Albany Pride uses Australia Post Grant to connect LGBTIQA+ community in regional WA

It can be hard to strike up new friendships in adulthood. More so if you live in regional Australia and identify outside the majority. So when Albany Pride received a grant from Australia Post, it used it to build social connections across and beyond its local community.

Albany, a port city at the southern tip of Western Australia, held its first Pride Festival in 2016. From then on, there was no looking back.

The organiser of the now annual festival is Albany Pride, a local organisation that was set up in 2011 by a group of youth working in the mental health space.

Their mission was simple–to connect the LGBTIQA+ community and their families in Albany through peer networking and support. From those humble beginnings, Albany Pride grew into an inclusive and safe space for all LGBTIQA+ people in the region.

“Queer people in rural communities face several boundaries that aren’t usually faced by their straight peers or by LGBTIQA+ people in metropolitan areas,” said Albany Pride’s president, Annie Arnold.

“This puts them at an increased risk of isolation or being ‘in the closet’, which then magnifies the associated mental and physical health and wellbeing risks.”,

Albany Pride’s monthly social events soon revealed what its founders long suspected. The LGBTIQA+ community deeply needed events that brought them together and fostered connections. 

Supporting the local LGBTQIA+ community

In 2022, Jay Thompson, the Postal Manager of Kalamunda Post Office, met the Albany Pride team at the festival. A year later, he nominated the organisation for a People of Post Grant.

“Having grown up in a regional community, I understand how important LGBTQIA+ representation is. Not just for the youth community but also for those that may still be finding themselves and our allies,” said Jay.

“If a group like Albany Pride was around when I was growing up, it would have helped me understand myself sooner and feel connected to my community and history.”

In May 2023, Albany Pride received word that they were among 438 community organisations to be awarded a grant of up to $1,000.

“We were thrilled, and so touched that someone outside our organisation recognised the value of what we do and extended that support,” said Albany Pride Volunteer Coordinator, Hannah Halls.

“I also love Jay’s motivation for nominating us. When you live in a smaller city, there are fewer opportunities to see yourself reflected in the world around you if your identity is outside the majority. This can have a really strong impact on lived experience, mental health and ultimately life-long outcomes.”

“Many of us at Albany Pride have experienced the benefits of community solidarity and we pour that energy back into our own community.”

A weekend of connection and inclusion

Albany Pride used the grant to host a Speed Friendship event as part of its inaugural Very Social Long Weekend festival in September.

The event aimed to promote friendships within the local LGBTQIA+ community and encourage local community members to enjoy a fun day of conversation and connection.

“I’m always keeping an eye out for social events are happening in bigger cities that offer vibrant social value,” said Hannah. “These are the inspiration for so many of our events.”

“I’ve been aware of Perth Gay Social Club and their Speed Mates events for a while now and felt it would be really fun and valuable event in our community too.”

Albany Pride partnered with the Perth Gay Social Club to run all four events during the festival – Speed Friendship, an Amazing Race, a Murder Mystery Party and a Twilight Harbour Cruise.

“The Australia Post grant allowed us to bring the Perth Gay Social Club to Albany and also reduce the ticket price for each event,” said Hannah. “We got over 100 participants across the four events that weekend who gave us some really positive feedback.”

“The festival created such strong social connections and I’m hoping that the success of this first one means we’re able to make it an annual event.” 

Connecting local communities

Australia Post is delivering the goods for local communities with grants to support mental wellbeing. Because when we connect, we feel better.