In a region where LGBTQIA+ support services are scarce, Limestone Coast Connect emerged as a vital lifeline. This volunteer-run group, founded to assist local LGBTQIA+ youth, offered a range of services, from organizing social events to connecting community members with health support resources and providing a safe space for queer individuals in the Limestone Coast of South Australia.
Despite its commendable efforts, Limestone Coast Connect is now faced with the daunting prospect of ceasing its operations by the end of the year due to a shortage of volunteers. Patrick Smith, the founder and chairperson, expressed the group’s struggles in finding individuals willing to commit their time and energy to sustain this essential community resource.
Smith highlighted the challenging circumstances LGBTQIA+ individuals face in rural and regional areas. He pointed out, “Whilst there are support services for LGBTQIA+ people, they’re mostly Adelaide-based or interstate.” Limestone Coast Connect aimed to bridge this gap and create a sense of social connection among isolated LGBTQIA+ individuals across the region.
The group, which officially formed in 2019, originally sprouted during the 2017 marriage equality postal survey when the need for LGBTQIA+ community support in the area became apparent. Di Ind, who played a pivotal role in organizing the 2017 same-sex marriage equality march in Mount Gambier, spoke about the importance of creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ youth. She emphasized the significance of representation and acceptance within the community.
As Di Ind stepped down from her position as deputy chair of the group, she expressed her pride in the impact Limestone Coast Connect had made. She emphasized the need for organizations like Limestone Coast Connect to represent and support the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, especially in regions where acceptance can be a challenge.
Despite the closure of Limestone Coast Connect, there remains hope for the future. Patrick Smith expressed his optimism that the next generation of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the region will step up to support their peers and continue the mission of creating a more inclusive and accepting community. He acknowledged that Limestone Coast Connect was just one chapter in a long history of LGBTQIA+ social groups in the area and believed that passionate young advocates would fill the void left by its closure.
In conclusion, Limestone Coast Connect’s closure shines a spotlight on the ongoing challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ communities in rural areas. The group’s dedication to providing support and fostering acceptance will leave a lasting legacy, inspiring future generations to continue the important work of creating safe and welcoming spaces for all LGBTQIA+ individuals in South Australia’s Limestone Coast.