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Rainbow Wellington Chair's report

Tue 24 Mar 2015 In: Our Communities View at NDHA

Rainbow Wellington has its annual AGM this Wednesday. Chair Rawa Karetai looks back on the past 12 months and appeals for new members and volunteers, heading into the future. The 2014 to 2015 year has been a busy time for Rainbow Wellington. Most notably, we have had some major changes with board members, their portfolios and training new board members as we are about to lose Tony Reed and have lost two other board members at the turn of the year. One of the most important things Rainbow Wellington must concentrate on is membership, our organisation and our external presence, to achieve this we’re actively seeking out a connection with other likeminded groups and build a meaningful collaborative relationship. The board has been working a lot over the year to develop better infrastructure such as redesigning our website, policy development, finding skilled board members with the aim to make Rainbow Wellington relevant to members and our community. Supporting the Community: Fulfilling our Charity Role Virtually all Rainbow Wellington’s income is from membership fees, and a few fundraising events. Grants and donations are our largest expenditure. Rainbow Wellington continues to make a substantial contribution to the LGBTI Community in the Wellington Region, and regularly supports events like Out in the Square, the Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival and Schools Out. Rainbow Wellington has clear criteria for grants and donations. A couple of the highlights over the year are as follows. Drag Kings This year Rainbow Wellington helped financially assisted the promotion and marketing of Drag Kings for a number of their events. with a niche audience within our community, it was a struggle for them to find enough money to help promote their events. They came to us and we helped assist them with a one off grant. Body Positive, Candlelight Memorial This year Rainbow wellington contributed a lump payment to help assist the Candlelight memorial held in Te Papa Museum. This was a very well organised and well attended event which paid respect to those who have passed away from HIV and AIDS. The next event is coming up soon and we hope to have Michael Kirby over from Sydney. Takataapui We sent one of our board members to this event to help educate and expand our priorities in the Takataapui sector. Takataapui isn’t an area that Rainbow Wellington is known to have much influence in, but over the last two years, we’ve been trying to be more inclusive of both our Maori and Pasifika members. Having two board members who identify as Takataapui has been helpful in developing this work for rainbow Wellington. We also supported: • Outtakes; • Schools Out • Out in the Square; • Board members supported: Rawa, for trip to Sydney, and Merv for attendance at Takataapui hui; and • Much, much more. Fewer grants have been given out in recent months. Some requests have been clearly out of our scope – there is a misconception out there. More seriously, we have been paying out more than we get in, and if we cannot get more members, or find others sources of funding, we will have to cut back longer-term. Local Campaigns and Issues: Local campaigns and issues is one of the core activities that we do throughout the year. Rainbow Wellington has developed over the years a voice of authority especially in the areas of Political Advocacy, Representation and Services. Rainbow Wellington is often asked for comment and actively participates in the wider conversations that impact on the LGBTI Community. We are proud of the work that we have achieved with the very little human and other resources at our disposal. There is always a lot to do and we’d welcome more people to help. Blood donation In New Zealand, as in many (though not all) western countries, there is a blanket ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) donating blood. This dates back to the 1980s, when AIDS appeared on the scene, and was initially seen as the only way to safeguard the blood supplies. As science progressed, and blood tests became more and more accurate, this position was softened somewhat, from a lifetime ban to the current ban of one year only. However, it is still a blanket ban, based on group rather than individual risk assessment. RW has campaigned now for several years to move towards individual risk assessment, arguing that the current policy discriminates on the grounds of sexual orientation. We first got involved when the NZ Blood Service asked for comments on the proposed reduction of the ban from 10 years to 5. At that time, one member volunteered himself as an individual case which could then go before the Human Rights Commission. This process was begun at the time, but not taken further. At the time we met with much support within our communities for our stand, but also some opposition from those who wished to support the status quo. Last year, we again responded to consultation to reduce the exclusion period from five years to one year. We were the only group in Wellington to meet with the advisory committee, whose arguments we found increasingly unconvincing. Developments in other countries, with strong support for our position from politicians and groups like the American Medical Association, has meant that we have met with little opposition within our communities. But there is little other organised support here (though we know of many aggrieved individuals) for our continuing campaign, despite what we see as the increasing weakness of the official line. There is also no political support, unlike in the UK. We are therefore considering new options as to how to take this campaign forward in the future such as contacting NZAF and Body Positive to test their current positions, continuing with our complaint to the Human Rights Commission and contacting PhD students and practitioners/researcher who have an interest at looking at the scientific implications of our proposals. Transgender reform Since the Human Rights Commission report “To be who I am” was published in 2007, we have been campaigning for the implementation of its recommendations. We have mostly concentrated on those reforms requiring legislative change, as they relate in particular to birth certificates, citizenship, and discrimination under the Human Rights Act. We have written to a number of Government Ministers over the years on these issues. Although there has been considerable success in a number of areas involving administrative change, legislative change has been more difficult to achieve. It recently became clear that, as far as the trans* community is concerned, the HRC report is being overtaken by events, and that simply concentrating on its recommendations is probably no longer the best way forward. We have been in discussion with Green MP Jan Logie, who has pointed in particular to a recent Maltese Bill which appears to cover all the main legislative issues relating to trans* rights, and could serve as a useful template for reform here. We are supporting Jan’s attempt to build up a cross-party support group in Parliament in this issue. Alex Kondou our Trans* Representative on the board has assisted us by updating and increasing our knowledge and awareness of trans* issues, in special seminars especially for the board members Homophobic bullying in schools Opposing homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools has been another long-term issue for us. We have mostly supported others, such as Schools Out, in their endeavours, leaving direct action by RW again mostly to writing to Government Ministers from time to time. We have supported and publicised the two reports by Murray Riches, produced by the Green Party, on queer youth, and in particular his recent report How safe are our schools?, which sets out the widely differing practices and policies on such bullying across our education sector, and the inadequate response of the Education Review Office to this state of affairs. We are awaiting advice in the best way to proceed, but again doing all we can to encourage cross-party support for action within Parliament on this issue, mostly through our Vice-Patrons, who now include representatives all the main Parliamentary parties. NZ Bill of Rights The “Constitution Conversation”, set up by the Government in the last Parliament to look at a wide range of issues, gave us the opportunity to push for a strengthening of the NZ Bill of Rights Act and the related Human Rights Act. The CC report largely supported our views. There is a little support for such a move within the current Government, but growing support elsewhere, which we will continue to contribute to as and when we can. Board Appointments and Communications: Board membership: Rawa has been Chair, and Steve Treasurer. Tony announced that he would stand down as Secretary this year. Dean was co-opted onto the board as a replacement secretary, ensuring a smooth transition. Rainbow Wellington is currently seeking board members who are keen to be active in the operations and governance of Rainbow Wellington; in particular, Rainbow Wellington is missing the diversity of women, younger members and multiculturalism. We are also particularly seeking the technical skills of communications, graphic design and research duties. At the beginning of the year, two board members didn’t pay their membership fees and stopped attending meetings as such, we decided to notify these members that they forfeited their right to the board. Website and e-mail systems. Thanks to Adrian for continuing to look after the e-mail system and the current website. Dean has taken over the regular e-mails, in particular the regular news extras. A new website is being developed, one that we can be in control of ourselves. Dean has taken up the responsibility of creating the emails for us and I have been busy working on the website. The website should be re-launched soon. Facebook page. The Rainbow Wellington Facebook page has picked up a lot of traffic since the AGM mostly helped by the fact that we’re engaging with the platform more. Media Coverage. Over the past year we have certainly managed to be picked up on some major news networks, most notably for our comments around blood donations, comments on the election outcome. Rainbow Wellington Events and Summary: Friday drinks: The closure of Rush Bar, leaves us with Ivy Bar, S Rawa Karetai - 24th March 2015    

Credit: Rawa Karetai

First published: Tuesday, 24th March 2015 - 9:57am

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