Gender Centre program cuts spark protest

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On August 7, 50 sex and gender diverse and transgender people gathered in Petersham in Sydney’s inner west at a “Save the Drop-In” BBQ. The event was in response to the Gender Centre — the only community service provider for transgender people in Sydney — closed a cornerstone of its service: the weekly “Drop-In” service.

The drop-in attracted about 40 people each week. It was held in the evening and food was provided. The service accounted for 28% of the Gender Centre’s client contacts, according to the Centre’s 2010 annual report.

Transgender people need safe spaces and peer support. Private Lives: A Report on the Health and Wellbeing of GLBTI Australians (2007), noted that 46.9% of transgender females and 29.4% of transgender males faced threats of violence and intimidation while 73% of transgender men and 69.7% of transgender women faced verbal abuse.

Gender Centre management closed the drop-in service on June 8.

Phinn Borg, manager of the Gender Centre, told Green Left Weekly: “The service has not been closed, it is under review. It was not meeting its objectives. We had complaints about the behaviour of clients and the food. The service had been running for a long time, and it was not a funded program. But the service will come back in, but not in the same form.”

Asked when the service would be reinstated, Borg said: “We have a report being done, and the recommendations of the report will be implemented. We don’t have any idea when the report will be done.”



An activist group, Save the Drop In, has been formed. Kari McKern, an activist with the new group, told GLW: “If clients complain about how a service is managed, their first reaction seems to be to cancel the service to punish the impertinence of the clients.”

Fiona Ryan, spokesperson for Save the Drop-In, told GLW: “The first thing we heard of anything out of the ordinary was when management told us they will close the service.

“If people were behaving badly, then it is common practice to have a talk with the person, ask that they stop, then if they don’t, impose a ‘service ban’ on them. But management reaction to the complaints seems to have been to collect them so as to justify closing the service …

“It seems to us that they slandered all their transgendered drop-in clients just to make their jobs easier by closing a service that has been a vital part of transgender life in Sydney for 20 years.”

McKern said: “One thing is for sure, be it an error of judgement, burn-out, or paranoia that drove this foolish decision, the fuss won’t stop until this service is resumed.”

From GLW issue 891

Comments

the venue is too small. Also,

the venue is too small. Also, they let every person in, not just those who need the service- the service is clearly NOT for all allies, and especially not for those just looking for a free meal or a chance to 'chat up a tranny'. This has been going on for years- and who is to blame? THE GC itself! They have brought this upon themselves by being way too lenient allowing bad behaviour to continue for years without banning people, then when things got too hard, ban everyone. If they had put their foot down in the first place and laid down the rule that tranny chasers were not welcome, and those looking for a freebie werent welcome either, then perhaps they would have been able to manage it better. When the venue was at Morgan St, the space was slightly larger and not so many people accessed the free dinner. When the move went to the current place, its smaller, and more people take advantage of the freebies, taking away food and a safe space from those who are most vulnerable. Those being mainly MTF transwomen who have nowhere else to go to be themselves. If people dont feel comfortable and safe in a space, then it isnt fair- and they rely on the GC to help them feel safe by providing a space where they can dress freely, be free of being stared at or chatted up, and free to discuss their transition with others. BUT at the same time not have to sit and be subjected to overtly sexual behaviour.. which was one of the problems that the GC let go in the end.. its become too big for them and its obvious to many in the community.. they need to be accountable to us and help us be a safe and accepting community. And thats only done by co operation from both the GC AND the community and there has been a massive breakdown in communication over the years, mainly on the GCs end.. I sincerely hope for the sake of those most vulnerable in our community that this can be resolved.

to put it in a nutshell

this is what I think, The GC had planned to close the dropin down and make "us" the community, the fall guy.

They used us to justify the closure.

Slander Indeed

I believe the GC have not been reflecting the needs of our growing diverse community. They have disenfranchised us in regards to changes in their constitution a few years back. It appears we are dealing with a committee that has no accountability or any consultation process with the target steak holders, us.

There was a deliberate and coercive nature in the way the GC had their staff hand out complaint forms at the last few dropins and asked people to make complaints (yes its true, this is what happened) for purposes of improving the dropin as opposed to canning it.

Now it could of been assumed that this is standard welfare practise however a member of our community was informed by a staff member (I assume accidentally) that " the dropin was being cancelled" upon further Inquisition by our curious community member the staff member stated "Phinn has a box of complaints regarding the dropin".

Now maybe I am a conspirator, or completally paranoid but, hello.

planned much?
--
I think the dropin is the fin edge of the wedge and there are serious systemic problems with "our" GC that need to be address.

the alarm bells regarding the GC are ringing loud and clear however its up to the community to step up and damand positive change.

Indi