Queer support for 25 years

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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.

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Cel­e­brat­ing achieve­ments: Rainbow Youth gen­eral man­ager Dun­can Matthews.

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