2023 is big for the LGBTQIA+SB community – let’s celebrate & spread the word
2023 is a significant year for the LGBTQIA+SB community and its allies. It’s the 50th anniversary of the first Gay Pride Week, the 45th anniversary of the first Mardi Gras Parade, and the 5th anniversary of Australian marriage equality.
It’s also the first time Australia has been chosen as the host of World Pride, with Sydney hosting over 300 pride events from February 17 through to March 5.
At Feros Care, we’re taking the opportunity to not only celebrate, but show our support and spread the word. We asked Wellbeing Manager Russ Hargreaves to tell us why it’s important for organisations to be inclusive, and what he loves about working at an organisation like Feros Care.
I’ve been with Feros Care for five and a half years. I grew up wanting to be a schoolteacher but when I finished high school, I just thought –
“well, I know what I am, but I don’t want anyone else knowing, so why would I do that to my career?” I didn’t want to deal with the stigma or bring any risk to myself, and so I ended up as a practice manager running medical centres.
For a long time, I worked at a centre that was run by religious doctors. I couldn’t be out at work or say a thing about myself. They assumed I was a straight man. I remember a client coming in, and he was gay, and I couldn’t offer him any support because I wasn’t to be seen doing that.
It’s very different, being at Feros Care. No one cares here, in a good way. You could be the most flamboyant person in the world and strut down the hallway in sequins, and the CEO would join the conga line with you. I’ve got a disability as well, and we’ve only had to alter one thing, but no one asks. No one says a snide comment.
I love working somewhere that you can support other people in so many ways. As a Wellbeing Manager, I’m there to help elderly Australians stay independently living at home for longer. I’m always going into client’s homes, wearing my pride badge.
Sometimes clients say something when they see the badge, and I just explain that Feros Care believes in openness and accepting everyone, regardless of their ability, ethnic background, beliefs or gender. I say,
“We respect you, and these are our commitments to you, and we expect the same respect back.” And people are usually really good with that.
I’ve also seen clients try to hide their LGBTQIA+ relationships. I’ve had clients living together who say they’re just housemates when it’s very obvious that they’re not – there’s a Valentine’s Day card on the mantle that says
“to my husband”, for example. Or one client who told his husband to go to the shops every time I came. It was the generation to hide it, the generation who can still have some trouble accepting different points of view. But as with so many other things, education is key.
That’s why I went and got my PhD in religious studies. I’m a fully ordained Minister. If someone tries to argue with me about religion, I can now officially say,
“no, the bible doesn’t say that, it’s your interpretation.”
The overall message from the bible is to love yourself. Love other people. Don’t do harm by other people. And I’m still trying to work with churches and older ministers, encouraging an understanding that the church is now open to these things.
It’s great being able to extend my knowledge to my role at Feros. I’m on the Pride Support Network with about 30 other people. We do so much work with all different departments, team leaders and people leaders on how they can support team members. Everyone’s different – some people don’t want anything acknowledged, and others need lots of support.
Even my own confidence has come a long way from when I first started here. In my interview, when they asked me what I could bring to my role at Feros Care, I freaked out and said
Since then, I’ve led major projects and jumped into roles. I can voice my ideas and future-proof documents to ensure things are inclusive. I can encourage everybody to help celebrate occasions that are important or support them to ask questions. I can answer those questions without hesitation – for example, someone asking me if someone else is a man or a woman. I say,
“well I don’t know, but their pronouns are they/them, and this is their name.”
If people have any questions for me or want to know any information, they can always get in touch with our Pride Support Network. Or if they want to help us plan something in the future. 90% of the people on the network are allies and not actually identified, but they want to be involved in the celebrations and support.
And with so much going on, you couldn’t pick a better year to do it. So many milestones for the rainbow community. It’s so great to see.
As people continue to grow and become more accepting, it’s just going to keep changing the face of every community and every organisation. I’m proud to be part of that, I really am.
To read more about Feros Care’s Pride Support Network, click here.
Want to work for Feros Care and join everything we’re doing to create an all-inclusive organisation?
Whether you’re looking for aged care or disability support roles, we’re always searching for talented and energetic people.