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    FROM LITTLE THINGS, BIG THINGS GROW: Wimmera Pride Project co-founders Maddi Ostapiw and Loucas Vettos, pictured at an event in 2017, believe a move to become independent is a ‘natural progression’ for the advocacy group. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Independent move strengthens future


Leaders of an advocacy group representing LGBTIQ people in the Wimmera say a move to become independent has given the organisation greater autonomy and direction.

Wimmera Pride Project’s executive team believes a move into a new era of governance as an incorporated body has allowed the group to work closer towards its vision of creating inclusive communities for all people in the region.

Community organisations Uniting Wimmera and later Centre for Participation were responsible for managing the project’s budget before the move.

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Pride project communications manager Maddi Ostapiw said becoming independent was a ‘natural progression’.

“It’s incredibly important in terms of our sustainability and longevity and our future planning to be an incorporated body rather than operating under an auspice agency,” they said.

“We are a queer group, and a lot of the time queer identity and politics don’t necessarily align with mainstream organisations.

“We’re incredibly thankful for those who have supported us in the past – we wouldn’t be where we are today without the initial support, particularly from Uniting, because they really helped us set up in a professional manner.

“But this is just the next step to becoming an organisation with our own identity and goals.”

They said the group would continue running events such as monthly Queer Beer gatherings and develop more projects aimed at connecting LGBTIQ people.

“We have some awesome plans for the next couple of years,” they said.

“We’re really trying to ramp up our events capacity and cannot wait for our major pride night event in June.”

Ms Ostapiw, who also co-founded the pride project, said she was excited about what becoming independent meant for the group’s future.

They and Horsham’s Loucas Vettos helped form the group in 2015 with the aim of educating people about issues facing the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community.

The group has since grown to include an executive team consisting of a chair, secretary, treasurer, vice-chair, media and communications manager and several volunteers.

“It’s been a fantastic experience in terms of building an organisation from the grass roots,” Ms Ostapiw said.

“The pride project is a totally different beast than what we first imagined. It’s been amazing having so many committed community members put their hopes and dreams into the project.”

Ms Ostapiw said it was crucial the Wimmera had an organisation that could represent the rights and wellbeing of the LGBTIQ community.

“We wanted to try to make the Wimmera a place where people didn’t just have to survive until they were old enough to leave,” they said.

“We wanted to make it a place that was welcoming and had a strong rainbow community with the ability to create family out of those who were already living here.

“It’s so important that we can continue to offer services to local rainbow people.”

Sense of connection

Committee member Patrick Quaine said the group had provided him and his partner with a sense of connection on moving to the region in 2017.

“This has been hugely important for me. When I moved out here, I didn’t know anyone and I wasn’t sure how the community would react to an openly gay couple,” he said.

“When I moved here, I reached out to Maddi to see if I could help and that enabled me to make some very important community connections and made me feel welcome in the community.”


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