WHILE the politicians are taking up the airwaves with their debates on a same-sex marriage bill, Australia's health and wellbeing organisations are getting on with the job of building a LGBTI support network.
This week a number of health organisations have banded together to announce a ground-breaking program.
Called Pride in Health + Wellbeing, the program is focused on making service provision within the health, human services and wellbeing sectors more inclusive of LGBTI people.
The national membership-based program will provide the health partners with year-round support, training and guidance in LGBTI inclusive service delivery.
The significance of the initiative has already been recognised by a broad range of leading Australian health organisations, which have signed up as foundation members of the program.
These include Uniting, Medibank, Flourish Australia, Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, Reliant Healthcare, Lifeline Australia, ViiV Healthcare and NurseWatch.
ACON's Pride Inclusion Program director Dawn Hough said, "Australian LGBTI communities and individuals are extremely diverse and face a number of shared and distinct health and social inclusion issues.
"We also know that when LGBTI individuals require access to health and wellbeing services, they often hit more roadblocks, refrain from accessing critical services, and as a result, experience poorer health and wellbeing outcomes than their non-LGBTI peers."
Ms Hough said fear of abuse or discrimination forces many LGBTI people to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity when they access health and wellbeing services, leading to an increase in anxiety or depression.
"It's a very serious issue and providers across the board really need to be taking action to ensure they provide a sufficient duty of care," she added.
"Tailored programs delivered by Pride in Health + Wellbeing can assist organisations to meet the overall health outcomes of LGBTI people by addressing the health inequalities of LGBTI communities."
Membership will provide organisations with extensive sector specific support, resources, networking opportunities, training, consulting, advice and frequent interaction with other health and wellbeing sector organisations active in LGBTI inclusive service provision.
Any organisation - private, public or non-government organisation - working in the sectors of health and wellbeing, including government departments, hospitals, GPs, aged care, housing, mental health, drug and alcohol, family and domestic violence, and disability services are eligible to join.
For more details, go to prideinclusionprograms.com.au.