Image: Councillor for Moreland Jess Dorney, Dr Clare Headland and Aleisha Leonard smiling and waving the rainbow flag.
On Friday 17 May, Moreland City Council held a Rainbow Flag Raising Ceremony in front of Coburg Town Hall to recognise International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) showing the Council’s commitment to reducing the barriers faced by LGBTQIA+ communities.
Aleisha Leonard, Health and Wellness Coordinator at Brunswick Baths, spoke at the event on behalf of Active Moreland about the importance of inclusive events and programs within leisure facilities.
Safety is a major concern for the LGQBTQIA+ community when accessing public recreation centres. This creates additional barriers and can lead to poor mental and physical health, which is concerning considering people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are four times more likely to experience a form of mental illness.
In her speech Aleisha explained that physical activity not only improves physical health, but has positive outcomes for mental health and increases social connectedness. It is for this reason that inclusive programming is so vital for the LGBTQIA+ communtiy – to reassure them that they have a right to utilise these spaces and are celebrated and accepted, not just tolerated.
At Brunswick Baths, Aleisha is the driving force behind the centre’s Gym and Swim events and Q-Fit, which is a group training program that educates and empowers people to participate in strength training in a supportive space.
“We held our first Gym and Swim event on a cool dark Saturday night in September 2018, and we had 210 people enjoy our facility in a safe environment,” said Aleisha.
“Then at our second event in February 2019, we saw over 370 people participate in a multitude of fun and engaging activities… And recently we kicked off our third, six-week Q-Fit strength program.”
To ensure that the team at Brunswick Baths got their inclusive events and programming right, they invested in training for their staff from Transgender Victoria and engaged with people from the LGBTQIA+ community to receive insight that helped inform the centre’s systems, forms and language.
But Aleisha acknowledged that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“We have to be vocal, because there is still inequality. As a community we need to continue improving our language, systems and signage, and begin embedding inclusive practices into our workplace culture,” said Aleisha.
Brunswick Baths will continue to advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community by running regular Gym and Swim events, providing inclusion and diversity training to staff and exploring new inclusive class and program options such as Q-Fit yoga.
Aleisha ended her speech at the flag raising ceremony by thanking Moreland City Council.
“As a gay woman, this event is a fantastic show of support. We don’t have a council who sticks their head in the sand, we have a council who are shouting from the rooftop that they celebrate diversity,” said Aleisha.
“I feel empowered to continue pushing for equality in Moreland where I live and work, because they believe in me and accept me.”