A Catholic agency has defended itself after guidelines were issued in Australia to help the emergency services during major disasters interact with members of the LGBTI community after research showed that victims of the Queensland floods in 2010-11 reported increased anxiety from having to hide their sexual or gender identity from emergency services or staying with people who were not accepting of them.
Brisbane's Catholic Leader newspaper said the premise behind the National Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines had potential implications for faith-based services such as Centacare, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army, Anglicare and Lifeline, which delivered essential services in times of disaster.
The Guidelines warn that the LGBTI community is considered “disproportionately vulnerable during and after disaster”.
They say gender specifically plays a large part in the roles and experience of communities in emergency prevention, planning, response and recovery and urges "promotion and awareness of the consequences of outsourcing response and recovery arrangements to third-party faith-based organisations", adding in a footnote: "Faith-based organisations are given public taxpayer funds, and are simultaneously granted exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation."
Centacare's Executive Director in the far north Queensland city of Cairns, Ms Anita Veivers, told the Leader her organisation had “a long tradition of providing emergency relief and disaster relief services to the community and this is achieved respectfully, in a non-judgemental way”.
Ms Veivers said although the actual guidelines did not appear to suggest precluding faith-based organisations, an associated review of literature perpetuated the misconception that faith-based organisations were intrinsically discriminatory and had been referenced in the popular press.
She said the modern face of faith-based services was more accepting than the review seemed to imply.
“Our doors are open to everyone, particularly the most disadvantaged people in the community, no matter what their race, gender, religion or sexuality might be.”