Welcome Here Project debuts

Welcome Here Project

COOKS HILL retailer Nici Palmer didn’t hesitate to sign up to ACON’s new Welcome Here Project.

Ms Palmer now displays a sign in the front window of Blackbird Corner, on the corner of Darby and Queen streets. 

The charter for the program hangs inside the shop’s door. 

The project is an ACON-led initiative which invites businesses and organisations to show their support for the LGBTIQ community.

Ms Palmer said the signage in her shop showed she welcomed everyone. 

“We don’t judge people by their sexuality or gender,” Ms Palmer said. 

“We won’t put up with any negativity in our store, or on our social media, that is homophobic or aggressive.

“We will just shut it down immediately.” 

ADVOCATE: Nici Palmer said everyone, regardless of their sexual preference or gender, is welcome in her shop, Blackbird Corner. Picture: Supplied

ADVOCATE: Nici Palmer said everyone, regardless of their sexual preference or gender, is welcome in her shop, Blackbird Corner. Picture: Supplied

Ms Palmer said it was important to speak up and reach out because homophobia still exists. 

“We need these programs to make our support visible,” she said. 

The Welcome Here Project replaces ACON’s Safe Spaces program. 

“We were in the Safe Space program,” Ms Palmer said.

“I think that it’s positive that they changed it.

“It’s more about welcoming people rather than keeping them safe.”

However, Ms Palmer said some businesses who were in the Safe Space program may be unaware they need to enrol in the new program . 

She urged other like-minded businesses to continue their support for equality. 

ACON Hunter regional manager Lisa McFayden said the new program was a sign the “times are changing”. 

“The Welcome Here Project builds on the work of the Safe Space program, which was set up in 1992 in response to high levels of street-based violence directed against members of the LGBTIQ communities,” Ms McFayden said. 

“Street-based violence has reduced but there is still some way to go.

“LGBTIQ people continue to experience abuse, harassment, prejudice and exclusion, which can lead to negative health outcomes.”

The Welcome Here Project is about celebrating diversity and inclusion in order to create and maintain environments where everyone feels safe, supported and included.

Welcome Here logo

Welcome Here logo

So far, about 25 Newcastle and Lake Macquarie organisations and businesses, including the University of Newcastle, have signed up for the project.

To view the directory or organisations and businesses signed up, or to find out more about the project, visit: welcomehere.org.au