The WRAP #26: Rainbows, risky business and 60 seconds with Daine Lauren

dia de los muertos 7a (banjo_boy/flickr)

banjo_boy dia de los muertos 7a

 

Beyond the opportunities for sugar provided by Halloween this weekend, beyond All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day and Ashura, which all fall in the next few days, this is a special time of year for many lucky Melbournians and Victorians: because next week is ‘Cup week’.

Yes, whether you like or despise horse racing and all its silky charms, you cannot look the gift horse of a public holiday in the mouth, and even less so one that is on a Tuesday, making the dream of a four day weekend that much more achievable.

It’s little wonder then that, however we spend the day, many of us will have a bit of “a flutter”, that is, a bet on who’ll win the Cup. Often, the most we stand to lose is a few dollars and the right to brag about our knowledge of horses. But studying the form guide this week has make us think about all the other risks we take in our lives, especially with our health, and why.

So this WRAP we are talking about the risky business of gambling, weighing up the health benefits for LGBTIQ women, and all of us for that matter, of harmony and belonging. And after all that we are lucky to have the chance to spend 60 seconds with Daine Lauren.

Risky business

52 Pick-up (DanielaGoulart/flickr)

52 Pick-up (DanielaGoulart/flickr)

For want of a better metaphor (or is it a simile?), health promotion is a bit like being a bookmaker, in terms of helping people weigh up the odds.

Sometimes the decisions we make in relation to our own health are less about right and wrong, and more about what is less wrong compared to all the other available choices. Being empowered and empowering others in healthy living is about having and providing all the available opportunities to make informed choices. Whether or not we make the ‘right’ choice is another issue altogether: the decision-making process is a careful weighing up of risks, between what the research suggests, what the health experts are saying, what family and friends think, and what you feel you can and need to do.

Take the idea of responsible gambling, for example. It’s perhaps less well known and understood than the concept of responsible drinking (the ‘drink and drive and you’re a bloody idiot’ school of thought), but evidence shows that if not conducted responsibly, gambling can also impact on your health and wellbeing. Arguably, it can’t kill you in the same way that tobacco, alcohol and junk food can if consumed excessively, but excessive gambling can wreak all sorts of other havoc in your life, which could very well lead you down the path of ill-health.

There is evidence to suggest that some groups of immigrant and refugee communities, like the rest of our community, have a problem with gambling. And it is all too easy to conclude that these issues arise in certain communities by virtue of a special problem gambling gene, or some inherent cultural trait. But as we know, the world of ‘culture’ is far more complex and complicated than that. Culture doesn’t just relate to language and ethnicity, there is also the culture of youth, of sporting clubs, of workplaces and of entertainment, which all have a role to play in determining how a person might judge when and if a recreational activity is risky.

There are profound differences across culture, gender, ethnicity, age (to name just a few factors) in the ways people understand, interpret and respond to risk. The various contexts in which individuals make decisions need to be taken into consideration when developing programs and strategies which either prevent ill-health, promote health or otherwise minimise health risks. Acknowledging gendered and cultural differences in decisions about healthy choice can take various forms. Providing the opportunity for others to speak for themselves about what is meaningful for them is a good place to start. Otherwise, we run the risk of further marginalising and stereotyping the people who are already behind the proverbial eight ball.

Find out more about culturally appropriate gambling support services for immigrant and refugee communities here.

Somewhere over the rainbow

My rainbow is finally complete! (Daniela Goulart/flickr)

My rainbow is finally complete! (Daniela Goulart/flickr)

 

The LGBTIQ rainbow symbolically covers all diversity within its arches. It is an open, bright and positively welcoming flag that many of us, who stand somewhere within its colours, are proud to fly. But what of women and trans people from the LGBTIQ rainbow who are also from a migrant and refugee community? How do we experience the colours and diversity within? To what extent are our intersectional experiences of gender, sexuality and ethnic diversity understood within our LGBTIQ and migrant/refugee communities?

Diversity is the key of course – we all experience and feel belonging in our own ways. But some experiences of LGBTIQ people from migrant and refugee communities have been documented and vividly express a spectrum of identity and shared experience. Three words stand out: invisibility, visibility, contradiction.

To start with invisibility: imagine not being recognised within your identified community as ‘one of us’. This happens in both the LGBTI and migrant communities. We live in a very visual world which relies heavily on symbolism and stereotypes and if you don’t quite fit the look expected of you, you can literally be overlooked. And let’s not underestimate the impact of racism in the LGBTI community, and transphobia and homophobia in migrant/refugee communities, in the creation of invisibility. If I don’t respect you I can pretend not to see you, or only see the things that fit. So do you change your look, or do you change the way your community sees you?

Visibility is the second key word. Uniqueness is a wonderful thing, but being the only one of an identity in your community – the only Muslim lesbian, the only trans Chilean, the only young, working class, Sri Lankan, bisexual woman in the village – certainly makes you visible, extrovert or not. So do you keep some of your identities to yourself, strategically and depending on the context, or do you let it all just be, wherever you are, whatever the risks?

Contradiction sums it up. Belonging to community holds contradictory experiences, which are often intensified by the intersections of structural disadvantage. This is precisely because, even within those intersections and overlaps of communities, we are asked to choose one identity at a time. As Audre Lorde, writer and poet, lesbian and daughter of Caribbean immigrants, has put it:

There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else. But once you do that, then you’ve lost because then you become acquired or bought by that particular essence of yourself, and you’ve denied yourself all of the energy that it takes to keep all those others in jail. Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.

Belonging is a wonderful thing. Belonging generates wellbeing, it preserves and maintains mental health, and brings fun, joy and shared experience into our lives. It generates the harmony that Lorde talks about and makes the contradictions meaningful and important. In the face of contradiction, it is belonging across communities that is needed to bring life to the rainbow.

MCWH is currently looking for a part-time Health Promotion and Research Project Officer to conduct a newly funded project that promotes the health and wellbeing of same-sex attracted women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds. Click here for more information.

60 seconds with Daine Lauren

daine

Blogger, penny board enthusiast and 11 year old

 

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Penny boarding along the beach, and playing my electric guitar.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
I would like to fly, I’d need that kind of freedom when I’m feeling down. I’d be unstoppable.

What talent would you most like to possess?
To sing well, I love music I just wasn’t born with a good voice.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
An artist/writer. I love painting and writing, it’s so peaceful.

What’s your favourite word in the English language and why?
My favourite word is ‘evanescent’ because it can describe everything because nothing really lasts.

If you could invite anyone to dinner tonight, who would it be?
DEFINITELY, Michael Gordon Clifford, best guitarist ever.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
Emma Watson. Incredible actress, totes adorbs hair-cut and a feminist icon.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
Multiculturalism is coexisting with other human beings no matter their origin.

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because…”
…my generation is growing up in a place where sexism is the norm in the school playground and guys can be EXTREMELY DISRESPECTFUL.

What would be a perfect afternoon for you?
I would probably eat takeaway from McDonalds and then have a nap.

What is your favourite smell? What memory does it remind you of?
I like the smell of my mum’s scarves because they remind me of my mum.

What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
I don’t know I’m only 11.

Our bilingual health educator receives prestigious Heart Foundation award

Elizabeth, Catusica, Amira

Last night members of MCWH were privileged to attend the Second Heart Foundation Awards Dinner in Melbourne, to celebrate the outstanding acheivements of one of our bilingual health educators.

Elizabeth Mazeyko is one of only three recipients of the prestigious President’s Award, recognising her passion and inspirational work as a Spanish speaking health educator for women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds. Other individuals were recognised and awarded for their outstanding contribution to heart-related research and their outstanding support of the Heart Foundation.

The President’s award recognises Elizabeth’s significant contribution to improving women’s heart health in Victoria, made possible in particular through the partnership project between the Heart Foundation and Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, Healthy Hearts. The project exceeded expectations, delivering heart health messages in nine different languages to immigrant and refugee women and men across Victoria, and has cemented the partnership between the Heart Foundation and MCWH in delivering effective health education to immigrant and refugee women.

In her acceptance speech, Elizabeth perfectly stated the importance of the work we do at MCWH, saying: “unfortunately heart disease doesn’t discriminate between language, race or culture. In many communities, men and women don’t believe that high blood pressure or high cholesterol is already cardiovascular disease. I make sure that they understand that important message.”

Elizabeth also graciously acknowledged the support of MCWH and Catuscia Biuso from the Heart Foundation, who has been a tireless advocate for our work and central in developing our strong partnership.

Elizabeth promised she would ‘only get better at my work so that you can see me here, hopefully for a different award next time’.  Then around 330 guests rose from their seats to learn Elizabeth’s heart-health themed adaptation of the Macarena dance – demonstrating her gift for using humour to connect so powerfully with people.

“Every time I walk into a group, my aim is to ensure that everyone understands the factors surrounding cardiovascular disease. We all know that heart disease kills 31 Australian women per day, and someone dies every 24 minutes in Australia … It is during my sessions that I feel that educating people about Heart Health is making a difference in people’s lives and that gives me my greatest reward day after day.”

MCWH is extremely proud of Elizabeth’s achievement and is grateful for the commitment and compassion she brings to her work and to our lives.

 

You can read about some of the excellent outcomes of our partnership with the Heart Foundation in the report, For All Hearts.