May 17, 2021

Celebrating diversity at Northern Health

Today, Northern Health acknowledged IDAHOBIT – International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia – to celebrate the identities and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQA+) people and to stand with them against discrimination and all forms of violence.

Despite great community acceptance and understanding in recent years, Australia’s LGBTIQA+ community experiences depression at between three to five times the rate of the general population. At least 75 per cent of young LGBTIQA+ people experience some form of discrimination and 61 per cent experience verbal abuse.

Here at Northern Health, we want to make that zero per cent. This year’s theme for IDAHOBIT is Together: Resisting, Supporting, and was chosen due to the recent challenges the world has faced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Fenwick, Executive Director People and Culture and Equity Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee Chair, said the theme was a great way to bring everyone together to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness at Northern Health.

“I could not think of a better way to be able to show us being together. I for one am so proud to work for a service that my family and friends feel safe to attend, knowing that we have and will receive excellent clinical care,” she said.

Christine Nicolaidis and Electra Ulrich, Co-chairs of the LGBTIQA+ Working Group, highlighted the importance of the day.

“We know that both staff and consumers of our organisation identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ community and so it’s important, from both a workplace perspective and patient inclusive perspective, that we do create a place that cultural safety is paramount,” Christine said.

“IDAHOBIT Day acknowledges 17 May 1990, when the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality as a mental disorder. This was a huge step in recognition of the queer community and it really wasn’t that long ago. It’s so important to actively create safe spaces because for many people, this wasn’t, and for some still isn’t, a reality in their home, work or community,” Electra said.

Briana Baass, Chief Allied Health Officer and Executive Lead for Transcultural Services and Aboriginal Support Unit said, “I think it is critical we continue to work on not only diversity across all our staff, but how we are inclusive. I think this is another way that we can celebrate our differences and keep working towards more inclusiveness.”

As a member of the LGBTIQA+ community who has been the victim of homophobic slurs, Shiraz Lubke, Director Procurement and Supply, said she didn’t want anyone a part of the LGBTIQA+ community to deal with abuse.

“It is not OK to treat people poorly because of their sexuality or their gender identity,” Shiraz said.

Richard Laufer, Chief Legal Officer, said, “No matter how anyone identifies, IDAHOBIT is about increasing awareness of those in our community and colleagues’ experiences. It plays a role in creating an inclusive workplace, promoting inclusion and ending discrimination.”

Northern Health will be marching at Pride March for the second time on Sunday. The annual event acknowledges and celebrates the LGBTIQA+ community. Whether you identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ community or an ally, the visibility of our health care organisation is an important step in providing inclusive health care to our consumers, staff and community.

The march begins at 11 am on 23 May and will start at Ian Johnson Oval, St Kilda. To take part in the march email

If you are interested in joining the LGBTIQA+ Working Group, please email

Featured image L-R: Andrew Williamson, Executive Director Public Affairs and Foundation; Michelle Fenwick, Executive Director People and Culture; Richard Laufer, Chief Legal Officer; Andrew Gay, Chief Finance Officer; Shiraz Lubke, Director Procurement and Supply and Debra Bourne, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer.

Christine Nicolaidis, Co-chair LGBTIQA+ Working Group, Briana Baass, Chief Allied Health Officer and Electra Ulrich, Co-chair LGBTIQA+ Working Group
Emiliano Zucchi, Director Transcultural and Languages Services, Janelle Williams, Executive Advisor, Jade Relston, Director People and Culture, Karen Bryant, Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Chelsea Simpson, Director of Planning and Jason Cirone, Director People and Culture.