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26 Sep 2023

Official Program Released for 2023 LGBTIQ+ Women’s Health Conference

The official program for the sixth national LGBTIQ+ Women’s Health Conference has been released today. Presented by Thorne Harbour Health and ACON, the two-day national conference focusing on the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ women returns to Melbourne from 24-25 October 2023.

Among this year’s presenters is keynote speaker Dr Autumn Asher BlackDeer. Dr BlackDeer centres Indigenous voices throughout her research as both a queer decolonial scholar-activist from the Southern Cheyenne Nation and an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.

This year’s program features over thirty presentations, discussion panels, and workshops. Program highlights include:

  • Emerging trends and community-led responses to tech-facilitated gender-based violence against LGBTIQ+ women
  • Prioritising Queer Pleasure Workshop
  • Rainbow Mob Health Panel
  • Trauma-Informed Kickboxing for Everybody
  • Disability Discussion Panel
  • Inhabiting Two Worlds at Once: experiences of LGBTIQ refugee & migrant women in Australia

“We hope that this year’s conference reinvigorates the conversation about the mental, physical, sexual, and social health of LGBTIQ+ women across Australia as well as creates a space to celebrate our diversity,” said Rachel Cook, Women’s Health Lead at Thorne Harbour Health and one of the conference organisers.

This year’s conference aims to support the wellbeing of attendees with morning yoga and meditation sessions complemented by social events featuring the fabulous Sarah Ward (aka Yana Alana) and Kitty Obsidian.

Recently there’s been a disproportionate focus on the differences among LGBTIQ+ women. This conference offers us an invaluable opportunity to come together in solidarity to advance our collective wellbeing and address the health needs of all LGBTIQ+ women across Australia.

Thorne Harbour Health President Janet Jukes OAM

“The LGBTIQ+ Women’s Health Conference offers our communities an important and much-needed forum to come together and put the spotlight on significant issues that impact LGBTIQ+ women’s lives. These conferences are always rich and inspiring, covering a range of content, health issues, bodies and lived experiences,” said ACON Deputy CEO, Karen Price.

“There is a unique and powerful energy created when those engaged in improving the health of LGBTIQ+ women come together. The conference will harness our expertise, research, lived experience and importantly, we will explore opportunities to strengthen efforts to influence LGBTIQ+ policy, programs and services,” she added.

“We look forward to putting diverse LGBTIQ+ women at the centre of this national conference, hosted with and for our communities by ACON and Thorne Harbour Health.”

Co-hosted by Thorne Harbour Health and ACON, the 2023 LGBTIQ+ Women’s Health Conference will take place on Tuesday 24 October and Wednesday 25 October at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne.

For the conference program, head to: lbq.org.au/program

28 Jul 2023

South Australia Launches Groundbreaking LGBTIQA+ Mental Health Service

Thorne Harbour Health, one of Australia’s largest LGBTIQA+ community-controlled health organisations, is proud to announce the official launch of the LGBTIQA+ mental health service in Adelaide. Addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by LGBTIQA+ people, this specialist service is a first for South Australia and joins the ACT as the only government funded services nationwide to do so.

“Mental health issues within our LGBTIQA+ communities are a serious concern — with higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide than the general population,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

Our communities want to access services that are delivered by LGBTIQA+ community-controlled organisations – where they can feel safe and understood from the moment they walk through the door.

Simon Ruth

The new mental health service expands on Thorne Harbour Health’s current LGBTIQA+ alcohol and other drug service which has been running since 2021. Both services are supported by funding from Adelaide Primary Health Network (PHN) through the Australian Government’s PHN program.

Venetia Brissenden is the Manager of Therapeutic Services at Thorne Harbour Health in South Australia.

Ms Brissenden said, “We’re committed to providing a safe space where all LGBTIQA+ individuals, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, can receive the care that they need.”

“We have an exceptional team of LGBTIQA+ staff who are understanding of the issues facing our communities and how to support their mental health in an inclusive and affirming way,” she added.

The service’s official launch is being held at local LGBTIQA+ venue, My Lover Cindi, on Monday 31 July from 6:30PM. For more information on Thorne Harbour Health’s services and programs in South Australia, head to: thorneharbour.org/southaustralia

12 Jul 2023

Celebrating 40 Years of Supporting LGBTIQ+ Communities and PLHIV

Today marks 40 years since the founding of Thorne Harbour Health, Australia's oldest HIV/AIDS organisation and now one of the largest LGBTIQ+ community-controlled health organisations in the country. This month the organisation is hosting a series of exhibitions and community forums to reflect on the past four decades as well as inform the ongoing response to those issues impacting LGBTIQ+ communities today.

"We hope that there will be something to inspire everyone — from innovations in health promotion to exploring the state of LGBTIQ+ rights around the globe," said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

"We have arranged a series of forums to accompany each exhibition, with panels made up of incredible subject matter experts and some of the living legends behind our founding in 1983," Mr Ruth added.

A lot has changed since our start as the Victorian AIDS Action Committee. We were founded by a group of people forged in the fires of gay and lesbian liberation to tackle the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis. Four decades on, we have seen amazing progress. This 40-year milestone provides us with an opportunity not only to look back at what we have accomplished but also to inspire us to continue our work in improving the health and wellbeing of our LGBTIQ+ communities more broadly.

Janet Jukes OAM, Thorne Harbour Health President

The organisation kicked things off with the Ruby Red Ball at Melbourne Town Hall last Saturday featuring many of the people who have contributed to the legacy of the past 40 years.

Ms Jukes said, "We're fortunate to have many of our founding members speaking at our events this month. In the current landscape, our LGBTIQ+ communities could benefit from the wisdom of our past as we tackle the issues facing us today."

For a full list of events being held as part of Thorne Harbour Health's 40th Anniversary, head to: www.thorneharbour.org.

16 May 2023

Calling for Action Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Victoria

In the lead up to IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia), Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ community-controlled health organisation, Thorne Harbour Health, is calling for swift and collective action to address the recent series of attacks on Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ communities.

“While IDAHOBIT is a chance to acknowledge the discrimination faced by our LGBTIQ+ communities internationally, this year Victoria has an opportunity to lead by example and swiftly respond to the recent spate of attacks on our LGBTIQ+ communities,” said Thorne Harbour Health Acting CEO Carolyn Gillespie.

“The threats of violence and hate speech from a vocal minority cannot and should not dictate whether LGBTIQ+ people can safely and fully participate in society,” Ms Gillespie said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews recently called the threats of violence that led to the cancellation of Monash Council’s IDAHOBIT event ‘hate speech — plain and simple’.

Thorne Harbour Health is calling on the Government to follow through on its commitment to protect LGBTIQ+ Victorians by expanding anti-vilification laws. The organisation is also seeking greater leadership from Victoria Police to work with LGBTIQ+ communities so events can be held safely.

“Our communities have already started to mobilise and find innovative solutions to make events safer to attend. We hope that Victoria Police can get on board and support their efforts,” Ms. Gillespie said.

Cancelling an IDAHOBIT event due to threats of violence toward our LGBTIQ+ communities is a powerful reminder that our work is far from over. Community events can offer us a meaningful engagement with one another, a space to be affirmed and celebrated for who we are, and an important contributor to a more equitable and inclusive society.

Carolyn Gillespie, Acting CEO

Thorne Harbour Health is currently planning a series of community events, exhibitions, and forums this winter to celebrate the organisation’s 40th anniversary. The full schedule is due to be released later this month.

03 Feb 2023

Thorne Harbour Country introduces 'LGBTI Q Time' in Bendigo

Thorne Harbour Country is working with Bendigo Library to launch LGBTI Q Time - a new initiative creating a safe space for community members to ask questions related to gender identity and sexual orientation. Starting this week, Thorne Harbour Country will have a staff member at Bendigo Library from 10AM-12PM on the first Monday of every month.

Based in Bendigo, Thorne Harbour Country is part of Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) and provides information, counselling, and referrals to health and wellbeing services to LGBTIQ+ people and people living with HIV.

“It is fantastic to see a number of LGBTIQ+ pride festivals underway across regional and rural Victoria, but some people may be hesitant to engage with LGBTIQ+ community pride events or come to see us at our location on Mundy Street” said Thorne Harbour Health Acting CEO Carolyn Gillespie.

“This could be due to previous experiences of discrimination, apprehension about ‘coming out’, or simply being intimidated by all the excitement.”

Damien Stevens-Todd is the Thorne Harbour Country Program Manager.

We’re partnering with Bendigo Library to create a welcoming and safe opportunity for anyone in the community to ask questions, access resources, and discuss their experiences - regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Damien Stevens-Todd

During LGBTI Q Time, a Thorne Harbour Country staff member will be available near the Information Desk at Bendigo Library for people who want to drop in to learn more about LGBTIQ+ communities, to become better allies, to ask questions they may be apprehensive about asking at larger events, or to learn about how to better support their LGBTIQ+ family member, colleague, or friend.

LGBTI Q Time starts on Monday 6 February and will run from 10AM-12PM on the first Monday of every month at Bendigo Library located at 259 Hargreaves Street in Bendigo.


06 Dec 2022

LGBTIQ+ and PLHIV Communities Celebrated Alongside Address from Victorian CHO Brett Sutton

Presentation of the 2022 Thorne Harbour Health Awards were complemented by the 30th Annual Keith Harbour Address delivered by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton.

The Thorne Harbour Health Awards recognise the outstanding contribution of individuals who have made a significant impact on improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ communities and people living with HIV. This year’s recipients include:

  • President’s Award - longstanding HIV clinician and researcher, Professor Jenny Hoy
  • Greig Friday Young Leader Award - peer facilitator and outreach volunteer, Tegan West
  • Life Memberships - Danny Gallant and Russell Oke

As well as Special Service Awards to:

  • Historian and Principal Assessor at Heritage Victoria, Dr Marina Larsson
  • Trans and gender diverse community advocate, Starlady
  • Longstanding volunteer, Derryn Pert
  • First Nations trans nonbinary teacher and activist, Ricki Spencer
  • Former Director of Rainbow Health, Marina Carman

Presentation of the awards was immediately followed by the delivery of the 30th Annual Keith Harbour Address by Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton. The focus of Professor Sutton’s oration was the importance of uncomfortable conversations.

“I’m an ordinary guy who has been thrown into extraordinary circumstances through the COVID pandemic of the last three years....I’ve sat in discomfort a great deal over the last three years - sometimes some extrordinarily uncomfortable situations.”

“These are not unique to COVID. There have been hugely controversial and contested spaces - especially for marginalised populations, especially for those who have had to struggle for their voice to be heard and for their rights to be exercised.”

Professor Sutton went onto to talk about his early clinical experiences at Fairfield Hospital in the early days of the HIV and AIDS epidemic through to his experiences working in East Timor-Leste.

Let us all sit in uncomfortable conversations together, but bring our passion, bring our advocacy, bring our open mindedness. If we go in with a compassionate heart and a genuine willingness to hear and a genuine willingess to change, then the policy that will play out over time will work in all of our stead for all of the issues that are near and dear to us.

Professor Brett Sutton

Thorne Harbour Health Award recipients are published in the 2021-2022 Thorne Harbour Health Annual Report ‘We Are Family’.

20 Oct 2022

Prioritising HIV & AIDS ahead of the upcoming Victorian state election

Today Thorne Harbour Health, Living Positive Victoria, and Positive Women Victoria have released HIV & AIDS Priorities - a document that recommends 38 actions to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and to build upon Victoria’s ongoing response to HIV.

The 60th Parliament of Victoria could oversee the virtual elimination of new HIV transmissions in this state, and be the first jurisdiction in the world to do so.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth

“However, a concerted effort is needed for this final stretch, which includes the State Government and Victoria’s HIV community organisations continuing to work together in close partnership.”

Alongside advancements in prevention like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), advances in treatment have made it possible to effectively suppress HIV replication in the body and allow PLHIV to live a long and healthy life. In fact, a sustained undetectable viral load (UVL) eliminates the risk of HIV transmission.

“We are in an age of important advances in HIV treatment and biomedical prevention in the onward of transmission of HIV. The message of ‘undetectable equals untransmittable’ or ‘U=U’ needs to be broadcast to and embraced by the wider community,” said Living Positive Victoria CEO Richard Keane.

“HIV stigma and discrimination continues to create barriers for people living with HIV needing to access health services - leading to late diagnoses, poorer long term health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and the risk of onward transmission.”

Yet certain population groups have not seen the same decreases in new cases as others, requiring targeted approaches across prevention, testing, and treatment.

“It’s wonderful that many advances mean we can aspire to ending HIV in Australia, but this won’t be achieved unless there are equitable health outcomes for all people living with or at risk of HIV,” said Positive Women Victoria Executive Officer Dr Kirsty Machon.

“Women continue to bear a huge burden of HIV-related stigma and assumptions about HIV risk, which may affect access to testing, treatment and care, and psychosocial wellbeing.”

Key priorities include government covering the PBS co-payment on HIV treatment across the state, improving affordability and accessibility of PrEP, and reforming areas of law that continue to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. The document also calls for action on the findings from the 2019 Review of Victorian Sexual Health and Service Needs, which was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strengthening Victoria’s statewide clinical sexual health system would not only support our progression toward the virtual elimination of new HIV transmissions, but it would put us in a better position to respond to new and emerging outbreaks like Monkeypox.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth

“Victorians have benefitted from bipartisan support for effective actions on HIV, and the shared understanding that key to an effective response is government working in meaningful partnership with community-controlled health services and people living with HIV (PLHIV),” said Richard Keane.

A copy HIV & AIDS Priorities can be found at: thorneharbour.org/HIVAIDSPriorities2022

21 Jul 2022

New Resources for LGBTIQA+ People Navigating Australia’s NDIS

Thorne Harbour Health and Inclusion Melbourne have released a set of resources for LGBTIQA+ people with disability to understand their rights and navigate Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

LGBTIQA+ people with disability consistently indicate that they have had poor experiences navigating both the NDIS planning process and working with NDIS registered providers in addressing their specific intersectional needs.

The suite of resources includes:

  • Knowing Your Rights: Disability & LGBTIQA+ Australians
  • Preparing for your NDIS Plan
  • LGBTIQA+ Clauses for Your Contract

Community advocate Ruby Mountford was the project lead on the partnership between Thorne Harbour Health and Inclusion Melbourne.

Unfortunately, the needs of LGBTIQA+ people with disabilities have not been adequately understood or valued. These resources have been developed in collaboration with a group of LGBTIQA+ people with disabilities – built from their collective wisdom and their experiences navigating systems, services and LGBTIQA+ spaces.

Ruby Mountford

“While we want to see the systems that support people with disability build their capacity to better work with LGBTIQA+ people, we also want to equip our communities with the tools they need to make sure their needs and identity are respected. People with disability can use these resources to learn about their rights and embed them into contracts they sign with people they hire to support them,” said Inclusion Melbourne’s Nathan Despott.

“As we continue to take collective action to advocate for the improved health and wellbeing of our LGBTIQA+ communities, we need to ensure LGBTIQA+ people with disability have the resources they need to protect their rights and get the best possible results when engaging with a NDIS registered provider,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

All three resources are available online at: thorneharbour.org/disabilityresources

15 Jun 2022

AIDS Memorial Quilt included in Victorian Heritage Register

Victoria’s AIDS Memorial Quilt has formally achieved heritage recognition and protection - a first for Australia and a landmark moment in the history of the AIDS Memorial Quilt movement.

This month, the Heritage Council of Victoria determined to include the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR), listing it amongst 2,400 sites, objects, and collections legally recognised and protected by the register.

Borne out of the AIDS Memorial Quilt movement in the United States, the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt was originally coordinated by volunteers out of Fairfield Hospital in 1988 - with quilt panels being made by family members, loved ones, or volunteers working with community groups. Today the Quilts consist of 209 panels - each handmade and individually designed to commemorate a person or group of people who died from an AIDS-related condition.

Thorne Harbour Health (then the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre) accepted custodianship of the Quilts several years ago and currently maintain the collection.

Every year we put a number of the Quilts on display for World AIDS Day and the cultural significance is undeniable. They are an incredibly moving piece of our history and a tribute to those who we’ve lost to the epidemic. Being added to the Victorian Heritage Register is an important step in ensuring the Quilts are here for future generations.

Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth

Doris Beecher was the former convener of the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt and her son, Stephen, is included in one of the panels.

“On behalf of our family, I’m absolutely delighted by this listing to ensure the AIDS Quilt is recognised and protected. Stephen would be humbled and touched by this legacy,” she said.

Cheryl Olver’s son Darren is also featured on the Quilt and the heritage listing is welcome news.

“I’m relieved by the Heritage Victoria listing as now the AIDS Quilt will be there for posterity and not forgotten,” Cheryl said.

“My son Darren would be thrilled to be immortalised in this way, because we loved him, and he loved us. The protection of the Quilt in this way, reflects and protects our love for each other which will always be there for everyone to see and understand.”

The Chair of the Heritage Council of Victoria, Prof Philip Goad spoke to the Council’s decision to include the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Victorian Heritage Register.

“The Heritage Council of Victoria is very pleased to include the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Victorian Heritage Register. The Quilt is one of the most important objects associated with the AIDS crisis in Victoria, and promotes a compassionate and educational dialogue about HIV/AIDS.”

“It is an important example of community and activist art and highlights the impact of the AIDS epidemic. The decision to include the Quilt illustrates at a broader level the Council’s wish to protect cultural heritage which is significant to the history and development of Victoria, and reflects diverse community narratives and experiences,” he added.

30 May 2022

The Cost of Adverse LGBTIQ+ Mental Health

The poor mental health outcomes of LGBTIQ+ Victorians comes at an economic and financial cost estimated to be as high as $3 billion in research released today.

Commissioned by Thorne Harbour Health, the report findings from Deloitte show the rate of lifetime mental health for LGBTIQ+ Victorians is 73%, significantly higher than the 46% among the general population.

LGBTIQ+ Victorians are estimated to make up to 10% of the state’s population and their mental health outcomes are driven by a complex set of factors including systemic discrimination and marginalisation within society and the health system more broadly.

“When you look at the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide, the message is clear - LGBTIQ mental health is in crisis,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

For the first time, we can actually see what this crisis costs our communities as well as a compelling economic case for why investing in LGBTIQ+ mental health can benefit all Victorians.

Simon Ruth, CEO, Thorne Harbour Health

Luke Condon, Engagement Partner at Deloitte, explains, “This comprehensive study clearly shows the economic cost of adverse mental health outcomes in the LGBTIQ+ population and the findings will help us to better understand the prevalence and costs associated. Inclusion enables both participation and productivity and therefore contributes to all Australians. This is an important piece of work on an important issue.”

Robbie Robertson (National lead for Deloitte Australia’s LGBTI+ network and ally community, StandOUT) - “Inclusion continues to be a key priority at Deloitte, which is why StandOUT supported this important piece of work. Through StandOUT, our goal is to create an inclusive work environment where our LGBTI+ people can be their authentic selves and feel empowered, regardless of how they identify. This research is invaluable to that goal.”

The full report The Cost of Adverse Mental Health Outcomes in the LGBTIQ+ Victorian Adult Population as well as a summary report are available below.

23 Mar 2022

CONNECTing at risk communities with rapid HIV testing

SAMESH, a partnership between SHINE SA and Thorne Harbour Health, has launched CONNECT – a pilot program evaluating the use of vending machines to dispense free Atomo HIV Self-Test (HST) kits to support rapid HIV testing and to strengthen pathways to treatment and support.

With five initial locations around Adelaide, CONNECT is the first federally-funded project of its kind in Australia, building on similar projects implemented in the USA, the UK, and New Zealand.

To access a free HIV self-test kit, users scan a QR code located on promotional materials and/or the vending machines themselves. This will take them to a webpage where they will be asked to provide basic information about age, place of birth, sexuality, and testing history. Once the basic information is completed, they can then access a kit by scanning the QR code on the vending machine of their choice.

The target groups for the CONNECT pilot project include gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) incuding non-English speaking backgrounds, such as international students. CONNECT’s five vending machines are located at university campuses and community venues around Adelaide.

These priority groups currently experience multiple barriers to HIV testing, including: cost, time, privacy, stigma, and discrimination. CONNECT provides easy access to free HIV self-tests via vending machines placed in discrete and safe locations with an aim to directly address these barriers.

“As we draw closer and closer to ending new HIV transmissions in Australia, we need innovative initiatives like CONNECT to reach those populations that have been long considered ‘hard-to-reach’,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

Within hours of setting the first few machines up, we’ve already seen people accessing the free HIV testing kits – allowing them to know their HIV status and take charge of their ongoing sexual health and wellbeing.

Simon Ruth, CEO Thorne Harbour Health

CONNECT is focused on making HIV testing more accessible in Adelaide; encouraging ongoing sexual health testing; and providing access to a culturally-safe treatment pathways that include further testing, treatment, and support from community programs and peer support groups if necessary.

As part of the project’s culturally safe access and engagement model the CONNECT webpage content, campaign materials, and follow-up survey have been translated and are available in English, Arabic, Hindi, Indonesian, Malay, Mandarin, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

The pilot period for the CONNECT project will be through September 2022.

22 Mar 2022

HIV Still Matters features personal stories of disclosure

Focused on the contemporary landscape of HIV in Australia, Thorne Harbour Health’s HIV Still Matters campaign is zooming in on the experiences of people living with HIV and exploring the topic of disclosure for its latest iteration.

The newly-launched campaign website at hivstillmatters.org features interviews with five people living with HIV who generously share their diverse range of experiences of disclosure with friends, partners, family members and work colleagues.

Elevating the voices of people living with HIV has been a vital part of our ongoing response to HIV in Australia for forty years.

Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth

“While the landscape around HIV and AIDS has changed dramatically since the 1980s - the reality is that HIV still matters, and understanding the experiences of people living with HIV remains important for us all.”

The campaign features Stephanie, Emil, Carlos, Brenton, and Andy. Their personal interviews explore the intersection between disclosure with stigma and discrimination alongside relationships, family, friends, and community more broadly.

Hivstillmatters.org also contains information about HIV including: what it is, how it is transmitted and how it can be prevented; what stigma, discrimination and disclosure mean when it comes to HIV; and why it is important to remember that HIV still matters. A series of online clips will be rolled out over the coming weeks on Thorne Harbour Health social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.


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