S2: E2 Rural LGBTQIA+ Communities

In this episode we discuss what it is like to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community in a rural area. For people who identify as LGBTQIA+, those aged 16-27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide and twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The challenges for accessing appropriate care for this community in rural and remote areas is an additional challenge.

Sharon Jones grew up in outback Queensland, feeling different, confused and very alone. She went on to become the first female shearer in Australia before moving to Tasmania.  Sharon struggled with understanding both her ‘sexuality’ and her ‘gender’ and didn’t find any support with this until she was in her early 20s. In 2010 Sharon was awarded the ‘Red Herring Surf Social Inclusion Award’ in recognition of her work as an educator/counsellor at Working It Out, where she worked for 6 years, and her voluntary work as a founding member of Connect4Life which has changed the lives of many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQIA+) people in Tasmania.

In 2013 Sharon won both the ‘LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Award’ and the ‘Human Rights LGBTQIA+ Award’ for her long-term commitment to develop social and support networks and her contribution to suicide prevention. Sharon spent three years working for Relationships Australia, Tasmania as part of their suicide prevention team. Sharon has lived and worked in rural Australia and identifies as ‘Gender Non-conforming’, challenging transphobia and homophobia. She is well aware of the need for LGBTQIA+ inclusive organisations and says: “I wish there was support for me when I felt alone, isolated and was struggling to make sense of my life. It would have made such a difference to my journey.” Sharon is now employed as Executive Officer for Kentish Regional Clinic which has its main office in Sheffield in Tasmania. Sharon is a ‘Change Agent’ with a passion in suicide prevention, community development and equality for all.


Tarnia Lee has worked in LGBTQIA+ health and the drug and alcohol sectors for over 15 years. She has a passion for working with marginalised communities and supporting peer driven community development.




Lucy Abbott is the QLife National Project Manager. Lucy joined the National LGBTQIA+ Health Alliance in January 2018 as National Project Manager for QLife: a national LGBTQIA+ specialist telephone and web counselling service.

Lucy has worked for 15 years in the Aboriginal mental health and drug and alcohol sectors, in both government and non-government agencies, with a recent focus on workforce support. She has a passion for, and commitment to, social justice, sustainability and wellbeing, and is excited to be working for her own community in this role. Lucy has a BA (Hons) in Third World Studies and Womens Studies.

Originally from the UK, Lucy has lived in Sydney for 23 years, except for one year spent living in Alice Springs.

Terence Humphreys is the Co-Executive Director and has worked for Twenty10 inc. GLCS NSW for over ten years in a number of roles, including as a volunteer GLCS telephone counsellor. Terence previously worked in the corporate sector and volunteered for many years in the not-for-profit sector in gay men’s health and wellbeing. He is currently the New South Wales Director for the National LGBTQIA+ Health Alliance.


QLife is a telephone and online (both 3pm to 12am/7 days) counselling and referral service for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex.  QLife also provides help, information and advice for someone who may be worried about a friend or family member.

www.qlife.org.au 1800 184 527

ACON ­-  This service is here for HIV prevention, HIV support and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQIA+) health. Established in 1985 as the AIDS Council of New South Wales,  ACON works to end HIV transmission among gay and homosexually active men, and promotes the lifelong health of LGBTQIA+ people and people with HIV.


Peace of Mind  is an ACON project that aims to kick start a conversation in our community about mental health and wellbeing. There is lots of information about how to support a friend and look after yourself as well as gaining more knoweldge about:

  • mental health concerns
  • coping strategies
  • how to support a friend in distress
  • where to access support


National LGBTQIA+ Health Alliance is the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals and provides health-related programs, services and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people and other sexuality and gender diverse (LGBTQIA+) people and communities.

“Although most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTQIA+) Australians live healthy and happy lives, research has demonstrated that a disproportionate number experience poorer mental health outcomes and have higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their peers.  These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTQIA+”. You can read more about this here:


MindOut is another initative of the National LGBTQIA+ Health Alliance, focusing specifically at Leadership in LGBTQIA+ Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

MindOUT develops and delivers national suicide prevention initiatives aimed at building the capacity of the mental health and suicide prevention sectors to meet the support and wellbeing needs of LGBTQIA+ populations, thereby  improving the mental health outcomes and reducing suicide and suicidal behavior amongst LGBTQIA+ people and communities


What is “LGBTQIA+”

In Australia, the initials ‘LGBTQIA+’ refers collectively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer.

We are aware that many people and communities have additional ways of describing their distinct histories, experiences, and needs beyond the letters in ‘LGBTQIA+’.

For more information, you can check out:


Help services

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, you can call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 for advice.

Having a tough time and need someone to talk to right now? The following services are here to help. They are confidential and available 24/7.