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OUTintheOPEN is Greater Shepparton’s Festival celebrating community diversity. 2012 was our inaugural year. OUTintheOPEN was developed to address some of the inequalities faced by the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ) & allied communities and to build a more inclusive community in Greater Shepparton. OUTintheOPEN Festival is a project lead by Goulburn Valley Pride Inc. and is proudly supported by many other organisations and community groups.

The Festival commenced in 2012 with a health/wellbeing forum and a Carnival Day on the third weekend in November in the Queens Gardens. Over the years more & more events have been introduced by our community and partners to compliment the Festival.

Greater Shepparton has a diverse community comprising of a significant lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community, a large portion of our community were born overseas (12%) and 4% of our community are Aboriginal or Torres Straight Island (ATSI) people. However, the celebration of the diversity in Greater Shepparton remains minimal. Related to this is a stigma around the community diversity in Shepparton, in particular our LGBTIQ communities.

There are a small number of active, established groups that celebrate LGBTIQ culture, such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) Shepparton, Diversity Group and Goulburn Valley Pride, which all operate within our community. In spite of this, the Private Lives survey of Australian LGBTIQ people found that rural males and females aged 20-29, who identify as same sex attracted, feel less connected to their LGBTIQ community than their metropolitan counterparts (Pitts, Smith, Mitchelle, & Patel, 2007).

LGBTIQ people in rural areas have different needs to those in metropolitan areas. They face discrimination from homophobic attitudes, isolation, limited clinical health services and limited support systems. The Private Lives survey also found that some rural people identifying as LGBTIQ are targets of violent attacks.

It was identified that there were little opportunities in Greater Shepparton to celebrate this diversity as well as initiatives aimed at breaking down the stigma around LGBTIQ communities. From this, the idea of an inclusive festival came to life, with Uniting Kildonan Shepparton instigating the Festival and now Goulburn Valley Pride becoming the lead organisation for the OUTintheOPEN Festival.

Community festivals can increase feelings of belonging to a community, create connections, bring diverse people and organisations together, both through the festival planning and festival events, and build social inclusion, which has been linked with improved mental health and wellbeing (Barraket & Kaiser, 2007). Social inclusion can be defined as “where all people feel valued, their differences are respected and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity”.

This year OUTintheOPEN celebrates 11 years (2022)!  Check out the links above (‘History’ tab) for previous year’s events/info…