Since 1997, Rainbow Wellington has worked to represent and advocate for the human rights of all LGBTI community members here in New Zealand and overseas, provide networking opportunities for the Wellington LGBTI community and supported other LGBTI community groups.
Rainbow Wellington is a non-profit Association that aims to communicate with and educate the community at large about bisexual, transgender, intersex, lesbian and gay issues by:
1. Promoting a strong and positive sense of community for members of transgender, intersex, lesbian, bisexual and gay communities, in particular but not exclusively for those who are members of Rainbow Wellington, by encouraging social interaction, co-ordinating events of interest to them and celebrating our communities.
2. Offering support and encouragement to members of gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and lesbian communities affected by discrimination and prejudice, and pursuing redress of discriminatory issues by engaging in public debate on such issues with the aim that all those in Rainbow communities enjoy the human rights available to all New Zealand citizens.
3. Providing financial assistance through grants and donations for individuals and groups undertaking specific activities that advance the causes of intersex, transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual identifying persons.
4. Affiliating with and offering support to other organisations pursuing objectives consistent with those of Rainbow Wellington.
5. Rainbow Wellington accepts Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand and recognises Maori as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand.
What We've Achieved
Supporting the Community: Fulfilling our Charity Role
Virtually all Rainbow Wellington’s income is from membership fees and a few fundraising events. Grants and donations are our largest expenditure. Rainbow Wellington continues to make a substantial contribution to the LGBTI Community in the Wellington Region, and regularly supports events such as Out in the Square, the OutTakes Reel Queer Film Festival and Schools Out. Rainbow Wellington has clear criteria for grants and donations. A couple of the highlights over the year are as follows.
This year Rainbow Wellington financially assisted the promotion and marketing of Drag Kings for a number of their events. With a niche audience within our community, it was a struggle for them to find enough money to help promote their events. They came to us and we helped them with a one-off grant.
Body Positive, Candlelight Memorial
In May, Rainbow Wellington contributed a lump-sum payment to assist the Candlelight memorial held at the Te Papa Marae. This was a very well organised and well attended event which featured Michael Kirby who paid respect to those who have passed away from HIV and AIDS.
We sent one of our board members to this event to help educate and expand our priorities in the Takataapui sector. Takataapui is an area in which Rainbow Wellington has not had much involvement. Over the last two years, however, we’ve been trying to be more inclusive of both our Maori and Pasifika members. Having two Board members who identify as Takataapui has been helpful in developing this work for Rainbow Wellington.
We also supported
· Schools Out;
· Out in the Square;
· Board members:
Rawa for the flight costs to Sydney to liaise with Sydney’s Marriage Equality committee and other glbti organisations,
Merv for attendance at Takataapui hui;
· Much, much more.
Local Campaigns and Issues:
Local campaigns and issues is one of the core activities that we do throughout the year. Over the years, Rainbow Wellington has developed a voice of authority especially in the areas of political advocacy and representation. Rainbow Wellington is often asked for comment and actively participates in the wider conversations that impact on the LGBTI Community. We are proud of the work that we have achieved with the very little human and other resource at our disposal. There is always a lot to do and we’d welcome more people to help.
In New Zealand, as in many (though not all) western countries, there is a blanket ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) donating blood. This dates back to the 1980s, when AIDS appeared on the scene, and was initially seen as the only way to safeguard the blood supplies. As science progressed, and blood tests became more and more accurate, this position was softened somewhat, from a lifetime ban to the current ban of one year since last sexual contact. However, it is still a blanket ban, based on group identity rather than individual risk assessment.
RW has campaigned now for several years to move towards individual risk assessment, arguing that the current policy discriminates on the grounds of sexual orientation. We first got involved when the NZ Blood Service asked for comments on the proposed reduction of the ban from 10 years to 5. At that time, one member volunteered himself as an individual case which could then go before the Human Rights Commission. The process was commenced, but not taken further. At the time we met with much support within our communities for our stand, but also some opposition from those who wished to support the status quo.
Last year, we again responded to consultation to reduce the exclusion period from 5 years to one year.
We were the only group in Wellington to meet with the advisory committee, whose arguments we found increasingly unconvincing and at times, bizarrely illogical. Developments in other countries, including strong support for our position from politicians and groups such as the American Medical Association, have meant that we have met with little opposition within our communities. But there is little other organised support in NZ (though we know of many aggrieved individuals) for our continuing campaign, despite what we see as the increasing weakness of the official line. Unlike in the UK, here in NZ there is no political support for progress.
We are therefore considering how to take this campaign forward. Contacting NZAF and Body Positive to test their current positions, continuing with our complaint to the Human Rights Commission and contacting PhD students and practitioners/researchers who have an interest in looking at the scientific implications of our proposals might be options.
Since the Human Rights Commission report To be Who I Am was published in 2007, we have been campaigning for the implementation of its recommendations. We have mostly concentrated on those reforms requiring legislative change; they relate in particular to birth certificates, citizenship, and discrimination under the Human Rights Act. We have met with and written to a number of Government Ministers over the years about these issues. Although there has been considerable success in a number of areas involving administrative change, legislative change has been more difficult to achieve.
It recently became clear that, as far as the trans* community is concerned, the HRC report is being overtaken by events, and that simply concentrating on its recommendations is probably no longer the best way forward. We have been in discussion with Green MP Jan Logie, who has pointed in particular to a recent Maltese Bill which appears to cover all the main legislative issues relating to trans* rights, and could serve as a useful template for reform here. We are supporting Jan’s attempt to build up a cross-party support group in Parliament in this issue.
Member Alex Kondou, a member of our trans* community, has assisted us by updating and increasing our knowledge and awareness of trans* issues in special seminars for Board members.
Homophobic bullying in schools
Opposing homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools has been another long-term issue for us. We have supported group such as Schools Out in their endeavours, leaving direct action by RW again mostly to writing to Government Ministers from time to time.
We have supported and publicised the two reports by Murray Riches, produced by the Green Party, on queer youth, and in particular his recent report How Safe Are Our Schools? which sets out the widely differing practices and policies on such bullying across our education sector and the INADEQUATE response of the Education Review Office to this state of affairs.
We are awaiting advice on the best way to proceed. Again, RW is doing all we can to encourage cross-party support for action within Parliament on this issue, mostly through our Vice-Patrons, who now include representatives all the main Parliamentary parties.
NZ Bill of Rights
The Constitution Conversation, set up by the Government from a previous Parliament to look at a wide range of issues, gave us the opportunity to push for a strengthening of the NZ Bill of Rights Act and the related Human Rights Act.
The CC report largely supported our views about the need for change and the type of change. There is a little support for such a move within the current Government but growing support elsewhere, to which we will continue to contribute as and when we can.