Rainbow Room a Safe Space for LGBTIQA+ Youth in Rural Communities

Visit any one of CareSouth’s seven offices across NSW and you will see prominent signage declaring Everyone is Welcome Here. We are an organisation that proudly embraces diversity and inclusion. So, to celebrate World Pride recently, we officially launched CareSouth’s Rainbow Room – a fortnightly support group based in Deniliquin that connects young people exploring their sexuality and gender.

Deniliquin’s Behaviour Support Practitioner Anna Suckling designed the Rainbow Room program to provide a safe space for transgender, gender diverse, non-binary young people and those exploring their sexuality, while also helping parents, carers, educators and peers understand how to best support them.

CareSouth offices have always acted as safe spaces for the children and young people we support. A lack of support services for young LGBTIQA+ people in Deniliquin and surrounds prompted Anna to ensure young people who were curious about their sexuality or gender identity also had a safe space to discuss their thoughts and feelings with like-minded peers and mentors, without judgment.

“Young people in Deniliquin who are exploring their sexuality and gender had nowhere to go and be themselves,” said Anna. “School is difficult, it’s hard for them to talk openly and not be judged. The Rainbow Room is a safe, supportive space to share similar stories and experiences while also offering support for parents and carers.”

The Rainbow Room has been up and running for four months now and when young people tell Anna, “It has made me feel a lot more confident in coming out,” or “I love that I can come to a space and be myself as I feel I can’t do this at school,” she knows the support group is not only changing lives but potentially saving them.

“We know that positive mentoring and peer relationships are a proven protective factor in the mental health and wellbeing of young people, particularly those who are marginalised,” said Anna. “We also know that 66% of Australian LGBTIQA+ youth experience bullying or harassment based on their identity. The Rainbow Room has allowed us to connect like-minded peers in a supportive environment.”

Deniliquin foster carer Stan Mikolajski has seen the positive impact the CareSouth Rainbow Room has had on two young people he supports.

“The young people are 12 and 13 and are at that age where exploring their sexuality can be confusing for them,” said Stan. “It can also lead to negative experiences at school and on social media. Giving them a safe place to go like the Rainbow Room, that is non-judgmental and inclusive, has improved their confidence in talking about their sexuality, asking the right questions, seeking answers and, most importantly, accepting who they are.”

CareSouth is committed to supporting the LGBTIQA+ community, offering tailored support and ensuring practices and processes are inclusive. To further the reach of the Rainbow Room, CareSouth has also connected with the Alphabet Crew in Albury Wodonga – one of the closest LGBTIQA+ support groups to Deniliquin – and Transcend Australia, a peer support network and community for trans and gender diverse children, families and carers.

The Rainbow Room runs fortnightly and is open to young people from Deniliquin and surrounds. Sessions include guest speakers, peer support activities, art therapy, parent and carer support sessions and sex education specific to LGBTIQA+ young people.

The Rainbow Room program was made possible thanks to an Australia Post grant.

No referrals are needed and young people, parents and families interested in attending can register by contacting CareSouth on 1300 554 260.

Research from La Trobe University