Australia’s lag for LGBT+ rights

Australia’s lack of progress in recognising the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual+ community has pushed the nation behind numerous countries and contributed to a rise in mental health issues amongst LGBT+ youth, according to a report released yesterday.


The findings, announced by Geneva-based, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex Association, rate each country according to their laws relating to sexual orientation.

Australia is grouped with 28 other States globally who recognise same-sex partnership, however continue to dismiss marriage equality.


The report coincides with International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia today, which celebrates the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990, whilst raising awareness of the high statistics on ill mental health amongst the LGBT+ community.


Minus18 is a youth driven LGBT+ charity primarily run through university-aged students. It supports more than 150,000 people each year through online services and events with an aim to elevate the voices of LGBT+ youth.


Minus18’s CEO, Micah Scott, said the declassification was a significant shift in the way LGBT+ people were seen.


“While we’ve come a long way in nearly 30 years, through law and adoption reforms in some States and civil unions, there is still a lot of work to be done. There are staggeringly high rates of mental health problems in the LGBT+ community,” he said.


“We are striving for acceptance and inclusion, not merely tolerance.”


Almost 25% of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people, and over 36% of Transsexual people experience depression, compared to 6.8% of the general population.


Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays NSW President, Judy Brown said their main aim is to keep families together during these times.


“A major cause towards this mental illness is the negative attitudes in society towards homosexuality and often sadly, negative attitudes amongst the family and friends of people who are LGBT+,” she said.


“We believe people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Gender Diverse were born that way, and we advocate to the community and government to end discrimination and gain equal rights.”


Darcy Robinson, who identifies as transgender and bisexual, said it’s vital Australia legalises marriage equality, but there are many things missing from our social circle that have never been addressed.


“As someone who is half of the LGBT acronym, I don’t feel safe in Australia and I feel that’s telling,” he said.


“With my transition, 99% of government, law and medical professionals know nothing about transgender people. We need easier access to healthcare, safe spaces, stronger stances on discrimination and educational programs for younger teenagers on sexuality that tells them it’s okay to defy the norm.


“I’m in a long term relationship with a cisgender woman, so I feel totally comfortable expressing that in public. But there’s no doubt I would be super paranoid expressing any display of affection if I was with a man.”


Young talent of the Illawarra

The Illawarra Academy of Sport competed at the 2017 Clubs NSW Academy Games in the Central Coast over the weekend, taking the podium for boys hockey, girls rugby sevens and various triathlon events.

The Games showcase the states best talent of Academy athletes from 11 regional New South Wales towns and include nine sports ranging from basketball to triathlons.

Programs and Communications Coordinator of the Clubs NSW Academy Games and Central Coast Academy of Sport, Mark Tipple said the Academy Games are an annual event held in April each year and reveal plenty of young talent from across the State.

“The Games are held for pre-elite and junior athletes and ages vary depending on the sport played, but most athletes are 14-16 years of age.” 

The Illawarra Academy of Sport was the first Academy created in NSW and a pioneer for the Academy model in Australia.

Program and Athlete Development Manager from the Illawarra Academy of Sport, Andrew Barrett, said athletes from the Academy competed in the basketball, hockey, rugby sevens, golf, netball, tenpin bowling and both short and long course triathlons.

“Every athlete puts in many hours each week to play at the level they do. They have been working hard for months or even years. It is quite amazing what talents exists here in the Illawarra.”

The Academy featured on the podium with first place in the girl’s rugby sevens after an undefeated streak, third place in golf, third place in boy’s hockey and various seconds, thirds and fourths for the short and long course triathlons. 

Established in 1985, the Illawarra Academy of Sport has supported more than 5000 regional athletes with programs to develop and excel through sport while maintaining strong community ties, particularly Sally Fitzgibbons (surfing), Emma McKeon (swimming) and Josh Morris (rugby league).

The Hunter will be the Host Academy for the Games for 2018 - 2020.


Healing our healers: Junior doctors struggling to cope with demands of the industry

A rise of suicides in the Australian medical profession in recent months has sparked query about the industry’s culture to protect the mental health of its young workers.

Four junior doctors have committed suicide in New South Wales in the past six months, contributing to a total of 20 doctors that have done so in the past decade, according to a report conducted by NSW Coroner Michael Barnes.

A report released by Australian mental health organisation BeyondBlue in 2013 found that doctors have higher rates of psychological distress and attempted suicides than other Australian professions, in particular doctors under 30. This report went ignored and Australian Medical Association (NSW) President, Brad Frankum, urges mentally ill doctors to connect with trusted people and speak up.

“We know doctors are very likely to be perfectionists, which is good when it comes to caring for patients but can be very difficult when it comes to caring for yourself.”

Director of the Illawarra Institute for Mental Health at the University of Wollongong and Professor of Psychology at the University, Frank Deane, said junior doctors face multiple sources of stress alongside a reluctance to admit they are suffering in the first place.

“Concerns about others negative perceptions is a major barrier. On top of this for doctors are potential unknown effects on their career such as perceived competence and reputation.

“For high achieving individuals there is a greater belief that they can handle these problems on their own since they have been successful in many other respects. This may lead to longer delays in seeking help.”

In New South Wales, a doctor who tells another doctor they are having mental health issues is required to report it by law to the Medical Council of NSW.

“Where there is significant impairment that may effect treatment of patients there is clearly a need for some system to ensure patient safety,” Professor Deane said. “However there is clearly a barrier to seeking help and in this sense is not a good thing.”

Medical Science (Honours) student from the University of Sydney, Lucy Urizar is aiming to transition into a Doctor of Medicine in 2018.

“Medicine is very competitive and would be hard for someone to admit their mental health problems as it may show they are not cut out for the job, especially while others seem to be coping,” Lucy said.

“The hospital system is very demanding for junior doctors. We are required to complete a two-year internship upon graduating, the hours are irregular and long and you have people’s lives in your hands. It is so easy to see how someone’s mental health would decline.”

With such a stigma still surrounding mental health, AMA President Brad Frankum encourages society to acknowledge the level of distress that exists but insists there is always an alternative to suicide.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Diagnosis: Undefeated

The mental impact of a cancer diagnosis is often overshadowed by the medical reality. However, the immediate and long-term realisation of one’s own mortality cannot be underestimated. Diagnosed at 56 with bowel cancer, Robyn Conquest faces a lifetime of worry.

After being diagnosed with a twenty centimetre cancerous tumour in her bowel in late 2014, enduring six months of chemotherapy and consequently beating it, there is still a twenty percent chance it will return. The audio slideshow reflects her journey, commencing with what she described as utter frustration; numerous medical personnel telling her she had anxiety, or just needed to slow down. Yet her persistence saved her. Her; my mother.

JRNL102 – What’s Hidden Behind The Eyes?

A genetic condition characterised by excessive and involuntary day-time sleep, is what fourteen year old Courtney has experienced since birth. Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder where the brain is unable to correctly regulate the sleep-wake cycles, rendering sufferers to a state of sleep hidden behind open eyes. It usually presents itself after reaching puberty, however in rare cases it can be pre-pubescent, and this is what occurred with Courtney.

‘Snore Australia’ is the largest organisation analyzing sleep disorders, claiming that narcolepsy affects three million people worldwide. The primary symptoms for narcolepsy sufferers are extreme daytime sleepiness, hallucinations and microsleeps. Micro-sleeps are brief, involuntary episodes of sleep that can last for 2 – 30 seconds at a time, where a patient can look awake, when they are actually asleep. For Courtney, these microsleeps, disguised by a blank stare, occur four times every hour she is awake, and range from 4 – 20 seconds each time. Her sound, sight and touch senses close off, despite her eyes being open, leaving no outward indication of this occurring.

According to her mother, Jennifer, unusual things began to occur shortly after birth, stating, “she wasn’t tracking things with her eyes.” This unusual behaviour left specialists concerned that she may be blind. As the years progressed, Courtney’s pre-school teachers also brought attention to the fact she was not following instructions like the other children were, leaving them to suggest that Courtney may have a hearing impairment. Courtney was continually assessed by various specialists, none of whom could find the hidden reason for the variety of unusual symptoms that presented themselves on a regular basis. Finally after a number of years, and much investigation, Courtney was diagnosed with narcolepsy at the age of eight.

Bubbly, vivacious and quirky are words to describe the now teenage Courtney, yet behind her extroverted personality lies this condition that is increasingly impacting upon her ability to perform at the expected level for her intelligence at school, as she would often miss instructions due to her hidden sleep patterns. Recommended medication to counter this issue, presented a further problem of stunted growth. Consequently, this medication is monitored to maximise Courtney’s mental, as well as physical health.

A key issue faced by Courtney and her family at present, is what will occur when she reaches puberty. It is a hidden quantity as the impact of her symptoms can lessen or increase. Should her symptoms progress, as is being indicated, narcolepsy will affect Courtney’s job prospects in the future, her ability to drive a vehicle and her capability of performing general everyday activities.

Courtney’s life choices will ultimately become limited, but with greater public awareness of this condition, sufferers may not remain hidden behind a vacant stare.