Rainbow young people need to know they will be included. Creating safe spaces for young people with diverse sexes, sexualities and genders is not a one-off task – it requires ongoing commitment from leadership and governance. It’s critical to build relationships with rainbow communities, young people, their families and whānau so youth spaces can adapt to meet the changing needs of rainbow young people over time.
Youth spaces are hubs responding to their local community needs. Every community includes rainbow young people, their families and whānau. Strategic and service plans should include information and feedback from Rainbow communities, family and whānau to build inclusive youth spaces. Rainbow young people who are connected to peer support, social networks and rainbow community groups are able to create important supports and chosen families which build resilience.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, relationships are critical to how we view ourselves and how we make things happen. For Māori, whanaungatanga is a concept which speaks to reciprocal kinship responsibilities - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. In relation to takatāpui, whanaungatanga is the principle of relationships and responsibilities where takatāpui work together to strengthen each other and their communities. For Pasefika, the concept of vā refers to the space that relates, and to the context connected to the individual. It refers to relationships that are collective. To maintain vā is to respect and maintain the sacred space, harmony and balance within relationships. Maintaining vā is about maintaining respectful and strong relationships that result in a healthy person, organisation, community and society.
Influenced by these Māori and Pasefika understandings, relationships strengthen how all communities in Aotearoa New Zealand operate.
Developing relationships and partnerships with your local rainbow community groups is the most important way to begin the journey of creating a youth space that welcomes, counts, respects and includes rainbow young people. Invite them in to talk about what they do and how rainbow young people can get to them, or offer them space to meet and hold drop-in support groups. Encourage Rainbow support groups to get started in your youth space by setting up diversity groups or Queer-Straight Alliances. You can find local groups at I’m Local or by calling 0800 OUTline (6885463).
Expand your Rainbow competency amongst staff
To demonstrate commitment to rainbow equity and inclusion in recruitment and hiring practices advertise new roles in rainbow media, and add rainbow inclusive language to job notices. Ask questions about best practice in working with rainbow young people as part of your recruitment process. Support rainbow staff members and young people by including content about sex, sexuality and gender diversity in induction training, and ensuring anti-bullying policies cover sex, sexuality and gender diversity.
Planning and feedback
Include sex, sexuality and gender identity questions in any confidential satisfaction surveys, so you can measure how well you are doing for rainbow young people. Hold focus groups with rainbow young people and interview community groups to find out how you are meeting the needs of rainbow young people. Use this data to make changes in your youth space. Build new ideas into strategic or organisation planning, to make sure they happen.
Set up a Rainbow resource list
Seek information on rainbow topics and stay-up-to-date with research and resources so you can support all rainbow young people. Develop a database/resource list of rainbow support groups, information networks and individuals who are rainbow friendly (e.g. counsellors). Check in with rainbow young people regularly about your database to build knowledge.
Help families and whānau support their Rainbow members
Rainbow young people are coming out at increasing rates and much earlier ages than in the past. Parents and families need accurate information to support their children and change behaviours that might be interpreted as rejecting even though a parent may simply be trying to protect their child. It’s important to respect young people’s decisions around when to “come out” to family members as they have the best information, but youth spaces can provide a bridge to resources for family and whānau members of rainbow young people such as:
- Takatāpui: Part of the Whānau, for takatāpui and their whānau, from Tiwhanawhana Trust and the Mental Health Foundation
- Talanoa – Clearing Pathways, for Pasefika families and their rainbow family members, from the Village Collective
- Holding Our Own, Auckland based support group for parents of LGBTQI children
- PFLAG Central, Palmerston North based support group for parents and friends
What makes rainbow young people feel included – plan with them
- Develop relationships with local rainbow community groups, particularly groups with a focus on rainbow young people.
- Set up peer support diversity groups or Queer-Straight Alliances inside your organisation for rainbow young people.
- Set up a rainbow resource list, especially for local and online groups, including for takatāpui, Pasefika and Asian Rainbow identities.
- Set up Rainbow representation on existing governance, or create a Rainbow Advisory Group that involves rainbow staff, young people and community in planning, development and review of strategic goals.
- Develop and implement an action plan sitting inside strategic plans.
- Advertise paid and volunteer roles in rainbow media and social media.
- Ask questions about best practice in working with rainbow young people as part of your recruitment processes.
- Include demographic questions about sex, sexuality and gender identity in user satisfaction surveys and focus groups about your organisation so you can see how well you are meeting rainbow young people’s needs.
- Act as a bridge to help families and whānau support their rainbow young people.
Leadership & Governance
The commitment of governance and leadership is crucial to the long-term success of creating a safer environment for rainbow young people. Rainbow competency aligns with existing values relating to safety, diversity, human rights and youth development. Invite representatives from rainbow community groups or rainbow young people using your service onto your existing governance boards, or create an advisory group which can offer advice. Reflect on current practice in a systematic manner, and ensure that the needs of rainbow young people are built into every stage of strategic and organisation planning.
Rainbow Action Plan
To help your youth space set goals that are achievable, use our strengths-based Audit Tool [A1] to identify current capacity and define key areas of change towards creating safer environments for rainbow young people. Develop a simple and realistic rainbow action plan based on this audit which has clear timeframes, allowing you to embed changes inside your youth space culture. Review at set times to allow your youth place to improve your responses to rainbow young people in a sustainable way. Appoint a rainbow champion to take responsibility for this action plan, and include these responsibilities in job descriptions. Allocate staff time and capacity, so there is dedicated and adequate time and resource.
Rainbow champions have been shown to improve responses to rainbow young peoplein a wide variety of organisations. The role does not have to be held by someone from the rainbow community, but rainbow champions must have a passion for equity and addressing discrimination, and must be allocated sufficient time inside their role, and sufficient organisational support, to achieve the best outcomes.
Examples of how Rainbow Champions can take responsibility for:
- Developing relationships, seeking advice and acting as liaison to rainbow community groups.
- Auditing services and programmes for rainbow inclusivity.
- Integrating unique rainbow needs into new policies or modify existing policies.
- Facilitating organisation work plan.
- Providing guidance to senior management to implement and monitor work plan.
- Acting as best practice information hub for sharing new rainbow research and resources.
- Ensuring rainbow issues are covered in workplace induction, professional development and case presentation.
- Developing rainbow specific resources.