Rainbow coffee a chance to catch up

May 22, 2022 BY

Inclusive: Rainbow Ballarat Coffee facilitator Rick Youssef (left) has been running the gatherings since 2019. Photo: TIM BOTTAMS

ONCE a week at Barkly Square, A Pot of Courage’s large table is filled with visitors looking for coffee, a chat, and an inclusive space.

Over a dozen queer residents meet at 10am every Thursday morning as part of the Rainbow Ballarat Coffee meetups, which convenor Rick Youssef said has provided a social outlet for many within the LGBTQIA+ community.

“It’s giving them an outlet they didn’t have beforehand,” he said.

“There are a lot of lonely, isolated people in Ballarat, particularly in the queer community, and this gives them an outing once a week.

“Our conversations are pretty broad. We’ve got some keen gardeners. People are talking politics at the moment. We talk about the town. Anything you’d think a coffee group would talk about.”

Upon returning to Ballarat after a decade away, Mr Youssef wanted to form a social network in the city and founded the group in late 2019 having taken part in a similar social initiative in Creswick.

The group has since grown from about three regulars to an average gathering of about 15 people.

Daniel Witthaus, CEO and founder of non-profit group Rural Pride Australia marked his third visit to the meetup, and said it provides an “on-the-ground” look at Ballarat’s queer community.

“We’re seeing people here who you won’t necessarily hear from if you put out a consultation but you find out how their everyday lives are going,” he said.

“I love coming to this as well because it’s an accessible inclusive space. People remember each other’s names, their pronouns, and it’s a real pulse of what’s going on in the community.”

All are welcome to attend, and Mr Youssef posts photos from each meetup on the Rainbow Ballarat Facebook group to give those hesitant to attend an idea of what’s taking place.

Other social activities have stemmed from the coffee catchups like the monthly queer beers and Sunday pub meetups.

Cheryl Szollosi has been attending the coffee gatherings since its early days and raved about the events.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” she said.

“I was isolating before it became fashionable, and this really got me re-engaging with people. I think I’ve only missed a handful of these since I started.

“I’ve met a lovely bunch of people and it’s really opened my horizons to the broadness of the community. I’ve even found my partner through this.”