LGBTIQA+ Family Practice


Karen Field
Drummond Street Services

Elliott McMahon

Mengrui Li

Nicole Dowling

Lora Chapman-Monte
Upper Murray Family Care

Monday 13 May 2024

Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm


Pre-Conference Workshop

LGBTIQA+ Family Practice

The workshop will provide participants with a deep understanding of the multiple risk and protective factors impacting on the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ families, current research and evidence-based practice, designing and delivering effective whole of family approaches and the importance of an inclusive whole of service response. The facilitators will also present our recent research that suggests that when individuals face discrimination related solely to their LGBT identity without additional forms of discrimination, their well-being remained relatively unaffected. This was not the case for individuals who experienced discrimination across a greater number of settings. This indicates the need to apply an intersectional lens for targeted interventions to mitigate the negative effects of discrimination on well-being. The pervasive nature of intersectional discrimination has a profound impact on LGBTIQA+ individuals’ mental health, social connectedness, and financial wellbeing.

The workshop will cover the following:

  • Organisational readiness and implementation support: informed by implementation science and organisational readiness literature, and our own evaluative management frameworks.
  • Centring of lived experience perspectives: Drummond Street’s team of highly experienced LGBTIQA+ trainers and consultants, who offer their personal and professional experience in service provision and training.
  • Whole of Service response: to create not only inclusive processes but also an inclusive family service environment, collective understandings, attitudes, and specialist practice wisdom and models.
  • Intersectional person-centred approach: Recognition that people may experience multiple intersecting forms of discrimination, oppression and disadvantage, and that while their gender or sexual orientation are significant, there are other diverse and important parts of a person’s identity to be acknowledged, seen, heard and understood to ensure a positive, safe and effective support service.
  • Whole-of-family approaches: Our approach to practice recognises a diverse and inclusive definition of families, and uses the term broadly, as determined by the person themselves. This may include loved ones that are biologically related, ‘family of choice’, parents or other caregivers, partners, children, grandparents and/or other significant relationships in the person’s life. Social networks and friends are also critically important, and are often defined as ‘family’, so it is important that close social relationships are included in considerations when adopting a ‘whole-of-family’ and ‘family as a system’ approaches.


Many LGBTIQA+ individuals and families live healthy, connected, happy and positive lives. However, there are some specific areas where members of LGBTIQA+ communities experience significantly poorer outcomes than their cisgender and heterosexual peers.  In particular, rates of substance misuse, family violence, mental illness, self-harm and suicide are disproportionately higher for LGBTIQA+ people than the general population.

Research shows that the stigma, discrimination, and family conflict and or violence experienced by LGBTIQA+ people are key contributing factors to increased distress and poorer health outcomes. In contrast, family acceptance and connection, supportive relationships, community connection and a sense of belonging are predictors of enhanced mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

Drummond Street Services (DS) has a 50-year history supporting, advocating for, and affirming LGBTIQA+ individuals and communities. Our services and expertise have evolved over time, based on building evidence within program and service development, informed by public health approaches. In 2008 we established Queerspace, an LGBTIQA+ health and wellbeing service, run by LGBTIQA+ people for LGBTIQA+ individuals, families and communities. Queerspace’s practice has been built on specifically targeting multiple risk factors and building protective factors at the individual, family and community level, across all our family and community support services.

Australian research found that 46.9% of LGBTIQA+ participants would prefer to access health or support services from a mainstream service that is LGBTIQ-inclusive, 21.4% from a LGBTIQ specific health or support service and 31.7% had no preference. Drummond Street is a service that provides both mainstream family services through FMHSS, FARS and FLC, and also LGBTIQA+ specialist services, providing an inclusive and accessible service for diverse communities. This is particularly important for LGBTIQA+ individuals and families with intersectional identities, who may feel more comfortable attending a service that offers generalist programs, as well as the benefit of accessing a broad range of wrap around support.

Mainstream family services have a critical role to play in intervening early, to build family acceptance and connection and supportive relationships for LGBTIQA+ children, young people, parents/ carers and family members. This investment in early intervention will enhance mental health and wellbeing outcomes, now and into the future, for our communities.


Karen Field – CEO, Drummond Street Services

As a qualified Social Worker, Karen (she/they) has 35 years’ experience in developing, managing and delivering a range of public health evidenced based programs and services to communities, families, parents, young people and children. Her work has involved a range of sectors including health (primary and mental health) and welfare, education and employment, and justice (prisons and community based) sectors within government and community-based organisations. Her knowledge base, employment experience and contribution spans the public health spectrum including promotion, prevention and early intervention, tertiary end treatment programs, and recovery and continuing care services. Karen has been the CEO of Drummond Street Services for 18 years.

Karen is a well-regarded champion of research and evaluation to ensure that organisations build their capacity and contribute to the knowledge base of health and wellbeing; and that we identify, understand and meet the needs of our most vulnerable and excluded groups in the community.  She is a campaigner of human rights and dignity for all and the recognition of all families, this is especially demonstrated in her commitment to justice engaged people, Youth Development, Stepfamilies, Indigenous communities, Refugee and Humanitarian Entrants and their families and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Community and their families. Whilst a Senior Manager at beyondblue the National depression Initiative, Karen project managed a range of significant national projects in relation to mental health (Indigenous, Youth, LGBTIQA+ and CaLD) and has been a significant developer of mental health programs.

Karen has written post graduate curriculum in Adolescent Health and taught at Melbourne University and as an Academic Fellow with Deakin University Health Psychology. 

Elliott McMahon – Queerspace Program Manager

Elliott McMahon (he/him, living on Wurundjeri Country) is the Program Manager in Queerspace and Family Violence Response, Drummond Street Services. Elliott worked in Housing First homelessness programs as well as medically supervised injecting rooms before leading a flagship Alcohol and other Drug program with a focus on centring harm reduction and lived expertise in a crisis accommodation setting. Elliott’s current role focuses on supporting Queerspace housing, mental health and family violence programs to provide client centred interventions within a whole of family approach. Central to Elliott’s work is Drummond Street Services’ commitment to embedding intersectionality and family centred practice across programs. Elliott is passionate about developing evidence building and evidence-based practice within the family violence space, particularly in working with LGBTIQA+ people who have used violence in family settings. 

Mengrui Li – Queerspace Family Violence Manager

Mengrui (she/her) completed a Master of Social Work degree at Monash University, following a Bachelor of Sociology in Renmin University of China. She is currently the Family Violence Manager for Queerspace living on Wurundjeri Country.

She has extensive experience working in the family violence field, having worked at Emerge, a women and children’s refuge, as a specialist family violence case manager. In her role she supported women and children in their recovery journey having sought refuge due to serious risk of family violence.

Mengrui has also worked at the Orange Door, Bayside and Peninsula hub as an intake and assessment practitioner with AFMs, Respondents and children for risk assessment and risk management. Prior to this she worked at the Salvation Army Rapid Response Team, holding clients in crisis, coordinating referrals and allocation for clients with complex needs between the Orange Door and Salvation Army case management team.

In recent years, her work is focusing on leading the family violence team and developing intersectional, queer informed, invitational, trauma-informed and non-binary approach to work with women, trans and gender diverse people who have used harm or violence for change. Mengrui has a great passion for behaviour change work and therapeutic work for women, trans, and gender diverse people using violence with considerations of intersectionality and safety of clients and their family members.

Nicole Dowling – Family Practice Manager Queerspace

Nicole Dowling (she/they) is the Family Practice Manager in Queerspace and Family Violence Response, Drummond Street Services living on Wurundjeri Country. Nicole worked in the crisis homelessness and out of home care sectors before moving in to LGBTIQA+ family violence prevention and support. Their work focusses on ensuring families with LGBTIQA+ members receive intersectional, queer informed, child centred responses both within Drummond Street and with external support providers through consult, advocacy and training provision.  Nicole is passionate about LGBTIQA+ parents feeling safe, seen and supported, and all parents feeling empowered to care for and lift up their LGBTIQA+ children in strong, connected families.

Lora Chapman-Monte – Child Family and LGBTIQ Counsellor, Upper Murray Family Care

Lora(she/her) is a qualified social worker who has worked with children, youth and families in a variety of roles for the past 13 years. She is currently a Child, Family and Specialised LGBTQIA counsellor in Wodonga, Victoria. In this role she focuses on working systemically with both families and individuals to work towards positive change. Prior to this, she has worked as a sexual assault counsellor, and a case manager in out-of-home-care, family violence and child protection sectors.

Lora has also been awarded a Philosophy Doctorate from Deakin University, and published in a number of journals. Her research has focused on poverty, disadvantage, and criminalisation. She has undertaken qualitative research with sex workers in the Philippines and young people in Central Australia.

Lora is passionate about intersectional practice, and enjoys working with clients to explore their experiences with gender and sexuality, relationships and family.