Ian Seal – Many Coloured Sky

Ian Seal details the work of Many Coloured Sky and a recent photographic exhibition involving queer asylum seekers

Many Coloured Sky, the Queer Development Agency, partners in the development of a range of projects and activities that are driven by the hopes, dreams, strengths and ideas of the LGBTQI+ communities and individuals we work with—peer to peer, Queer to Queer. We provide capacity building and technical support and funding, engage key stakeholders, develop programs and strategies focused on building sustainable change and advocate for LGBTQI+ rights everywhere.

In Kenya we have a partnership with the LGBTQI+ refugee-led Refugee Coalition of East Africa, an umbrella organisation for many smaller queer refugee groups in Kenya. We provide them with funding, technical support and capacity building. We have a project supporting young queers in Uganda who have been forced to flee their homes, schools and communities, a very large project based in the Philippines and focused on LGBTQI+ young people across SE Asia, and we support a number of LGBTQI+ groups in Indonesia. We’re currently developing a new project in partnership with a group for gay and bisexual young men in PNG.

In Victoria, Many Coloured Sky is supporting almost sixty queer asylum seekers from five continents who now live in Melbourne or regional centres, in partnership with Uniting Victoria Tasmania. This number was less than 30 at the start of 2020, but since the advent of COVID-19 the number has more than doubled. People seeking asylum in Australia are not eligible for Job Seeker and Job Keeper payments, and many of them work in casual and marginal employment that disappeared quickly as lockdowns began. Since the onset of the pandemic we also support a small but growing group of LGBTQI+ international students, who have also been left out of government income supports.We employ a gay asylum seeker as a Peer Support and Community Development Officer, and we undertake a range of community development and capacity building strategies to support the growing peer-led group Queer Refugee and Asylum Seeker Peers, which has developed from our partnership with Uniting and is now actively working towards becoming an independent organisation. Since COVID, all of our programs have become much more challenging. While continuing to focus on long-term strategy and capacity building where we can, we are now providing emergency support to most of our partner communities around the world, covering food, medication and other needs to the extent that we can, including for the group here in Melbourne. We are a small, registered charity relying mostly on donations from individuals, which are fully tax deductible.

Image: Peter Casamento

Early this year (just prior to COVID) we launched a portrait exhibition of queer asylum seekers to raise awareness of their multiple challenges. The exhibition allowed participants to share some of their experiences while also protecting their identities. We plan to continue growing, sharing and touring the exhibition in a range of spaces as the pandemic and our finances allow.

Please check out our website www.manycolouredsky.org or contact us for further information via mail@manycolouredsky.org. LGBTQI+ refugees, asylum seekers and international students in Victoria can also contact us via peersupport@manycolouredsky.org. Queer Refugee and Asylum Seeker Peers operates only in Victoria but if you live elsewhere we can try to assist you in finding local or online support.

BIO

Ian Seal is the Executive Director of THREE for All Foundation, of which Many Coloured Sky is the Queer Development arm. Ian identifies as queer and has worked in community and international development forever, especially in LGBTQI+ community development.

Clouds of Magellan Press, publisher of Bent Street, is proud to donate the proceeds from the sale of this edition to Many Coloured Sky, in support of LQBTIQA+ asylum seekers and refugees in Australia and overseas.