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“If you are from the LGBTQI+ community, no doubt you're a fighter,” says Nevena Spirovska, an Activist and the Co-Convener of the Victorian Pride Lobby.
“To be a member of the LGBTQI+ community in Australia means that we come from a proud community of fighters, a community that bands together year after year to fight against discrimination, and I’m very proud to be a part of that.”
Born in Yugoslavia and into a family of fighters in their own right, Nevena moved to Melbourne during the Yugoslav wars. The experience had a profound effect on how Nevena views her role in the world.
“My family came to Melbourne just as our country, our communities and families were being torn apart. It was an incredibly hard and difficult time to come to the other side of the world where we knew no one, where we didn't know the language and we didn't have anything.”
“I was born with a fire in my belly, so everywhere I went when there was an issue, I knew I had to try and do my best to do something about it. Throughout my life that's been everything from environmental activism to political activism, but I've really found my home in community activism.”
A passion for community activism is something Nevena believes lives in every member of the LGBTQI+ community.
“There’s so much injustice in the world, and as LGBTQI+ people we see that daily. Our community is vibrant, our community is bold and we’ve had to fight so hard for the community we have today. We know that our voice and our efforts can do something to make the world a better place.”
“I am a very proud bisexual woman. I come from a long history of women who've been out and proud and fought so hard to have the love and the rights we have today. It’s incredible to be part of that legacy, and it’s a legacy we all carry with us.”
Nevena sees visibility as being key to creating a more accepting society.
“Improving visibility is so important because we can't be what we can't see.”
“We need more trans and gender diverse people on our screens, more representation of queer families and intersex people. There’s an opportunity for these people to take a starring role in our TV shows, in our advertising and posters. To show that our community is incredibly diverse and vibrant, and whole, and valid just the way they are.”
As Co-Convener of the Victorian Pride Lobby, Nevena’s role has been to rally for visibility and acceptance in local councils. “Local councils are so important because they play a really big part in our lives. They might seem small, but the everyday services and what they offer can make all the difference.”
“Local councils can shape the community that we are a part of so that they are more inclusive, more diverse and more welcoming. It's so important that they're there for the needs of our community and that's why we've been working on a campaign to push them to be more open and understanding of our needs.”
“From flying a rainbow flag on days of significance to having a Trans flag available for the Trans Day of Remembrance goes so far to show that our community is loved and is welcome. That's why it's so important, especially in those regional and rural areas.”
Events like Mardi Gras play their part in increasing visibility. “Mardi Gras isn’t just a celebration but a moment for people to really take in messages of activism. That’s why Mardi Gras exists and why it’s there.”
“Mardi Gras started off as a fight and it will continue to be one. We fight for more inclusivity; we fight for more equality while at the same time we celebrate all the wins that we've achieved; and we celebrate the opportunity to be proud of who we are and how far we've come.”
And there are many fights still to come. “There's some really tricky bits of legislation coming up that we are really going to have the fight for our lives for, and as always we have to work together in the face of adversity to make sure that we can create a world that is more welcoming.”
A recent win for the community was Victoria’s Conversion Practices Bill, a world-leading bill to end harmful LGBTQI+ conversion practises. In December 2020, the Victoria Parliament’s lower house passed the bill.
“This bill recognises that LGBTQI+ people are perfect and whole just the way that they are.”
For those wanting to take a more active role in activism, Nevena suggests just taking that first step can lead to future change.
“If you want to become an advocate, find a cause, a movement or a group that you're passionate about and make your voice heard. Your efforts will push that cause just that little bit further and make the world open to slightly better place.”
“This Mardi Gras, I rise for the people who came before me and paved the way to let me be the woman I am today."