Human Rights Summit 2014 – an interview with Jacob Thomas

By · 24 May, 2014 · Features

Last weekend UN Youth Victoria joined forces with Minus 18 and It Gets Better Australia to tackle the issue of LGBTIQ Rights Home and Abroad at the second annual Human Rights Summit.

We were lucky enough to have a few of our questions answered by Jacob Thomas – Manager of Business Development for It Gets Better Australia.

How did It Gets Better Australia and UN Youth Australia come to be working together?

Simply put, Alec Webley (Chair of the UN Youth Australia Foundation) and I had a brief chat over a pot of tea and he asked me if It Gets Better would like to be involved. I said yes, and here we are. Tea is always a good connector.

What preparations have gone into the upcoming Human Rights Summit?

The Organizing Committee (OC) have spent the past several months working tirelessly on logistics, content, recruitment processes, welfare procedures, and practical skill sets that the delegates can take back to their local communities once the Summit is over. There have been few incidents where we disagreed, but when we did it allowed us to strengthen what had been developed/organised and turn it into something more powerful.

What can members expect from the weekend?

Delegates and guests were able to expect a hard-hitting dose of reality, and where the world sits on LGBTIQ human rights in Victoria and overseas. They were also able to engage in these deeply complex issues both theoretically and practically. I think most importantly delegates were able to walk into a safe space where they were not only recognized as equal, but that they could also learn and be inquisitive without judgment.


What is the one thing you would like participants to take away from the Summit?

I always struggle trying to answer this question. There’s never just one thing that I’d like people to take from these experiences. Can I say three? I’ll say three, then.

The first is that I want delegates to know that they are worthy of acceptance and safety, that no one can tell them that they are not able to enact change or express their individual selves.

The second would be that every single action you take can and will have an impact. Progress never stops.

Thirdly, this simple rule: 1 + 1+ 1 = 5. Three separate individuals working as three separate individuals only have the impact of three separate individuals. Three individuals working together have the impact of five people. Together we can make a greater impact, so involve those around you, and find like-minded people to work with when creating change.


What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions/fallacies people have about the LGBTIQ community? What do you think is the best way to remedy these misgivings?

Where to begin? To simplify this, without dismissing complexity, I would have to say that the most common misconception of our broad and diverse community is that we are lesser than the cis-hetero community. That misconception comes onto us both externally to and within our populace. I wish I knew the answer as to how we can remedy this. A base point is by educating others, and not only on our bodies, (non) sexual activities, romanticisms, or identities, but also on our struggles and achievements, which have led us to where we are today, and who, we have become. We also need to reach out and have each other’s backs. We need to let each other know that someone, somewhere, will help them when they fall.

Given the theme of this year’s Summit – LGBTIQ Rights at Home and Abroad – which country do you think is leading the way in terms of LGBTIQ rights?

If I remember correctly, there was an article published recently that stated New Zealand is leading the way in the Social Progress Index, taking into account human rights, personal freedoms, and wellbeing – kudos to our neighbours for all they have done. Again, this is a hard question to answer due to the variance from space to space, and the diverse needs of our global community. In blanket terms it would seem that Western and Scandinavian states are leading the way in LGBTIQ rights, but they all have their fault(s). Whether that is in government, legislation, representation, or general social attitude and action, close enough is not good enough.

This is a bit of a triple-layer question! What do you think our politicians can do to further LGBTIQ rights?  What’s the best way popular culture can better LGBTIQ rights? And lastly, what’s the best way our readers can better LGBTIQ rights?

Politicians could, and should, better represent the needs of their electorates. There should be more reaching out and sensitive inquest into what each community needs.

Popular culture needs to show the breadth of our community, avoiding the consumption of identities for ratings, and consult with LGBTIQ groups in order to deliver realistic and accurate portrayals of our lives.

Everyone, take in as much information as you can and question all information given to you. Start with history, start a conversation, start standing up for equality. If you’ve already started, then keep pushing on.

Where would you like to see LGBTIQ rights in five years time, compared to, where you think LGBTIQ rights will be realistically in five years?

Ideally, I’d like to see LGBTIQ rights as a non-issue. We exist and live without question or critique of our genders/bodies/sexuality, and we are known as equal amongst others, not given consideration to be seen as so.

Realistically, I think we will seesaw on the global scale. Where minority power pushes for equality the majority powers push back, but it is our responsibility as humans to advocate against injustice and fight for what we know to be right.

Is there anything you would like to add?

 Do your best. It’s all anyone can ever ask of you.


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