New space for young queer community

November 28, 2023 BY

Meet the team: Liz Hardiman, Alex Miller, and Zerene Jaadwa are some of the staff involved with Ballarat’s QHub location. Photo: SUPPLIED

AFTER months of interim operations, a safe space for young LGBTIQA+ people in the region aged up to twenty-five years old is now open for referrals.

QHub, a State Government-supported project in collaboration with Cafs Ballarat, Drummond Street Services, and Wellways Geelong, is now running.

Jack Khouri, QHub manager of Geelong and Ballarat said the aim of the initiative is to provide a central support location for the queer community.

“LGBTIQA+ folk, especially young people, have a significantly higher rate of mental health challenges and suicidality,” he said.

“When you add in the intersectionality of regional living, that statistic goes up again. It’s recognised there’s been a need for a safe space in Geelong and Ballarat.

“Young people just want a safe space where they can go hang out, be themselves, and be around other queer-identifying young people.

“There’s also that intergenerational side, having staff that identify as LGBTIQA+ too, and creating that full sense of safety.”

The program was developed with community input as a response to suicides from LGBTIQA+ young people in Geelong and Ballarat.

Through QHub, participants can access social and mental health support, counselling, and wellbeing initiatives.

Youth and family support, and community engagement staff are being provided by Cafs while peer support staff are being provided by Geelong’s Wellways.

The project’s counselling services has been operating at Cafs for the past few months with referrals being sent through LGBTIQA+ associated organisations.

With operations now moved to the local hub based at Ballarat’s health service precinct, Mr Khouri said the project will continue to develop.

“From term one next year, we’ll have a calendar of events, regular drop-ins probably two or three times a week, activities coming through,” he said.

“During the school holidays we’ll continue counselling services at the hub with drop-in options and activities available.

“We’ve had positive feedback from clients and referrals are increasing all the time. In terms of youth and family, we’re getting close to having a waitlist capped at no more than a month.”