Queer support for 25 years
WHEN a small group of people got together 25 years ago, they had no idea the huge impact it would have on generations to come.
Rainbow Youth, the Newton-based charity which supports queer and trans* young people, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a reunion of past and present members on November 19.
Former co-ordinator Josh Preston says the youth-run organisation has come a long way since he was involved in the mid-90s.
‘‘It definitely felt like it was a bit cutting edge,’’ Preston says.
‘‘It wasn’t so long past law reform and it really felt like we were making a big difference going into high schools and changing perceptions.
‘‘I think things were a lot more homophobic than they are today.’’
The reunion is well overdue, he says.
‘‘It’s amazing that feeling of being able to give something back and for anyone who was around 20-odd years ago to see how far it’s come and to know that it’s a good, genuine organisation is a great thing.’’
Rainbow Youth started out life as the group Auckland Lesbian and Gay Youth (ALGY) in 1989, which was formed to provide support for queer youth through social gatherings and events.
It also started an education programme running workshops in schools.
ALGY became an incorporated society in 1995 and was renamed Rainbow Youth.
It received a huge funding and publicity boost when television favourite, Tamati Coffey, selected Rainbow Youth as his chosen charity during Dancing With The Stars in 2009.
It provides a drop-in centre on Karangahape Rd for youth to meet staff and access information, runs peer support groups and partners with schools to provide resources and information on sexuality and gender identity.
General manager Duncan Matthews thinks the secret to the organisations success is that it is run by youth, for youth.
‘‘Because Rainbow Youth is youth-run and youth-led, it can be dismissed a little bit,’’ he says.
‘‘The reunion is a chance to stand up and say we’ve been running in this model for 25 years and have achieved a lot in that time.’’
Matthews says the char- ity’s main vision is the acceptance of sexuality and gender identity in New Zealand.
‘‘The strategic goal around that is to make this kind of support available to all young people across New Zealand and with a lot of the groups and the information that is available online, that has increased within the past two years.’’
The charity is now focusing on reaching out to youth in places like the West Coast of the South Island.
Celebrating achievements: Rainbow Youth general manager Duncan Matthews.