Creating a community for all parents
24 January 2022 at 5:14 pm
As the executive director of Rainbow Families, Ashley Scott is on a mission to create connections within the LGBTQ+ community. He’s this week’s Changemaker.
When Ashley Scott founded the queer parent support charity, Rainbow Families, seven years ago, support, resources and education for queer parents was practically non-existent.
While separate Gay Dads and Lesbian Mums groups already existed in Sydney, Scott saw an opportunity to create a stronger community base for LGBTQ+ parents in New South Wales to exist under the one umbrella.
Today, Rainbow Families is the peak organisation supporting LGBTQ+ parents and their children. It works to reduce discrimination and disadvantage faced by children of LGBTQ+ parents. As well as this, it acts as a support network for parents and carers, as well as future parents and carers.
In the past few years, the charity has played an important role in legalising same-sex marriage, as well as fighting the ongoing Religious Discrimination Bill.
In this week’s Changemaker, Scott discusses his path to becoming a leader, what inspires him and gives his advice for future leaders.
What led you to starting Rainbow Families?
So my husband and I have two children, and when my eldest was born, I joined Gay Dads, which was a social group run on Facebook. And then at the same time as the Gay Dads were meeting, there was also a group, Lesbian Mums, [which] used to meet up as well. So fast forward seven years, and a few of us from Gay Dads and a few of the people from Lesbian Mums got together and thought we could be stronger if we created an organisation that supported our community. We thought we could do more if we worked together.
What kind of difference has Rainbow Families made to the lives of LGBTQ+ families?
It’s had a huge impact on our community and LGBTQ+ parents around the country. When we started Rainbow Families, there was literally no support for queer parents. There were no resources, there were no classes designed specifically for LGBTQ+ parents. So we set about looking at what the biggest needs were in the community. The first thing we put together was a guidebook for new parents, which is essentially a series of case studies and examples of how other families have dealt with different situations. There’s a lot of diversity at Rainbow Families, so we realise that we don’t have all the answers, and that no one way is going to be right for everyone. And so with all of our resources we focus on case studies highlighting different ways different families might tackle things like Mother’s Day at school if you’re a two Mum family or enrolment forms that are not inclusive with your family. One of the biggest impacts I think, is the education classes that we put together.
So we run an antenatal class in partnership with Sydney Local Health District, and it’s Australia’s first LGBTQ+ inclusive parent education class. We have people from all across the country come along to that at the moment via Zoom because of COVID.
The other important aspect of our organisation is community connection. We love bringing people together, we love throwing a party and the community connection is a huge part of the work that we do. There’s a lot of isolation for new parents, and there’s also a lot of isolation for LGBTQ+ people, and when you combine those two, it’s an isolating time for new LGBTQ+ parents. We run playgroups and weekend catch ups around NSW, as well as large events that we run throughout the year where we see between 500 and 6,000 people come along.
As the executive director of Rainbow Families, what are some of the things that inform and inspire your leadership?
The community inspires the work that we do at Rainbow Families. We recently had our first big event in about a year, and it was so inspiring to see the families come out and be with their community. To see people reconnect after so long was really special. And for the kids to see other diverse families, to see that there’s not just two Mum families, it’s not just two Dad families, the diversity in our community is so huge, and seeing people embrace that is quite inspiring to me.
In the past few years the LGBTQ community has battled the same-sex marriage bill, and more recently the Religious Discrimination Bill. How do you manage these attacks on your own human rights, but also manage to support your broader community in the job that you do as well?
Self-advocacy is something that queer people have to do quite a lot. And queer parents have to do a lot more because we’re out there advocating for our children, explaining our families, asking for forms to be inclusive and for people not to discriminate. And although self- advocacy is very important, it’s exhausting. After the same-sex marriage postal survey, a lot of people were burnt out. So that’s where Rainbow Families steps in and we advocate on behalf of our community.
In regard to the Religious Discrimination Bill at the moment, we did a community consultation and heard from our community about the impacts of this bill and then put together submissions into the two parliamentary inquiries which are happening at the moment. So we see our role as advocating on behalf of our community so that they don’t have to do as much self-advocacy.
And what advice do you have for a young person wanting to make a change in their community?
My advice would be to find something that you are passionate about, something that impacts your friends or family, and go and get involved with an organisation that is doing good work in that space. And if, like in my experience, there isn’t an organisation doing work in that space, find like-minded people that want to do good and have a dream and have a vision and build something because if it’s not there and you want it, there’ll be thousands of other people that want it as well. It’s just finding other people with that passion and vision, and working with them to create something to support other people in your community.
And do you have any book or movie recommendations for our readers?
In terms of books, I’ve been reading a book called Loud and Proud. It’s a collection of speeches from LGBTQ people that empower and inspire across history. It starts with a speech from 1825 and it goes chronologically from there. It’s really interesting to read excerpts of speeches and just look at the issues that people were fighting for over history and then be inspired by that passion and the people that have gone before us. I see part of my job, and part of what I would like to do with my life, being to continue the work that they started and make the world a better place for the next generation of people.