Every family is different, and although some parenting experiences are shared by all of us (hello toilet-training!), other aspects of child-raising bring individual challenges and opportunities.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ families, a non-binary parent might need milk-feeding support, two mums may be on the look-out for an inclusive playgroup, or two dads could be seeking meaningful ways to celebrate Mother’s Day, and the great news is that Rainbow Families is on hand to help.
Rainbow Families is the peak organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer parents and their kids, and this charity provides practical programs and resources, underpinned by a real sense of community.
Today, Executive Officer, Ashley Scott explains how his organisation shares the love with LGBTQ+ families.
How did Rainbow Families first come about, Ashley, and what achievements are you most proud of so far?
Like many grassroots organisations, Rainbow Families started with a humble kitchen meeting, wine and pizza, and lots of passionate parents!
Of course, LGBTQ+ people have been parents for ages, but in recent years there’s been an increase in the opportunities available to us to have a family. Some of this has been due to increased access to clinics, changes in adoption laws, support for fostering, and having more parent role models in our community.
There have been lots of parent social groups, but despite the growth in our community, Australia didn’t have a strong, professional community organisation.
A group of parents wanted to better support the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, and it became clear that the best way forward was to band together.
In 2016, the committee incorporated to become Rainbow Families, and since then, we’ve continued supporting, and being a voice for, LGBTQ+ parents and families.
Some of the successes that we’ve fronted, or played a significant part in, include:
- Creating the Love Makes a Family report about issues our community faces when accessing NSW State Government services
- Facilitating Australia’s only LGBTQ+ playgroups
- Successfully advocating for changes to passport applications to be more inclusive of same-sex parents
- Being part of the winning Marriage Equality campaign
- Consulting with the NSW Government to make the NSW Blue Book more inclusive of LGBTQ+ families
- Developing a range of resources and educational groups for parents; and
- Establishing a children’s resilience program.
I am most proud of the development of Australia’s first LGBTQ+ antenatal class which is now run in partnership with Sydney Local Health District and is a quarterly class that’s perfect for expectant parents.
This LGTBQ+ focused, inclusive, parenting education class is a lovely introduction to the Rainbow Families community for expectant parents.
Rainbow Families offers support to LGBTQ+ parents all the way through their parenting journey. How do families move through your programs as their children arrive and grow?
Parents start with our Making Rainbow Families seminar which is for expectant parents who are wanting to know more about the pathways to parenthood.
Our resilience camp is run annually and is designed for families with primary school aged children to come together for a weekend of community building and resilience workshops.
We run parenting workshops throughout the year to support families as their children grow up.
We also host weekend catch-ups in different areas for people to connect with other diverse families in their local area. These are a great way to build community and connection with families who live nearby, and for parents to share tips and their experience in a safe, inclusive environment.
Being a parent isn’t always easy or intuitive. What are your most popular and helpful resources for LGBTQ+ parents?
Our School Support Guide is a great resource for parents to download from our website. It’s helpful for people as they look into early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and schools. It has tips on what to look out for in an inclusive centre and how to manage Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Our Trans and Gender Diverse Parents Guide is a wonderful collection of stories and experiences from trans and gender diverse parents and their families. It is an amazing resource for anyone who is exploring their gender, or whose partner is transitioning.
What are some key ways that early childhood educators, teachers and fellow parents can support LGBTQ+ families?
There are many opportunities for educators and parents to talk with children about family diversity and explain that not all families have a mum and a dad.
There are lots of excellent books that feature diverse families, and these are a great tool for starting discussions about different family dynamics.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be tricky for any child who doesn’t have a mum and a dad. Diverse families celebrate these days differently, so having conversations with families about how they would like their child to prepare for and celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is one of the best ways early childhood educators can support LGBTQ+ parents and their children.
Ensuring that all administrative forms are inclusive of diverse families is a simple change that ECEC services can make to ensure families are not having to cross out ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ on forms. This can extend to having space for four parents, so families that co-parent can easily note down all the child’s parents.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diverse families. The best way to find out how to support a LGBTQ+ family you know, is to talk to them.
In a respectful way, and at an appropriate time, ask questions to find out more about their family and what you can do to make them feel accepted and celebrated.
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is running from 18 February to 6 March in 2022. How can families celebrate this fantastic festival?
Families will be marching again this year – on Saturday, 5 March at the Sydney Cricket Ground – and we can’t wait to celebrate Mardi Gras with our community.
There will also be a family viewing area in the stands of the SCG this year for families who don’t want to march, but still want to be part of the action.
Mardi Gras is an opportunity for all families and early learning centres to talk with children about family diversity.
At Rainbow Families we say that, ‘Love makes a family,’ and everyone can relate to that!