New gender and sexuality commissioner to fight LGBTI discrimination

Date

Benjamin Preiss

Rowena Allen was the founding CEO of welfare group UnitingCare Cutting Edge and established the state's first rural ...

Rowena Allen was the founding CEO of welfare group UnitingCare Cutting Edge and established the state's first rural support group for young LGBTI people. Photo: Paul Harris PRH

Helping transgender people keep jobs will be a top priority for Victoria's first gender and sexuality commissioner.

The state government has announced Rowena Allen's appointment to "champion the rights" of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Victorians.

Only 5 per cent of transgender people kept their jobs after changing gender, Ms Allen said. "I'm looking forward to increasing that number," she said, adding that she planned to work with company boards to create workplace policies and cultures to help transgender people retain their jobs.

Ms Allen said she expected the profile of her new position would encourage more people to come forward with complaints of discrimination, and that she would work with the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission when complaints were made.

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"Many Victorians would be unaware that LGBTI Victorians experience discrimination every day in schools, workplaces, health settings and the broader community." She said she hoped to see more schools join the Safer Schools Coalition, which worked to reduce homophobia and transphobia.

Ms Allen also chairs the Adult, Community and Further Education board and has been a member of three state government LGBTI ministerial advisory groups. She grew up in Glen Waverley but moved to Shepparton when she was 20 years old. She now lives in Violet Town with her family.

In May the state government announced it would commit $3.2 million to establish Australia's first equality portfolio within cabinet.

The government said the gender and sexuality commissioner would promote the rights of LGBTI people and inclusive practices in government and society.

Equality Minister Martin Foley said Ms Allen's appointment to the role was a "first for Australia".

He said LGBTI communities were still "particularly discriminated against".