Make It Happen
Starting any LGBTI social and support group can be a challenge but especially so in regional and rural Australia. But that’s exactly what 21-year-old Nicholas Tarpey has done with great success, making him a deserving nominee for the inaugural Young Achiever’s Award at this year’s Honour. By Ron Hughes.
What do you do when you find yourself in a regional area with little LGBTI support or resources for young people to speak of? Why, you start your own, of course.
At least that’s what 21-year-old Nicholas Tarpey did when he moved to the Orange campus of Charles Sturt University in central west New South Wales to study dentistry.
“This is a fairly conservative area,” Tarpey tells SX.
“There’s a fairly large Bretheren group up here and even though this is a food and wine district, it’s really like a kind of miners’ town.”
In order to combat the isolation, Tarpey decided to set up a gay-straight alliance at the uni, called Spectrum.
“We host events as social opportunities for LGBTI students and also for the wider community as well,” he says.
Over the last year or so, the group has sourced material relevant to the LGBTI community including sexual health information.
“We’ve sent posters out to the local high schools and TAFE and so on, so people know we’re here and we can be a safe space and also a resource for them. We’ve only had, like, two schools, Catholic schools, that didn’t want to put our posters up.”
It is Tarpey’s ambition that Spectrum may be able to host workshops and similar events for LGBTI people in Orange, but in the meantime members find themselves having to travel.
“We’re connected with similar groups in Bathurst and Wagga, and they hold events we can travel to, or it means going to Sydney. Hopefully we can change that in the future and bring some things here,” he says.
The group have also been building contact with the local police gay and lesbian liaison officers and also another LGBTI group in the area.
But he adds: “That group has older members, all in their 40s and over, so there hasn’t really been anything for younger LGBTIs until now”.
Tarpey, who is also a Pinnacle Foundation scholar, admits that at first the group got off to a shaky start and he and other members weren’t sure it would succeed.
“We’re getting more successful and I think we’ve got a firm hold now, we feel we have something solid to build on,” he says proudly.
Indeed, leaving a legacy is Tarpey’s ambition.
At this year’s Honour Awards, Tarpey’s efforts has led to nominations in two categories: the Health and Wellbeing Award and the Young Achiever’s Award. The latter is being presented for the first time in 2013 to recognise people under 30 whose achievements and contributions have made a difference to the lives of LGBTI people in NSW.
Tarpey is only in his second year of a five-year course and hopes by the time he graduates, Spectrum will be going strong.
“I hope I’ll have made a big enough impression that people will want to continue on,” he says.
Not bad going for a lad from the NSW Central Coast who ended up studying in a “miner’s town” – a bit of a cultural shock to say the least.
“Well,” Tarpey says with a laugh, “I guess my way of adjusting was try to change the place around me, rather than change myself!”
KNOW A YOUNG LGBTI ACHIEVER?
Honour is NSW’s annual LGBTI community awards, recognising people and organisation whose work and/or achievements have a made a difference to the lives of others in the LGBTI community.
People can nominate themselves, or the organisation you work for or a person or organisation you admire.
Nominations can be submitted in six categories covering the business, health, education, community, legal, political, media and cultural sectors.
This year, for the first time, the awards will also recognise the contributions and achievement of LGBTI people under 30 years of age with the inaugural Young Achievers Award.
Nominations are free and can be submitted on the Honour website.
Now in its seventh year, the Honour Awards are an annual gala event for ACON and the Aurora Group.
This year’s awards will be presented at a gala ceremony at The Ivy in Sydney on Thursday, September 19.
Three finalists from each category will join a host of government, media, entertainment and community personalities in celebrating NSW’s LGBTI community.
To make a nomination, go to www.honourawards.com.au.