility.

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Options for trans and gender diverse people presented by Monash IVF.

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Joanna Mrakovicic from Barnados spoke about the changes within the fostering and adoption system - which now welcomes LGBTIQ carers.

There were also discussion around finding the right health care professional, followed by Nick Stewart and Tim Nicholls from Dowson Turco Lawyers who gave a very informative talk on the legal issues LGBTIQ parents need to be aware of.

The day finished with a panel of children raised by LGBTIQ parents, and parents from our community representing all of the options available to potential parents - giving attendees an opportunity to ask parents and children about challenges and rewards of  parenting as an out and proud LGBITQ person.

A very special thanks to the parents and children who generously shared their journey to parenthood and the joys of being part of a Rainbow family. Thanks to Bridget, Juliette, Marly, Paul, Ashley, Jesse and Jules. And to our wonderful volunteer Ali who was the MC for the day.

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Volunteer Profile - Justine Field

Justine is a proud mum of the wonderful eight year old Remy, who she coparents with Remy’s other mum.

Justine became involved with Rainbow Families through the Monthly Catch Up in the Inner West where she found the wonderful community of Rainbow Families. Being a Marrickville local the monthly Sydney Park catch up is an easy regular way to connect with other LGBTIQ parents and their children.

Justine has a background in family law and legal policy and currently works as a family dispute resolution practitioner.

Using her background, Justine is currently developing a resource for separated families in the LBGTIQ community. She is looking forward to hearing about the community's experiences as this will be central to the resource. The aim is to provide practical guidance that responds to the particular needs of the LGBITQ community as mainstream resources don't always recognise these.

Justine also consulted with the community about the experience of navigating the family law system, before writing a submission to the inquiry into the family law system on behalf of Rainbow Families.

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All Families Resource - update

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All Families Resource - update

A reference group has been established to produce the All Families resource and to build the content. 

A key component of the resource will include content from children with parents who are either transgender or gender diverse. 

This weekend a number of families met to discuss how this could happen and interview children. The results have been very positive for the families. 

The next step will be interviews with trans / gender diverse parents and their partners to drive the content for the resource. 

Jac Tomlins who worked with Rainbow Families on the Early Years School Guide has been engaged to carry out the interviews and work with the reference group to bring together the content. 

We are hoping to have the resource ready by the end of the year. 

 

Thanks again to everyone that contributed.

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Rainbow Families Separation Guide: Focus Group

Are you separated or separated from a partner? Rainbow Families is developing a resource for separating parents in our community. 

We would like to consult with any parents who have experience of this and hear what information you needed or need, what helped you, what wasn’t great, and what advice you would offer other parents going through this process. We want to hear from parents that have had positive cooperative experiences,  as well as any that are navigating hard and complex issues and systems. We aim to develop a resource that is relevant and authentic.

We are keen to hear about any legal issues and needs, emotional support, how to support children, dealing with school after,  and any special considerations for LGBTQI parents.

Saturday 23 June

2 – 4 PM

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre

1 Bedford St
Newtown NSW 2042

The focus group will be CONFIDENTIAL.  Unfortunately childcare is not available. A further focus group is being planned for Western Sydney.

It will be facilitated by Social Worker Vanessa Gonzalez and Lawyer Justine Fields.  Justine has a background in family law and legal policy, currently working as a family dispute resolution practitioner. Vanessa is a Social Worker with experience in child protection, and supporting families.

If you would like to share your ideas and experience individually, we can make a time for a telephone interview.

To arrange a phone call or attend the focus group, please RSVP Vanessa at  cochair@rainbowfamilies.com.au

RSVP highly appreciated as we are providing our volunteer time and a yummy afternoon tea

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Volunteer Profile Bridget

Meet Bridget a pansexual and genderfluid (non binary) parent, and life partner to an awesome trans woman. 

Together we have two children (5 years old and 10 years old), and one cat. We live in Sydney’s East. I got involved with Rainbow Families as a parent looking to connect with other gender diverse families.

Through Rainbow Families we have meet some amazing families and our kids have developed beautiful relationships.

At the moment, I am helping with the upcoming resource for trans and gender diverse families. I am also going to be speaking on the panel of LGBTQIA+ folks at the upcoming Making Rainbow Families Seminar. 

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May Antenatal Class

Congratulations to the 18 parents-to-be who attended the Rainbow Families Antenatal Class held at Macquarie Bank in Barangaroo on Sunday 27th May.

We had a great day, lots of laughs, new friendships formed and informed, well prepared people ready for their BIG DAY and new baby.

Janet Broady the Parent Educator co-presented with Cath Stuart from Damara Massage, Suellen Robinson a Midwife from Blacktown Hospital, Reb Schoates an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor and Macquarie Bank’s organiser extraordinaire Hazel George.

It’s always great to hear about other people’s birth stories. If anyone from our RF community would like to come along and share their experience - these classes run quarterly on the last Sunday of August, November, February and May each year and Janet would love to hear from you. We can offer you free parking and lunch if you are willing to volunteer your time. Likewise if there’s anyone wanting to get involved to help with these classes Janet would love to hear from you too.

Next class is Sunday 26th August - tell your pregnant friends to book in. Please make our new parents welcome to the big Rainbow Family when you see them at our next event.

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Opera House Discount for Rainbow Families

The wonderful people at The Opera House have a special offer for Rainbow Families. A generous 20% off standard prices to two upcoming productions:

Ruby’s Wish is a heart-warming story of resilience and imagination set in the hospital where Ruby – who is seven and three quarters – spends most of her time, visited by beat-boxing clown Doctor Audi-Yo! This show sensitively explores themes of illness and mortality and the importance of the imagination and wishes that can come true.

Recommended for Ages 6 + our offer applies to performances on Friday 18 May at 7pm and Saturday 19 May at 11:30am.

 

Looking ahead, we have Wilde Creatures – a fantastic journey through some of Oscar Wilde’s most loved children’s stories (including The Happy Prince and The Nightingale and the Rose). A live band of travelling musicians bring these stories to life as they choose a new statue for the town square. This production comes to us through one of the premier family theatre companies of the UK, Tall Stories and is recommended for ages 5+. Our offer is available on Saturday 7 July at 10am.

The links above will activate the prices but – if booking for both shows – you might need to refresh your browser to activate the second discount code.

We look forward to seeing lots of LGBTIQ parents and their kids at the Opera House soon.

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Family Pride Wrap Up

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Thank you to everyone that came to Family Pride on Sunday May 6th. This year was huge  with over 700 people coming out to celebrate with the Rainbow Families Community.

Families enjoyed entertainment from local children’s band Beats n Pieces, Larger than Lions, Mary Kiani, and drag queens Hannah Conda and Charisma Bell. There were so many free activities for children, with jumping castles, a rock climbing wall, face painting and Proud to Play’s cricket game. As well as lots of interactive arts and craft activities facilitated by community partners.  

We thank all the community organisations that helped make the day wonderful. Thanks to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Dawson Turco Lawyers, NSW Police, the SES, ACON, Proud to Play, Gleebooks, Social Justice in Earlychildhood, and City of Sydney who provided over 1000 sausages to the crowds.

Family Pride is a day for LGBTIQ parents and their families to get together to celebrate the wonderful people we are, and the beautiful supportive community we belong to. After the difficult year last year, which took a toll on our families, days like Family Pride, and connecting with our community have never been so important.

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We are thrilled to have the ongoing support from our political leaders. Our community values the time our politicians take out of their busy lives to come and celebrate with us. Special thanks to

  • Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Miller

  • Penny Sharpe MLC

  • Jenny Leong MP

  • Alex Greenwich MP

  • Clr Linda Scott

  • Clr Anna York

  • Clr Pauline Lockie

Family Pride would not be possible without the generous support of Commonwealth Bank. This is the second year CommBank has made a contribution towards the costs of the day, and equally importantly offered an army of volunteers to assist at the event. We would also like to thank our official supporters, ACON and City of Sydney.

Check out photos from the day in the Rainbow Families Facebook group.

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Volunteer Profile

This month we are profiling the two volunteers that organise the Penrith Catch Up

Rose and Sharmelle

 

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Tell us about you and your families

My name is Rose and I moved back to Penrith to start our family with my partner Natalia. Our beautiful daughter was born in 2015, and with all the common concerns for new parents, we wanted her to meet other families just like us.

I'm Sharmelle and I grew up in Penrith. I've been working in childcare for 15 years and used to be a musician. I still play guitar and sing to the children at work. I met my partner Nicole 6 years ago. Her son is now 16 and we both planned from the start of our relationship to both have a baby. So now we have two beautiful girls, a one year old and two year old.

 

Tell us about the Penrith catch up

Our first gathering was astonishing, with a great turn out of lovely families with all sorts of backgrounds, the playdate was so successful that we went to dinner to continue hanging out. The timing couldn't be any better, it was around the time the Same Sex Survey was announced and we could share our concerns but most importantly our support to each other.

 

Why did you start the Penrith catch ups

We searched in the community and found established rainbow families groups based in the city and surrounding areas, we joined the groups and while we were willing to travel for the playdates, we felt that the Penrith area needed one too.

 

After joining the Penrith group on Facebook, we volunteered to organise the first gathering of the Penrith Rainbow families and together we have been running the group for about 6 months now.

 

What can people expect when they come along to one of your catch ups

Families with different background, sizes and shapes, but sharing the passion of caring for our families and have fun.

 

Why is it important for you and your children to meet other LGBTIQ families

Rose: For us, meeting with other rainbow families is not only an opportunity to share the struggles and joy of being a parent, but also connect to families like ours.


Sharmelle: I interact with families on a daily basis through my job. So I really want my kids to know there are other families in our community like ours and that we are all the same. I want my family and other rainbow families to feel valued and important. By having our monthly catch ups, this shows support for one another and the daily struggles with having little ones is real, just like everyone else. We need to laugh, we need to cry and we need to lean on each other and that's why I am so grateful for the friendships I have formed from the Penrith rainbow family group.

 

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A New Book for Rainbow Teens

Guest Blogger and author Erin Gough talks about her new book

Amelia Westlake

I’ve written a book for rainbow teens and their friends, featuring two very different girls, and one giant hoax that could change – or ruin – everything.

Harriet Price has the perfect life: she’s a prefect at Rosemead Grammar, she lives in a mansion, and her gorgeous girlfriend is a future prime minister. So when she decides to risk it all by helping bad-girl Will Everhart expose the school’s many ongoing issues, Harriet tells herself it’s because she too is seeking justice. And definitely not because she finds Will oddly fascinating.

Will Everhart can’t stand posh people like Harriet, but even she has to admit Harriet's ideas are good – and they’ll keep Will from being expelled. That’s why she teams up with Harriet to create Amelia Westlake, a fake student who can take the credit for a series of provocative pranks at their school. 

But the further Will and Harriet’s hoax goes, the harder it is for the girls to remember they’re sworn enemies – and to keep Amelia Westlake’s true identity hidden. As tensions burn throughout the school, how far will they go to keep Amelia Westlake – and their feelings for each other – a secret? 

‘Amelia Westlake’ is my second novel – ‘The Flywheel’, which also features a queer romance, was published in 2015. When I was a young adult, there wasn’t much fiction written for my age group that featured non-heterosexual characters. I was trying to work out who I was and what I wanted to be, and I felt this absence keenly. It is therefore important to me to write characters that don’t necessarily comply with sexual or gender norms. I feel the importance of this afresh now that my partner and I have a rainbow family of our own.

Books and Publishing says of Amelia Westlake: “This is a brilliant social satire with a feminist vibe and two strong main characters whose voices alternate telling the story … Gough has created a clever, engaging feminist romp for readers aged 12 and up that is utterly unputdownable.”

I hope ‘Amelia Westlake’ resonates with the Rainbow Families community, and that you enjoy the read!

Erin

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VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY - PART TIME ADMINISTRATION POSITION

Rainbow Families is a community managed organisation, providing a network of support to children and families within the NSW LGBTIQ community. We provide a a range of social and educational support for parents and families, playgroups and cultural events, resources for families, and advocy. Would you like to join us?

We are looking for a motivated and committed volunteer who has office/administration skills, or is willing to develop them, and most importantly someone who is passionately committed to helping our community.

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Working 3 - 5 hours a week in our Surry Hills office (5 minutes walk from Central) you can choose to be involved in a range of interesting work:

* responding to community enquiries
* events management - coordinating things like parent seminars
* updating web content, compiling newsletter and mail outs to members
* maintaining records and contacts
* writing content for blog
* assisting in grants applications
* liaising with community partners
* membership support
* maintaining database and admin systems

You will be working alongside a part time Community Worker and volunteer accounts manager.

This would suit a person who is wanting to return to work or develop skills, work experience to facilitate long term work, or someone who is skilled and has the time to volunteer.

If you would like to discuss further email us with contact details and we can have a chat, or send us a brief email letting us know why you are interested and your skills.

Applications close: Monday 16 April

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Volunteer Profile - Alison Gould

Alison and her wife Liz proudly guide three little people through the world. Having started out as "husband" and wife before Alison transitioned in 2015, their journey as a family hasn't been straightforward but their determination to stay together against the odds has given them strength they now take to other endeavours.

After moving to Razorback on the outskirts of Sydney to build a strawbale family home, Liz and Alison joined the nearby Currans Hill Rainbow Playgroup shortly after Alison came out. She still helps organise this, with their youngest joining her on guitar to entertain the children at music time.

As their two eldest children outgrew the playgroup, they also attended the Southern Highlands and Illawarra Rainbow Families groups before spotting a gap for a local catch up in the vast and growing Macarthur region. Alison re-launched the dormant Macarthur Rainbow Families group which she now coordinates with the assistance of other parents met through the playgroup.

Alison currently assists the Rainbow Families committee with IT matters, as well as contributing to the All Families resource for trans and gender diverse parents - providing insight on what her family has found lacking, and what would have assisted their individual journeys to stay together as a newly rainbow-ed family. The large number of contributors to the recent successful crowd-funding campaign for this resource has been an amazing outpouring of support for families like hers, making them feel more valued than she considered possible several years ago.

They identified and filled another gap by starting a positive social group for couples who wish to stay together when one member alters their gender identity and/or expression during the relationship, as almost all of the stories they came across were negative in nature, ending in separation. Challenging this assumption, this group includes an important catch-up for the non-transitioning partners to get together and share experiences - the first of its kind in and around Sydney.

With a background in IT architecture and management, Alison is also a musician in community bands around Macarthur. She and Liz are passionate environmentalists and vegans, housing numerous rescue animals on their property and running a local organic food bulk-buying group.

Alison has recently been invited to join the Rainbow Families committee, and is looking forward to continuing to give back to an organisation that has greatly helped her and her family.

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Parental Preparedness When You Have a Disability

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Kids don’t come home from the hospital with an instruction manual (how we wish they did!). But rest assured, all new parents get plenty of free advice—both solicited and unsolicited—from parents and non-parents alike. No two parents believe exactly the same thing, and you’ll get conflicting suggestions every time you turn the corner. This alone makes parenting challenging. But parenting with a disability is a whole different ball game, and even some traditional advice may not apply.

While not every suggestion will fit your situation, we’ve compiled a few of the soundest pieces of advice that can help you get mentally and physically prepared for parenthood.

Home safety

As an adult with a disability, you have learned to manage taking care of yourself. But you’re about to throw a whole new living, breathing being into the mix, and you’ll need to make further modifications to your lifestyle and home to make childcare easier and accommodate your newest family member. This includes installing grab bars in the tub and shower, which will assist you in bathing your child until he or she is old enough to handle this task alone. You may also wish to use non-slip mats in the kitchen and bathroom to further reduce your chances of tripping and falling while holding your baby. In the kitchen, label your children’s food as it’s prepared for storage with braille labels or other easily readable markings if you have a visual impairment. HomeAdvisor goes into greater detail on home modifications and lifestyle practices for those with physical and mental disabilities.

Travel

When you have kids, you will be on the go more than you ever imagined. Between doctor’s appointments, playdates, and last-minute trips to the store for their favourite cereal, having kids means lots of outings. Take some time now to research the best products for your specific type of disability. The Mobility Resource, a site that caters to adaptive driving clients, notes that an accessible stroller and swivel-base car seat are excellent additions to the disabled parent’s arsenal.

Emotional preparedness

If you think home and travel are the only things you need to prepare before having a baby, you’re wrong. All parents, regardless of physical abilities or disabilities, should take some time to evaluate their home life and come to terms with the way having children will change their current lifestyle dynamic. EssentiallyBaby.com.au asserts that thinking about parenthood ahead of time but not overplanning is vital in your preparation process. Discuss with your partner how bringing children into your family will change things. If you’re in a wheelchair, for instance, your walking partner may need to handle nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Likewise, auditory or visual impairments may mean one partner may have more responsibilities when it comes to things like teaching the child to talk or taking them for outings at the local playground.

Relationship

Another aspect of your life that will undoubtedly change when you have a baby is your relationship with your spouse or partner. Where you were once the center of each other’s lives, you will both soon your bouncing bundle of joy will be your main focus. Discuss this issue before the baby arrives and know that stress coupled with sleep deprivation can drive you each a little bonkers. Having a baby can either strengthen or harm a relationship—it is up to you which effect it has.

It’s true that having a baby changes everything. But if you can make a few changes before his or her arrival, it doesn’t have to turn your world upside down. Regardless of your physical abilities, there are plenty of ways to successfully raise a baby and maintain your adult relationships.

For an ever-changing library of information for parents with disabilities, visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies online.

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Guest Blogger Alastair Lawrie - Religious Exceptions: An Explainer

Religious exceptions have been in the news a bit lately. From discussions around whether civil celebrants and other wedding-related businesses should be able to refuse service to same-sex couples during the marriage equality debate late last year. To reports about the current Ruddock Religious Freedom Review, which is examining how religious freedom should be protected under Australian law.

But what exactly are ‘religious exceptions’? And how can they affect you?

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In short, religious exceptions are special privileges given to religious organisations that allow them to engage in conduct that would otherwise be prohibited by Commonwealth, state and territory anti-discrimination laws.

These loopholes allow such organisations to deny services to, fire or refuse to hire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (although it’s not just the LGBT community who are the targets, with discrimination also permitted on the basis of sex, marital or relationship status and some other attributes).

In NSW, the primary religious exceptions are found in section 56 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, which provides that:

Nothing in this Act affects:

(a)  the ordination or appointment of priests, ministers or religion or members of any religious order,

(b)  the training or education of persons seeking ordination or appointment as priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order,

(c)   the appointment of any other person in any capacity by a body established to propagate religion, or

(d)  any other act or practice of a body established to propagate religion that conforms to the doctrines of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion.

 

These provisions, and especially sub-section (d), are incredibly broad, and allow discrimination in an extremely wide range of circumstances.

This includes permitting foster care agencies operated by religious organisations to refuse applications by same-sex couples. This was confirmed in one of the most high-profile LGBT anti-discrimination cases in NSW in recent decades, where a decision by Wesley Mission to deny adoption to a male same-sex couple in 2002 was appealed all the way to the Court of Appeal and back to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in December 2010 which ultimately decided against the two men.

Foster care agencies are not the only type of organisation dealing with rainbow families (including prospective rainbow families) who are allowed to discriminate against lesbian, gay and trans people in NSW (noting that bisexual people are still not covered by the Anti-Discrimination Act at all).

Section 59A(1) provides that ‘Nothing in Part 3A or 4C affects any policy or practice of a faith-based organisation concerning the provision of adoption services under the Adoption Act 2000 or anything done to give effect to any such policy or practice.’

Believe it or not, however, that’s not even the worst section of NSW’s anti-discrimination laws. That (dis)honour goes to provisions which allow ‘private educational authorities’ to discriminate against lesbian, gay and trans students (sections 49ZO(3) and 38K(3)), including students who are the children of rainbow families, as well as against lesbian, gay and trans teachers and other staff (sections 49ZH(3)(c) and 38C(3)(c)).

Unlike other jurisdictions, this ability to exclude and expel is not restricted to religious schools, but in fact applies to all non-government schools and colleges.

Speaking of other jurisdictions, LGBTI people in NSW are also protected by the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, which at least includes bisexual people, and also prohibits discrimination on the basis of intersex status.

Unfortunately, that legislation also contains religious exceptions, which are almost as broad as those found in the NSW Act, permitting discrimination by religious schools (although not other private, non-religious educational institutions) in section 38, as well as a general religious exception in section 37(1)(d):

Nothing in Division 1 or 2 affects:

(d)  any other act or practice of a body established for religious purposes, being an act or practice that conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion.

On the positive side, the Sex Discrimination Act specifically removes the ability of Commonwealth-funded aged care services operated by religious organisations to discriminate against LGBT people accessing those services. That ‘carve-out’ has operated successfully since August 2013, and shows that religious organisations don’t actually need special privileges allowing them to discriminate against us.

In fact, in practice many religious organisations can and do treat all people equally, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But the problem is any religious organisation can discriminate against LGBT people, and rainbow families, at any time, and in most circumstances do so entirely lawfully.

Perhaps the final indignity is that they would be doing so with your money – nearly all religious organisations operating in health, education and community services are in receipt of Commonwealth, state or territory funding, meaning their prejudice is paid for out of the pockets of LGBTI taxpayers.

That’s why, rather than looking at expanding religious freedom in Australia, the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review should be considering how to better protect LGBT people from religious discrimination. And what better place to start than by winding back religious exceptions in Commonwealth and NSW anti-discrimination laws.

About Alastair Lawrie

Alastair Lawrie is a long-time advocate for LGBTI rights, with a particular focus on LGBTI anti-discrimination laws. He has previously been Policy Working Group Chair of both the Victorian and NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobbies and currently writes at www.alastairlawrie.net

 

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Mardi Gras Wrap Up

Thank you to everyone that helped make Mardi Gras a wonderful celebration for our community.

Fair Day saw us knee deep in craft and kids activities for the entire day, as well as providing information and networks to Rainbow Families community members.   It was a brilliant day and great to see more and more Rainbow Families every year. Thank you to the army of people that volunteered at Fair Day.

The Luna Park Rainbow Families day was a sell out, with LGBTQI families having a fantastic time watching the drag shows, and making the most of the rides and space to enjoy the day. We have already spoken to Mardi Gras about hosting a similar event next year, and have agreed that we need double the tickets in 2019!

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There was a special screening of Zootopia thanks to Queerscreen. This year there was more entertainment for the kids with a face painter and entertainer to make the day even more exciting for our families.

The fifth Rainbow Families LGBTIQ Antenatal Class welcomed seven expectant couples. Janet Broady – midwife educator – volunteers her time every three months to run this amazing resource for our community. The March class saw a venue change to Macquarie Bank’s event space. Rainbow Families would like to thank Macquarie Bank for their ongoing support.  The Rainbow Families Antenatal Class is an LGTBIQ focused, inclusive, parenting education class run quarterly.

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The Mardi Gras volunteer sub-committee worked many, many hours liaising with Mardi Gras organisers, developing float costumes and themes, scouring shops and beyond for all things gold and sparkly………there may be no gold paint available in and around Sydney for some time! The result was slick, sparkly and gorgeous. The City of Sydney also gave Rainbow Families a grant to help make Mardi Gras extra fabulous - we would like to thank The City of Sydney for their ongoing support. We could not put on all of the events throughout the year without our wonderful team of volunteers. If you would like to get involved at our upcoming events please contact us.

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For those marching with Rainbow Families it was a fabulous evening! The marshalling area was full of entertainment. The kids had a ball watching the other floats practice their dance moves, and the sense of community was amazing. Once we started marching, the kids didn’t know where to look. With so many people to high five and wave to it was a night they will remember forever.

In response to the overwhelming call for tickets from our community, the Rainbow Families Committee negotiated tirelessly for some secure viewing space for Rainbow Families unable to get tickets to march.  And finally Mardi Gras agreed, though only a week out - an extra 400 people were able to join us and celebrate Mardi Gras. The family viewing area was a safe inclusive space for our community to come together to watch the parade. As Mardi Gras only allowed us to use this space with one weeks’ notice, we weren’t able to fundraise to cover the costs of the area. If you would like to contribute towards these costs please donate here.

Thanks again to everyone that volunteered throughout Mardi Gras.

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Progress Lab Pitch

Rainbow Families, along with 6 other exceptional groups, has been chosen to participate in Progress Lab.

Progress Lab is a new social movement incubator that’s the first of it’s kind in Australia, run by Australian Progress in collaboration with ACOSS.

Check out the Rainbow Families pitch below, and if you would like to support Rainbow Families please get in touch.

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