For some Maroondah residents within the LGBTI+ community, finding a space to be their most authentic selves was challenging.
When the LGBTI+ Peer Social Support Group was founded at Kerrabee in Croydon, it became a welcoming environment for residents aged 50+ who identify as part of the LGBTI+ community, their allies and friends to connect in a safe space.
Naming themselves Mature Rainbows, the group provides opportunities to reduce social isolation and loneliness, build friendships, share stories and information, and provide education.
One founding member loves to reflect on the group’s growth and its impact on the community.
“We started with a group of three people handing out leaflets and distributing information, and it’s grown to the group it is now, which is just under 20 people. I think it’s a great idea for people who are on their own and have a lot in common to share their happiness and enjoy their life together,” they said.
The group promotes acceptance of one another, no matter their past or present struggles, said Tracy, another Mature Rainbows member.
“The group has brought so many different people together who accept each other, who can be genuine with each other, who care about each other. Being your authentic self has been the most important thing, and to not be judged has been amazing,” Tracy said.
For members such as Dina, the LGBTI+ Peer Social Support Group filled a much-needed gap and arose at the perfect time.
“I was looking online for LGBTI+ groups and I couldn’t find anything. Some groups were far away and most of the groups out this way were for 18 to 25-year-olds. There just didn’t seem to be a bracket for my age group. But this group accepts me for who I am,” Dina said.
Mayor of Maroondah, Councillor Rob Steane OAM, encouraged community members to learn more about the group and other support services available.
“The LGBTI+ Peer Social Support Group based at Kerrabee is just one example of a range of programs and support services available to Maroondah residents from a variety of backgrounds,” Cr Steane.
“I encourage our community to visit Council’s website, where they can find out more about the LGBTI+ Peer Social Support Group and a variety of other programs and support services provided by Council and groups throughout Maroondah.”
The courage of group members has not gone unnoticed. While some members were nervous to attend, they quickly felt comfortable and are thankful for the group, which has made a significant difference to their confidence.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand just how strong you need to be to step up and say, ‘This is who I am, there’s no group out there for people like me, can we start a group?’” Dina said.
One member, Steffi, took the initiative to create a piece of artwork that was installed at Kerrabee. Steffi took inspiration from Japanese art and a local florist to create a sign that shows how welcoming Kerrabee is for the group.
“The 3D nature of it gives it life and heart, and I hope it will be a visual cue that lets people know Kerrabee is an inclusive place,” Steffi said.
Mature Rainbows meet on the last Friday of each month at Kerrabee in Croydon.