ALMA is working towards a future where lesbian health is a priority in Australian health policy and practice, where research on lesbian health is funded and accessible, where medical students learn about lesbian health as an integral part of their curriculum, and where there is less discrimination and homophobia. ALMA funds original research into lesbian and bisexual women's health. We have members who lecture or teach on lesbian health, or who are working to get lesbian health issues onto medical curricula. We liaise with health and women's organisations to offer a lesbian perspective.
ALMA’s constitution states that the objectives of ALMA are:
General support for members
Advocacy for members in their professional roles and workplaces
Provision of role models and mentoring for lesbian medical students
Advancing the visibility of lesbian medical professionals
Creating links with other like- minded health professionals and organisations
Advocacy in relation to lesbian health issues, supporting visibility, research and education
In accordance with our constitution, ALMA’s method of advocacy has been developed to have five main aspects:
- Individual connections between lesbian and same-sex attracted doctors. As women realize that they are not alone, they become stronger, more confident and more assertive both in their personal lives and work lives.
- Networking assists us to rely on each other’s expertise, experience and wisdom.
- Mentoring and role modelling. Click here for more information.
- Advocacy within medicine. This has taken place on a personal level as ALMA members have become confident to speak out in their work places. It has also been the task of the ALMA’s Medical Curriculum Sub-Committee which works towards appropriate teaching within medicine regarding LGBTIQ health issues.
- Advocacy within society. Within Australia, ALMA conducts advocacy in relation to issues as they arise. For instance, in 2001 we lobbied the AMA to put a policy in relation to LGBT issues in place and this was adopted. In 2004 the RACGP invited ALMA to submit a draft LGBTI policy and this was substantially adopted. We have since been invited to submit draft policies for a number of organisations including the Public Health Association. We have been invited to participate in steering committees, including the National Rural Female GP network. We have been invited to sit on various governmental advisory bodies including aged care and legal issues. In additional, individual ALMA members work tirelessly, for example, click here for Dr Ruth McNair’s “A guide to sensitive care for lesbian, gay and bisexual people attending general practice”, which was endorsed by the RACGP in 2012.
ALMA's human rights advocacy began in 2001 when, amidst much international controversy, six ALMA members took the “Lesbian Rights are Human Rights” motion to the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) Congress in Sydney.
“LESBIAN RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS”
Resolution of the Medical Women’s International Association at its Congress in Sydney 2001
- MWIA recognises that lesbian doctors face discrimination, homophobia and the assumption of heterosexuality within medical systems and that this has a negative impact.
- MWIA acknowledges that it is a basic human right to live and work, free from such discrimination and asserts lesbian rights as human rights.
The resolution was highly controversial and was strongly resisted by MWIA members who asserted that if the resolution was passed women attending from African nations would be at risk on their return home. Against the odds, and with the support of the Australian Federation of Medical Women, the resolution was passed. MWIA has consultative status with the UN and the presence of this resolution means that MWIA can advocate for lesbian rights internationally.
This process awakened the realisation that ALMA may be of value in the international discourse. We realised that we have expertise which could be beneficial and protective for lesbian women.
ALMA and the United Nations
At its Substantive Session in July 2013 the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted the recommendation of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to grant Special consultative status to the Australian Lesbian Medical Association.
Special consultative status means that ALMA can now have representatives attend official international United Nations conferences and events. We can also make written statements contributing information both prior to and at these events. In addition, we are able to organise events alongside official UN events, or attend parallel events organised by other NGOs.
This means we can provide expert analysis on issues, help monitor and implement international agreements and help raise public awareness of relevant issues. The result is that ALMA can contribute information to United Nations processes and organisations. ALMA may also make a request to the Secretary-General, (through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations), to place items of special interest on the provisional agenda of the ECOSOC.
The international subsidiary bodies of ECOSCO which ALMA can now attend and make contributions to include:
- The Human Rights Council
- The Commission on the Status of Women
- The Commission on Sustainable Development
- The Commission for Social Development
- The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
ALMA is a small organisation. Its activities are funded by its members. All activity must therefore be within the ambit of ALMA’s aims and constitution.
As we are newly appointed to consultative status we are now in the process of learning the most appropriate ways in which we can participate. We hope to make valuable contributions to the international dialogue through the United Nations community.