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Victoria Drops $4 Million On LGBTI Youth Mental Health

Exclusive: The state premier will also commit $4 million to youth mental health.

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The 2016 Victorian state budget, to be released on Wednesday, will spend millions on initiatives that combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, according to budget documents seen by BuzzFeed News.

$2.5 million will go towards a "rural and regional road show" that will visit LGBTI communities outside Melbourne, minister for equality, Martin Foley confirmed.

“This roadshow will see our key agencies in the regions talking to the LGBTI community about what support and services are available" says Foley.

Led by the Victorian commissioner for gender and sexuality, Rowena Allen, the roadshow will focus on addressing problems in areas that LGBTI Victorians experience discrimination, such as education, mental health, aged care, disability, Aboriginal communities and law enforcement.

It will also provide funding for LGBTI education and training for staff within mainstream services.

Micah Scott, the CEO of Minus18, an LGBTI youth charity, welcomes the funding increase, as long as it is used to help existing organisations reach more people.

Minus 18

"We would like to see them go to places that aren't being serviced," Micah says.

"The most important thing is that they're not doubling up and repeating services" that other organisations are already providing, he says.

"Victoria is a big space, so there are large gaps in regions that don't have services, or due to the nature of public transport, accessibility to existing services is pretty low."

Micah hopes the $2.5 million will go towards extending the Safe Schools program (which has been rolled out to all Victorian state schools) to outside school hours and on the weekends.

"There is so much good happening within Victoria, we're a very lucky state, but unfortunately there are some programs that are unfunded or struggling because there is such high demand in LGBTI youth services and we could always do with more money."

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LGBTI people have the highest rate of suicide of any group in Australia, according to statistics from Beyond Blue. The Andrews Government is also pledging $4 million in grants to support LGBTI community leaders who help provide mental health services to young people.

Minus 18

LGBTI people are between three and 14 times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual Australians, one in six young have attempted suicide and one in three have self-harmed.

This funding is in addition to $6.4 million for the expansion of gender dysphoria health services to meet the rapidly growing demand from Victoria’s transgender and gender-diverse population.

"The statistics tell us that young LGBTI people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. This is often driven by fear of discrimination and bullying," Foley says.

Chris Hopkins / Getty Images

The minister for equality says he's determined to give LGBTI young people the support they need to be themselves, and live in a society that respects them for who they are.

“We’re working to remove discrimination against LGBTI people from Victorian

laws and this support will continue to support work to remove it from

society," he says.

The $4 million includes extending funding for Healthy Equal Youth (HEY), a grants program for LGBTI mental health services, by $1.15 million.

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HEY funding is divided into two areas:

Projects get between $10,000 and $40,000 for small projects.

Partners get closer to $195,000 a year and employ two to three staff to provide inclusive practice training and education in schools, community organisations, council, health and law enforcement. They also support queer youth with mentoring, housing, employment and health.

"We definitely don't need the government to come in and takeover," says community worker Damien Stevens.

Shepp Adviser / David Lee / Via sheppadviser.com.au

Community Development Worker at Diversity Project Greater Shepparton, Damien Stevens tells BuzzFeed News he hopes the funding runs for more than a few years.

"The problem happens when you fund a project, the momentum starts, the young people get engaged and then the project's funding gets cut because the government changes, or a politician changes their mind," he says.

"There are very few LGBTI specific organisations that are able to fund or sustain themselves for LGBTI youth funding."

Stevens says the real gap in LGBTI funding is for cultural and linguistically diverse communities.

"We have a lot of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants and its hard to have conversations with multicultural communities because where they're from homosexuality is a crime."

"There's a 20 to 30 year gap in beginning conversations about sexuality and sex let alone homosexuality that needs to be caught up."

"The gap in Shepparton is working harder and more closely with those specific needs in mind."

Last week BuzzFeed News revealed the Victorian government will spend $15 million to create Australia’s first Pride Centre before Premier Daniel Andrews makes a formal apology to the LGBTI community for those convicted under unjust and prejudiced laws against homosexual acts.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

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