Free to be

Category: Special needs

ACH Group, South Australia

The Free To Be project is a three year project that aims to build on the skills and knowledge of 1700 staff and 500 volunteers to deliver inclusive services for and with older people from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.

Free To Be has developed a range of resources, which includes staff training and development, to meet this aim. The project is already seeing positive outcomes, with staff reporting increased understanding and awareness about the history and specific needs of older LGBTI people, which in turn enhances service delivery for diverse customers and staff members.

The primary goals for Free To Be are wide ranging and include staff training, recruitment processes, resource development, marketing, documentation review and community engagement. The implementation and continued development of the project is guided by an internal steering committee, made up of staff, from senior management to support workers. Additionally, an external advisory committee helps to direct the development of the project. The members of the external committee are LGBTI community members, as well as experts in the fields of LGBTI research and service provision.

To date, more than 730 staff members have completed LGBTI awareness training that has been internally developed and facilitated. Comprehensive resources such as an inclusive language guide and LGBTI booklet have also been distributed to staff members. The booklet contains guidelines on how to support older people from LGBTI communities and includes a comprehensive list of LGBTI community groups, clubs and counselling services.

An LGBTI champions program has also been established. Staff who have a strong interest in supporting older people from LGBTI communities have undertaken an additional two day training program, equipping them to provide guidance to their staff peers.

In April 2014, four older people from LGBTI communities participated in one hour interviews, exploring what ageing well as an LGBTI person means. Additionally, older people from local LGBTI communities were recruited to be models in a professional photo shoot, with the images being used widely within the organisation. Since the end of 2014, six people from LGBTI communities have participated in Good Lives on Film, where they learn the art of film making in a week long ‘boot camp’, resulting in short films being produced, two of which have had LGBTI themes.

Feedback received from the LGBTI awareness training has been very positive. 47% of participants reported poor or fair knowledge of LGBTI history and cultural needs before the session, with only 20.5% comprehensive or excellent knowledge. At the end of the session, only 1.25% of participants reported poor or fair knowledge, with 80.5% of people reporting they now had comprehensive or excellent knowledge of LGBTI history and cultural needs.

Free To Be will continue to be evaluated against Key Performance Indicators by the Free To Be team and the internal steering committee on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, Free To Be will be applying for the Rainbow Tick at the end of this year.

For more information on this program, contact Robyn Burton, email: or phone: 0438 123 956.