The region’s LGBTI youth will celebrate themselves in a safe space at the Rainbow Ball on September 28 at Ulumbarra Theatre.
Bendigo police’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers met with youth and other community groups to plan the ball earlier this week.
Sergeant Greg Gentry said the event is taking shape.
“The youth have very much taken a bit of control. We envisaged something like the formal Ball in the Mall but they've said it's not really what they want and come up with another format,” he said.
“It's not going to be a formal ball, it's more of a celebration of youth and a community. The focus is on the kids aged between 16 and 25.”
Ideas presented by the youth representatives included have an open mic aspect to the event ahead of a Welcome to Country and DJ.
“They wanted a chance to show themselves as they want to be perceived and have some fun,” Sergeant Gentry said.
“They also wanted to have a Welcome to Country, which is a great initiative from the youth. That they wanted to do it (themselves) was great.
“It will be a completely dry event with no alcohol and no drugs. The idea is that it's an event that is a safe space for them to express themselves and be what they want to be.”
It's an event that is a safe space for (youth) to express themselves and be what they want to be.Sergeant Greg Gentry
The idea for the Rainbow Ball was developed by MarShere Dance Studios.
“The dance studios have a involvement with Bendigo police for Ball in the Mall,” Sergeant Gentry said.
“They said ‘how about this for an idea?’ and the GLLO officers and community engagement officers said it was a great idea. Between them and us we got the ball rolling and all these other community groups and organisations have got on board.
headspace, the City of Greater Bendigo, La Trobe University, the Victorian Aids Council and other groups have joined the planning process.
Sergeant Gentry said balls are traditionally a very gender biased event.
“(This) an opportunity for kids who are watching schoolmates do formal balls but won't do it (themselves) because it’s not in their comfort zone, they can’t do it with the person of their choice or in the dress of their choice,” he said. “These kids don't want to be the only kids at the ball to have a same-sex partner and this is an opportunity for them to do that in a non-judgemental, safe space.”
Victoria Police also released a report on Thursday highlighting police and young LGBTI people’s perceptions of each other.
Survey results showed a majority of police have a good knowledge of appropriate language when speaking about LGBTI issues and the specific needs of LGBTI people but that there was a clear opportunity identified for greater training to officers on LGBTI issues.
Fifty-eight per cent of the young LGBTI people surveyed said they did not believe police understand young LGBTI people’s issues.
The report made recommendations to Victoria Police under four key themes –leadership, capacity building, Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, and reporting processes.
Recommendations including providing a more visible police presence at young LGBTI people’s events; increasing training on LGBTI issues for recruits, current officers and senior police; promoting the role of Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers to increase awareness in LGBTI communities; and considering recruitment strategies to increase LGBTI diversity within Victoria Police.