Sitting down in 2004 a few of us developed four small, yet what we hoped would be achievable, aims for the Love Makes A Family Campaign:
- To lobby and visit 144 State MPs regarding the final recommendations made in the Victorian Law Reform Commission – to be released in early 2006.
- To develop and distribute a Campaign Postcard supporting and endorsing LGBTI-positive recommendations to Attorney General Rob Hulls
- To encourage community participation by LGBTI people, their extended families and friends in lobbying for law reform
- To actively engage members of the non- LGBTI Community in the campaign through community education.
Over the next four years we pretty much met three of our fours aims with the postcards proposal turning into what is now the Rainbow Families Council website. Although not all 144 MPs were visited, despite our best efforts and those of the many individual community members who reported back to us, you only had to listen to MP’s contributions during the parliamentary debate to realise how many were visited. Many MP’s spoke of the important educational and emotional impact it had on them and many families and couples were mentioned by name. In addition the campaign team spoke at an ALP women’s group meeting, an ALP branch meeting and meet regularly over the four years with several ALP MP’s and Ministers. Turning Queen’s Hall in Parliament House into an impromptu childcare space over those last few months of 2008 probably helped too!
Our campaign strategies were as equally aspirational:
- Develop and distribute two-page briefing for all state MPs summarising the issues (including use of quotes/personal stories).
- Hold at least six ‘Lobbying 101’ Workshops for LGBTI people, their extended families and friends including in rural and regional communities (mini-ACTION DAY’s)
- Speak to Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) and other interested community groups in the broader community (e.g. church and other faith groups, community/family support groups and services, service organizations and others)
- Coordinate positive media stories of LGBTI Families i.e.: Leader local newspaper in metropolitan and regional areas and support with media information/media releases through campaign website.
Our “two page briefing” turned into the Love Makes A Family Information Kit – a 60 page kit, including factsheets, 11 family stories and 3 position papers on what we saw as controversial issues. This was sent to 40 key MPs from all sides of politics in April 2007 and again throughout 2008 as we updated our stories and factsheets to address the changing nature of the debate.
Our lobbying workshops included forums during each Midsumma, stalls at Chillout and travelling to Ballarat for a regional forum. We held a visiting your MP training day and a not very well-attended but extremely inspiring Action Day in September 2005 too!
Our community networks and supporters grew to a sizable number over the years culminating with us being able to draw on organisations such as VCOSS, Women’s Health in the North and Women’s Health in the West for support in the last months of the campaign. Speaking to PFLAG meetings held in Toorak in Melbourne was extremely important with many PFLAGers writing to the Law Reform Commission.
You only have to look at the changing nature of newspaper editorials and articles between 2003 and 2008 to see that the campaign was effective in changing the stories about family diversity and children’s rights. Mainstream journalists like Carol Nader from The Age and Susie O’Brien at the Herald Sun wrote numerous articles in support of the campaign throughout 2007 and 2008. Families participated in radio interviews with Richard Stubbs on 774 ABC, on SBS, ABC and Channel 10 television news.
It may be true what they say – “that today’s newspaper is tomorrows fish and chip wrapper” – but the bravery and generosity of the individuals, couples and families who choose to tell their stories publically cannot be forgotten. It is equally true to say that “a picture tells a thousand words” and the numerous television images and photos of smiling happy mums, dads and children made a huge impact on everyone who saw them.
Thank you to everyone who consented to telling his or her family story so openly and honestly during the years of the campaign.