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Queer youth support project loses funding in government cuts

Sep 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Diversity, Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

Curious textA NEW Zealand-wide queer youth development project has been forced to close after losing $150,000 in government funding.

But OUT THERE! supporters say they have no intention of going quietly.

“I would like to think it will inspire young people to go ‘right, this isn’t good enough. Something has to change’,” says a former employee of the programme.

OUT THERE! was set up in 2004 by gay support organisations, with its main source of financial support the Department of Internal Affairs.

The department’s youth development scheme has been changed into one big community development scheme, which means the funding is no longer youth specific and now goes to geographic communities, rather than national programmes like OUT THERE!

Funding for queer youth has not completely disappeared, with Minister of Youth Development Paula Bennett granting $20,000 to Curious Online, a new website that starts in October and will help queer youth meet and support each other online.

A number of welfare and support organisations have faced funding cuts this year, but most have not been as open about their situation as OUT THERE! which reported its loss of funding on Gaynz.com.

Laressa Donaldson – who finished as a queer youth development worker at OUT THERE! in late July – said it was important the queer community knew about their funding situation.

“We have very strong connections to the queer community,” said Ms Donaldson, who now works at Family Planning as a health promoter teaching sexuality education in schools.

“There was no way we weren’t going to keep them informed on what was happening. People need to know. They have the right to know. This isn’t happening any more, so what are we going to do?”

She was concerned that fewer queer and diversity groups would be set up, because they no longer had the kind of infra-structure to do that as easily.

“I think it must be really hard for young people to see that it’s not going to be there any more.”

However, queer youth were determined not to give up on OUT THERE!,

“If you want to see a group of young people that move faster, are more revolutionary, more interesting, more intelligent and more creative, go look at queer youth, ‘coz they’ll show you where it’s at.”

Labour youth development spokesperson Jacinda Arden said other groups had so far been quiet about cuts because they had “unfounded hopes” they could get their funding back in the future.

She said most of the funding cuts were indirect, such as changes in funding methods, but they still had significant impact on the organisations involved.

“Some youth health centres are being forced into a different funding regime, which means some are facing cuts and potential closure.

“There have also been cuts to things like adult and community education, which indirectly was how many of the Youth Line counsellors were trained,” she said.

She had seen the OUT THERE! Youth ’07 Same and Both Sex Attracted Youth profile and believed queer youth groups needed funding because they were particularly at risk.

Laressa Donaldson said funding for queer youth projects and groups was less at risk locally than on a national level, because local funding was about having contacts with local government and in the queer community.

OUT THERE! had finished most of its current work, and its responsibilities had been handed over to Rainbow Youth, which had just received extra funding from TVNZ’s Dancing With The Stars.

One of OUT THERE!’s biggest projects was arranging events like the KAHA Queer Youth Hui, which brought youth from around New Zealand to Wellington last January.

The second Asia/Pacific Outgames will be held in Wellington in 2011 and will include a youth hui and more than eight different sports.

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is a Whitireia Journalism graduate who loves writing, computers, cooking reading and creating controversy, something she did frequently during her time at Whitireia.
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  1. It’s gutting to imagine organisations like OUT THERE! disappearing. I’m sure local community groups will really struggle without the leadership of national bodies. Who else is going to step up and fund these organisations? Great work Tory- this stuff really needs more media attention.

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