CAMP CAMP

Last month’s Awesome Winner (and our first winner for 2017!) went to a team from MIFSA who are preparing a totally awesome camp for LGBTIQ Young People in South Australia next month.

Rose, from MIFSA’s LGBTIQ Project, who submitted the application to Awesome for a grant to support the camp project, has been working for over 2 years to create safe spaces for young LGBTIQ people including Drop-in services and supported special events like the Same Sex and Gender Diverse Formal.

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Pictured: South Australian Artist Azzurro, who will be playing a key role in the upcoming LTGBIQ Youth Camp

This camp – the first of its kind in South Australia – marks a new venture to further enable the young people to experience a sense of belonging and uniquely safe space for self-expression. Running for 5 days and 4 nights with 30 young people between the ages of 12 and 17, the camp will feature a variety of activities including sport, craft, cultural and educational workshops and art. Most excitingly, the camp will feature a talented young local artist from the LGBTIQ community, Azzurro, who is enthusiastic about facilitating a collaborative painting of a mural with the group across the 5 days of the camp, which is a fantastic opportunity for young people at the camp to be mentored by one of their peers and connect through art.

Azzurro started out his now exploding career doing wall art in community services such as Headspace and Onkaparinga Youth. You might have already seen his murals in the Central Markets, Adelaide Uni or at the Casino. He has produced incredible works across Adelaide and is now excited to run workshops and take on more instructive projects that seek to connect community through art.

The Awesome grant is being used to pay the Azzurro, and to cover the cost of paint, brushes and plywood on which the mobile mural will be painted.

Awesome sat down with Rosie to chat a little more about the totally awesome youth camp and find out more about MIFSA, the LGTBIQ Project and what some of the ongoing concerns, and opportunities are for queer young people in South Australia.

This is Rose’s story. Go ahead and grab your tea or coffee, because this one is definitely worth the read.

“I work for a community mental health service MIFSA, which is now a kind of a large organisation, and for two and a half years we have been creating a project specifically devoted to the mental health promotion of LGBTIQ people called ‘The LGBTIQ Project’. We’ve been doing this work in quite a different way from the other mainstream work we do because we know that LGBTIQ people don’t tend to access services as much as other people and will delay seeking support for lots of really complex reasons.  

A big part of our work, and it’s becoming bigger all the time, is working with young LGBTIQ people, who are a hugely vulnerable population. We know that the mean age of young people who are most at risk of suicidality before coming out is around the age of 16. This is really challenging because it means that a lot of services that are working with queer young people are working with young people who are already out (and who may also still be very vulnerable for lots of reasons) and as a result, we are still missing the ability to connect with those who are not yet out and really need our support the most.

Part of the work we do is about developing visibility. Whether via social media, or from working as peers who all identify as LGTBIQ (which is what we do and who we are), we also do a lot of work in wider organisations in the wider community to make sure they do a better job of including LGBTIQ people. For example, we have worked with Department of Defence, we have worked with doctors, psychiatrists, admin staff – all towards build increased awareness, inclusiveness and understanding about young LGBITQ people’s needs.  

The idea for a Youth Camp emerged from a conference in 2015 that my manager attended on the topic of making a health difference. New South Wales had done a similar thing and we knew we had to do it in South Australia. We talked about it for a year and then all of sudden it just came together really fast and is now happening next month in April. This is going to the first camp of its kind in South Australia and the program is not only going to be really diverse, fun and recreational, but also seek to be a safe space that promotes wellbeing, health and connectivity.

The decision to include art as a focus of the camp is because it goes without saying that art is an incredibly powerful medium for creating social change and bringing people together. We don’t have any of those skills between our team so that’s where Azzurro comes in. He is only 21 and is an openly gay artist in SA who has totally exploded on the art scene in the last year. He went from not even knowing he could draw to doing murals in the Central Markets, Adelaide Uni, North Adelaide and the Casino and so we have been waiting for an opportunity to bring him in and get him involved.

He has supported the Safe School Coalition and so when I told him about the camp, we came up with this idea of spending the five days putting together a mural, which is his not only his speciality but will also enable the attendees to be really involved creatively. If they are a little bit more timid, for example, he will do an outline for them and then everyone will paint the mural together over the course of the camp. Also, we are going to do the mural on plywood so it can be a mobile mural, which is also really exciting because it means we can showcase it to the maximum extent.

I’m particularly excited about Azzurro as a peer role model since he is so inspiring from being so young and successful – he has just gone for it! It’s really key. He is also passionate about connecting community and that’s what this camp is all about – that’s who we want to bring young people together with in order to connect and create something special. Most adults and even many young people will say they can’t draw or paint and they have already decided they are limited in these ways, which is so not true. That fear and apprehension, we want to limit that and this camp will be a way to experience this in a beautiful and loving way. Then if something opens up for someone, we can have a conversation: so what do you want to about this? Do you want to pursue art? What else do you want to do? It’s an ongoing thread throughout the whole camp, where people can just go and paint in their free time and see what happens!

In sum, we want to acknowledge that yes, structurally, things are or may seem really challenging but that doesn’t have to limit you – young LGBTIQ have just as much right to flourish as anyone else. Another cool thing about having a dedicated camp is that all the staff and volunteers are people are themselves sexually and gender diverse/non-binary, so we are also seeking to showcase diversity within diversity which is important because unfortunately a lot of queer spaces, a lot of public ones at least, are also unsafe because they are centred around drinking and partying and they usually are dominated by stereotypes of what it means to be lesbian, gay, trans. If you don’t fit these boxes then maybe you don’t fit in anywhere, which can ostracise a lot of people, unsurprisingly. The youth camp is a place that supports young people to create inclusive culture, on a really profound level, so they become leaders in their community.”

To find out more about the Queer Youth Camp click here

For more on Azzurro’s work see: https://www.azzurroarts.com/