The LGBTI Health Alliance is in a fight for its life, and may be forced to downsize, or even close.
As the Turnbull government, continuing the work begun under Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, continues to look for savings wherever it can, all manner of community organisations, including LGBTI ones, are losing funding. The experience of the LGBTI Health Alliance is typical of that suffered by community bodies across many sectors, including Women, Aboriginal, Mental Health, and Social Services.
A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed that the Alliance has lost its core funding. Kay McNiece, Media Adviser at the Department of Health, told me at 2pm today:
“the funding from the programme they applied for is not for service delivery, but funding for their organisations administration and advice to the public on priority health matters.
“Like many organisations, they participated in an open transparent process, and were unsuccessful when measured against other applications.”
The total fund for such applications was $30m: in total $150m was applied for by a huge number of bodies. Inevitably, many, including the Alliance, lost out.
According to Executive Director Rebecca Reynolds, who has spent today in Canberra:
“we are presently talking to the health department about our Secretariat (peak health and advisory body) funding and while this is happening we are not in a position to make statements.
We do know that we have ensured that the health knows of the breadth of our work and its importance to our communities but can’t say more at this stage.”
These dramatic but hidden cuts are happening across the board: the government is refusing to fund almost everyone’s operational costs, reasoning that this cost should fall on the community which an organisation serves. They will only pay for services delivered.
This could mark the beginning of the end of the much derided gravy train known as “Gay Inc.”: those who make their careers in government funded LGBTI “peak bodies.”
There were hints that the failure of this particular Alliance bid might have been due to the quality of the application, but a source familiar with the applications process pointed out that if, say, a Labor government were in power, and a poor quality application had been submitted, assistance would have given to fix it up, leading ultimately to success. Under the new ‘competitive’ Liberal regime, however, no such assistance is offered.
The rest of Alliance funding – as for most government supported community organisations – is for specific projects, each usually for a period of only 2 or 3 years. The funding for a large number of such projects, begun in the Gillard years, ends in June. If funding is not renewed, or other funding applications are unsuccessful, the Alliance will, at the very least, need to shrink considerably.
As I said, crunch time will come at the end of June, when the majority of government funding decisions are announced.
The government is forcing entities which would normally be on the same side, to go into combat with one another for whatever crumbs are on offer. The Alliance – along with other community organisations – is in a tough fight, competing not only with other LGBTI entities, such as the AIDS Councils and their successors, but also large mainstream bodies in mental health, social services and allied fields, including, it should be noted, religious organisations
The Alliance currently occupies space in the offices of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, which has itself suffered significant cuts – as much as half, according to some sources – leading to speculation that AFAO might be forced to evict the Alliance and move to smaller premises.
But AFAO Executive Director Rob Lake insists the office will not close, and the Alliance will not lose its base. AFAO had been instrumental in setting up the Alliance, he said, and remained committed to its survival. He added “there are definitely big considerations regarding funding post 30 June for AFAO, AIVL, NAPWHA and ANA (National Aboriginal HIV Org).”
LGBTGI Alliance Board Chair Susan Ditter said:
“The Alliance staff and Board members continue to work collaboratively on our strategic plan and projects into the future and feel optimistic about our work into the future. I look forward to communications with you when our Strategic Plan goes to our stakeholders.”
Check back for another report tomorrow, including more from Rob Lake about AFAO, and Rebecca Reynolds latest from the Alliance.
And tune in to Joy 94.9 at noon tomorrow for more with me and Dean Beck “On The Line”. That’s noon Thursday 28th 2016 on 94.9FM, or Listen Live via the Joy app or website