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The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust NSW

Putting out the Welcoming Mat
The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust NSW

Residential and Home Care - Metropolitan, 80 + beds

Award descriptors:
Leadership and culture, Diversity

About the program
The organisation has developed and implemented a comprehensive Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) inclusion strategy to ensure everyone, regardless of lifestyle choices, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity, feels welcome and safe.

Whilst this should be common practice for all organisations, this is particularly so when working with older people from LGBTI communities. Older members of LGBTI communities have faced discrimination for much of their lives, making the move into aged care particularly daunting. Some have been so fearful they have not disclosed their sexuality to staff and other residents for fear of discrimination. Our inclusion strategy attempts to address these issues, and works to ensure all services are truly inclusive for LGBTI communities’ needs.

The initiative commenced with a survey of LGBTI communities’ concerns and expectations of care as they age, which identified key performance indicators of success. Two key indicators were the achievement of the Rainbow Tick for all services in the provision of inclusive care and the gold tier ranking status in the national, all industry annual Australian Workplace Equality Index application. These achievements ensure we are providing an inclusive organisation.

The achievement and publicity of the Rainbow Tick has an extra advantage. The high profile ensures many older people hear the message of inclusivity; we are the only faith-based organisation to achieve this acclaimed accreditation. The organisation has achieved strong and successful cultural change as a result of our work towards formalising and operationalising inclusivity and diversity strategies for members of LGBTI communities.

What we did

The organisation started with a project officer to connect and network with LGBTI organisations and advocacy groups. As the strategy evolved an organisation wide LGBTI Working Group was established. The group includes all Ageing and Corporate business lines equally to ensure that the organisation undertakes a holistic approach to LGBTI inclusion.

The organisation has strong Executive support, and a specific strategy “To promote and maintain the well-being of older people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex within NSW and the ACT” was developed. The key drivers of the measuring tools mentioned are undertaken collaboratively by the LGBTI Working Group.

The LGBTI Working Group was established to implement our LGBTI inclusion strategy by focusing on needs of our LGBTI stakeholders. Documented through the Terms of Reference are aims, goals, membership responsibilities and meeting frequency. Meetings and supplemental actions are published through minutes. Other sub groups that were established from the LGBTI Working Group are: the LGBTI Consumer Advisory Group and the Staff Interest Group.

The LGBTI Staff Interest Group was formed in 2014 to ensure the organisation had a focused group to involve all staff participation in activities to improve LGBTI strategies. The Staff Interest Group is open to anyone in the organisation. This group aims to provide an open forum for topics of discussion as well as providing LGBTI specific training. This group was designed to provide better services to our LGBTI consumers.

Likewise, the LGBTI Consumer Advisory Group was established in 2015 to focus on initiatives developed directly from our customers. A report of both the LGBTI Consumer Advisory Group and the LGBTI Staff Interest Group is provided to the LGBTI Working Group at each meeting and initiatives developed from the LGBTI Working Group are discussed at each respective groups meeting.

Key actions developed and implemented by the LGBTI Working Group include, but are not limited to:

  • Allocated LGBTI specific community care packages;
  • Development of strong partnerships with LGBTI groups and organisations;
  • Strong, clear executive leadership and support;
  • Training modules:
    • An all-day optional face-to-face training module developed in partnership with Aids Council of NSW (ACON).
    • A 30-minute mandatory online training module addressing inclusiveness of LGBTI people.
  • Changes of policies, procedures, forms and systems to ensure LGBTI inclusive practice;
  • Business Area plans and Quality Improvement plans to include LGBTI related initiatives and activities;
  • Speaking at National LGBTI Specific Conferences;
  • Writing articles in published papers;
  • Conducting stories through marketing campaigns;
  • Attending activities, such as church services supporting LGBTI communities;
  • Marching as an organisation in Mardi Gras to support the LGBTI ageing population;
  • Advocacy and leadership within the aged care industry.

As part of our Organisational Strategic Direction, we will enhance our capacity to meet the specific requirements of LGBTI people and, specifically, to be recognised as a leading LGBTI inclusive aged care provider. This plan correlated with the Commonwealth Government’s National LGBTI Aged Care Strategy and informed our Strategic Plan to deliver high quality affordable and accessible aged care services to marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Why we did it

A need for providing inclusive services to our clients was identified in 2010 during an Alzheimer’s Australia Aged Care conference. The presentation highlighted the plight of LGBTI seniors in the aged care system. Ageing LGBTI community members had experienced multi-faceted discrimination by being excluded by fellow residents, relatives and staff. Families of choice and lifetime partners were not respected, leaving decisions to be made by estranged relatives rather than same sex partners. This identified need resonated with our organisation’s social justice mission and we publically committed to change this through our LGBTI inclusion strategy.

In 2011, we began developing our inclusion strategy to address the needs, expectations and current service shortfalls experienced by LGBTI communities when accessing care. Consultation with LGBTI communities was the first step in the development of the strategy. A survey was undertaken with LGBTI communities to identify gaps in service provision needs. This survey was open to older members of LGBTI communities to gain insights from people.

From this survey, we identified some key messages for aged care providers:

  • Maintain links with communities;
  • Fear of disclosure of sexuality or identification of gender;
  • Gaps in aged care services for LGBTI communities include discrimination, particularly from church based organisations;
  • The communities want to be respected and included;
  • Aged care operators need to educate and train staff to provide services to LGBTI communities;
  • LGBTI friendly environments by health / aged care providers are essential;
  • It is important for aged care providers to partner with LGBTI organisations, communities and individuals.

Who worked with us

We have developed external interests and established numerous partnerships with LGBTI friendly organisations, including those in the aged care industry. We have advocacy groups which include carers, families and residents. We are also very active in networking with other organisations, both to learn about LGBTI related topics and to teach other organisations what we have learned.

External organisations we actively support include Pride in Diversity, ACON and the Gender Centre. These organisations have been invited to our services and offices on several occasions to acknowledge and appreciate what they have done for us, to present and discuss topics in a round table setting and to share some of our initiatives and elaborate on what has been successful.

Awareness includes being active in both international and national publications, client publications, attending and speaking at conferences, forums and roundtables. Some of the notable conferences include:

  • Panel  member on the Australian Aged Care Quality major session in Sydney on      Walking the Walk, which was delivered to 300+ people;
  • Health in Difference Conference;
  • Val’s Café LGBTI Aged Care Conference;
  • Ageing Community Services (ACS) State Conference;
  • Australian Association of Gerontology Conference 2015.

We represent our organisation on LGBTI issues in areas such as the Department of Health LGBTI Strategy Group, Leichhardt Council LGBTIQ Action Group and Northern Rivers LGBTI Interagency, board membership for Diversity ACT and supporting LGBTI inclusive churches.

Residents in our services actively promote and celebrate notable days such as Transgender Remembrance Day, IDAHOT Day, Intersex Awareness Day and World AIDS Day.

What we learned

We have learned with dedication and a collaborative effort, we can make a cultural shift through change management. We have started to be recognised not only as an LGBTI accepting organisation, but an inclusive one.

We pride ourselves on the message of inclusivity and welcoming all people. Our challenge is to have our people understand our Inspired Care approach being person-centred and sensitive to concerns of a person or group.
We have made a difference in awareness and inclusiveness within LGBTI communities. This awareness is driven by our Mission, Vision and Values. It encourages people to be who they want to be without judgement. We are part of an organisation that is non-judgemental and creates a welcoming environment for those that wish to disclose (or for those who don’t). It proves to the broader community that we are welcoming regardless of lifestyle choices, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

We have also had the opportunity to make a change using our connections. We have been approached by other organisations to discuss our LGBTI strategy and initiatives. We hosted a LGBTI Inclusion Luncheon for our suppliers and have successfully encouraged affiliates to actively participate in LGBTI initiatives and programs.

Additionally, through the survey mentioned previously, the fear of discrimination was a predominant issue. It is important to LGBTI communities that health/aged care providers create an LGBTI friendly environment for both clients and staff. There is a need for LGBTI recognition in the aged care sector, taking into consideration a recognised fear of disclosure of sexuality or identification of gender. Ongoing education and training is critical to developing a truly inclusive practice. Developed from these key messages is the LGBTI inclusion strategy, which is continually reviewed and adjusted as we progress in influencing LGBTI communities.

Integral aspects to achieving awareness of our inclusivity include:

  • Training programs which incorporate experiential learning and presentations from staff and trainers who are members of LGBTI communities. The face-to-face full day and online training experiences that our staff and volunteers complete reinforces the organisation’s strategic goal. This is not just recognising diversity but identifying the likely specific concerns and needs of our clients and staff who may identify as LGBTI and who may or may not have made that information public. The training programs are ongoing, and to date we have trained approximately 7,000 staff/volunteers.     
  • A strong focus on advocacy and cultural safety in our client facing policies, which serves as an ongoing reminder of our commitment and actions in relation to speaking out if things could be better for LGBTI communities and taking steps to see situations from another’s perspective.
  • We are focused on driving industry change. We have a number of LGBTI specific home care packages available, demonstrating to clients, staff, and the community our commitment and action for LGBTI inclusive services. Obtaining these packages required evidence of our organisational experience and expertise in the provision of inclusive services; suitability trained staff and tailored approaches (links to external agencies) are integral to our LGBTI inclusive operating model.
  • We have developed resource libraries for consumer reference. There are several resources available at services for residents, families or carers and there is a SharePoint site for employees. Visual awareness is posted at many of our facilities through advertisements, flags and brochures. The Twitter and Facebook pages are extremely active with LGBTI initiatives and  broader support. We are proud of the cultural shift the organisation has been making in the aged care industry for members of our LGBTI communities.

The 2012 survey allowed us to identify where the gaps and the needs exist in providing services to LGBTI communities; through the LGBTI Working Group and developing the LGBTI Inclusion Strategy, the measuring tools are evaluated through the assessment of the Rainbow Tick Standards.

The LGBTI Working Group is key to success for driving LGBTI inclusion and strategy implementation. This Group will continue to be active in inclusive practices to our residents, families and staff, whilst continuing to celebrate diversity.

We had three objectives when we started this process:

  1. Be an inclusive aged care organisation
  2. Influence other organisations and the industry
  3. Influence LGBTI communities in our own special way.


We feel we have demonstrated the value of inclusion and continue celebrating diversity. Our LGBTI inclusion strategy and the measuring tools mentioned are strong evidence of the difference we have made in providing inclusive services to LGBTI consumers. Our expectation is that, within the next decade, we will see genuine inclusion supported by other organisations.

More information on this program:

Melanie Dicks,  or phone 0407 009 051.


Friday, 21 December 2018 - 7:04am