George loves the freedom of expressing his identity as he sees himself: Man, Girl, Gay.
Image: George with a birthday cake on the left. Wear it purple day logo on the right.
They are three powerful words to him because they empower George to be who he is. Collin, who is one of George's Disability Support Workers, couldn't be happier.
"George can be the exact person he is because he is supported in a way that allows him to do that – it is so gratifying to see."
Collin joined Life Without Barriers four years ago and says at no time has his sexual orientation as an openly gay man ever been questioned within the organisation.
"It has never crossed my mind to feel any different to anyone I work with or support; you can be yourself, it's a safe and comfortable workplace".
It's why when Collin heard about George, who has an intellectual disability, he recognised that George might need to be supported to stay safe in some environments.
"George is a fabulous and flamboyant, and I wanted to make sure he is supported and has access to the right activities to express himself safely and without judgment. He is also of Torres Strait Islander heritage. His priority goals are the connection to culture and safe relationships, which have been the most important focus for him."
So is remembering to have fun in the everyday moments. On the day of our interview, George and Collin have just returned from the annual Cairns Show, where George is re-creating his exuberance at the rides they took in the form of a joyful squeal. Both Collin and George are enjoying the moment, followed by loud peals of laughter.
When George is asked “What is the best thing about working with Collin?” He answers simply 'gay' and they break out in laughter. The rapport and goodwill are infectious and allows George personal freedom in a world, which Collin points out, is not always as accepting.
Image: Collin and George
"The support we provide George at Life Without Barriers provides him with safety in the community. Our team works hard to understand him to provide the right support and to step in and intervene, to keep him safe when we need to."
Collin says the inclusive approach comes from how the organisation works, from office to floor level to regular family visits.
"To work in this field, you've got to have an element of open-mindedness. It means you get a more open workforce than say in a different industry."
Collin says this approach can make a world of difference, which ultimately allows everyone in the workplace to aspire to a higher level of comfort and safety.
"It's because we've got it right. At Life Without Barriers, we work fantastically at all levels. We evolve every year, we are learning and changing, and it just gets better and better, with more positive outcomes for the people we support."
We share this story today in honour of Wear it Purple Day which takes place on August 27.
Wear it Purple Day is an international annual movement dedicated to promoting the expression of support and acceptance to rainbow young people. Its central message remains the same: Everybody has the right to be proud of who they are.
The theme for 2021 is: Start the conversation. Keep it going. The words we use to talk about LGBQTIA+ people can have a powerful impact on our conversations. The right words can help open people’s hearts and minds.
Image: Wear it purple banner
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