Interview with Minister Kearney and Warren, Joy FM - 1 March 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister Kearney's interview with Warren on 10 Year Action Plan for the Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ People and $26 million funding for LGBTIQA+ health research.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

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WARREN: LGBTIQA+ people have unique and often complex health needs, and combined with the difficulty in getting appropriate health care can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes. Well the Albanese government has today announced a new national action plan and a $26 million investment in health and medical research focusing on LGBTQIA+ communities. And the announcement was made today at the WorldPride 2023 Human Rights Conference. And to find out more, we're joined by Ged Kearney, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. Minister, welcome to JOY Drive.


WARREN: What did you see as well - what do you see as the main barriers that prevent LGBTIQA+ people from getting good health care as it stands? 

KEARNEY: Goodness, so you mentioned a lot of them. You know, we know for example, that our LGBTIQA community still experienced discrimination, they still experience stigma, so many of them are still isolated. I mean, you know, the World Pride Week has been beautiful and so many people have said to me, I've never felt so warm and embraced and accepted. And that really should be the norm not just during Pride Week. But we still know that there's isolation. And sadly, there's still harassment and a lot of people subjected to violence. All of this leads to poorer health outcomes, poorer mental health. And we've started on some consultation, I was at an amazing roundtable yesterday with the community, where they said to me that they need to feel safe when they go to see a doctor or they do present to a health care facility, they need to feel accepted, they need to feel affirmed. And I think those three things were really key for me. They need to see their peers there, they need to see themselves reflected in the service. And I think that is why we need a really special approach to health care for that community.

EMMA: Minister, the announcement today included a 10 year national action plan, how will that work?

KEARNEY: So this was something that the community has asked us for and for a long time they've been advocating for this. So they really want a 10 year strategy. That doesn't mean it's going to take 10 years in the making - it means we will do it as quickly as we can, but that in 10 years time we want to see the health system changed. And that all those things that the community tell us they want would be structured into our health system. So the way that we're going to get to that plan is that we're establishing an advisory group, a health advisory group that will guide the process. We're investing over a million dollars in consultation, that consultation will be undertaken by LGBTQIA+ Health Australia and AFAO - two organisations that I'm sure your listeners are very familiar, with very trusted health organisations. And they will be going out doing a really deep dive consultation with the community to ask them well, what would our health system be like if it was accepting and it was safe and affirming. And so that's how that strategy will be developed and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into that.

WARREN: We're chatting with Ged Kearney, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, about an announcement made today at the WorldPride 2023 Human Rights Conference concerning LGBTIQA+ health. Something that I was really excited about Ged was the $26 million grant for health research. What areas of health will this be looking at, tell us about the grant?

KEARNEY: We're so excited about this. I am, we got really great feedback today. So one of the things that we've been hearing a lot is that there's very little data about the LGBTQIA community. There's a small and dedicated and fabulous group of researchers but they really need a bit of support and they need funding. We need young researchers to be interested in researching in this area and to mentor them and bring them along. The research grants will be will be asking researchers in the community, peak bodies, clinical experts, community members to put forward ideas for how that money could be spent. And it will certainly focus on I guess improving the healthcare system, that might look at models of care. It might look at, it might be research that does gather data on the communities, it might be research that identifies gaps in healthcare or explores models that are already working. I've visited ACON here in Sydney and we have Thorne Harbour Health in Melbourne, two organisations that deliver fabulous health care to the LGBTQIA+ community. How do we scale that up? How do we do that? So I think the research will be wide and varied, we're not going to be prescriptive about what it's going to be used for, that's going to come from the community itself.

EMMA: The Health Minister Mark Butler said that the plan will guide the reforms needed to ensure LGBTQIA+ Australians are given every chance to live healthier lives, do you have any idea of the types of reforms that could be considered?

KEARNEY: Well, again, that will come from the community, but what we're hearing is that they want healthcare to be community led, they want it to be community based and incorporated with their peers. So I think that they're two things that I've really taken from my meetings in the last couple of days. But they've also explained to me that there needs to be an intersectional lens played out over that, again, it needs to focus on affirmation, and, and safety and also very particular and very determined that we focus on young people. Young people as we know suffer really poor health outcomes, particularly mental health outcomes in the community. And that's going to be, I think, an important part of the process. But again, you know, we've only just started our consultation, we had a great roundtable yesterday, very rich, and really very forthcoming in ideas. But the consultation will be undertaken over the next few months. And I'm sure a lot more is going to come from it.

WARREN: Minister, we know that stigma and discrimination are massive hurdles for many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community to access health care, will you be looking at that as well and how we can address that. And also, I suppose, for the medical professional side as well.

KEARNEY: Absolutely. One of the things that I learned from the pandemic, in my own electorate in Melbourne, was the advent of telehealth, there's a trans clinic in my electorate. And they've said that telehealth allowed a community that feels very marginalized and quite unsafe to contact them. So their client base doubled, almost overnight, because people could reach out through the phone service. And I think, you know, telehealth is going to play an important part in this. But it just showed to me that some people just don't feel safe getting on a tram, sitting in a GP clinic and waiting to see a doctor in a mainstream service. That was really a stark example to me of how, you know, why it's so important for people to feel safe and affirmed. There's also a very large body of work to be done that was raised. This just reminds me of the communities intersection with mainstream services. Because at some point or other, you do have to go to a hospital, whether it's for an appendectomy, or any reason that you might have to enter the mainstream services. And so we need to, we need to work on ways that we can have a seamless pathway for people from their community controlled service through mainstream services, where they're supported there from their community and their peers, and then back into that community healthcare service. So that's another area that I think we need to really look at.

WARREN: I think it's a great announcement, I think our communities certainly has specific health needs. So it's really good to see some, you know, some grants being made to get that data to find out how we can best have that need serviced. So thank you so much Minister for joining us on Joy Drive.

KEARNEY: It's a great pleasure, and thanks for your time.

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