The Victorian Government is responsible for a range of social outcomes for almost 7 million people, and wanted to understand and measure how its work impacts LGBTIQ+ communities across the state.
A strategic approach to LGBTIQ+ outcomes that builds on existing outcomes, data, and community voices.
Fairer Victoria is now implementing the recommendations into its strategic plan.
For much of Australian history, LGBTIQ+ Australians have been vilified, ostracised, and not included in policy decisions made by the very governments intended to represent them.
Only this year did gay conversion camps become illegal, and only a few years ago did Australians win the fight for marriage equality.
Progress has been slow, and in large part due to the community groups advocating for greater inclusion - the first of which, the Daughters of Bilitis who’d later be known as the Australasian Lesbian Movement and considered Australia’s first gay rights group, began in Melbourne, Victoria.
And there’s so much more work to be done to ensure the health, wellbeing, and inclusion of LGBTQI+ Australians. Even the 2021 Census failed to properly include LGBTIQ+ responses.
In 2021, spur: was approached by Victorian Government to assist with a challenge: while they were making efforts to provide outcomes for LGBTIQ+ citizens, how should they measure their progress?
Fairer Victoria knows the work is far from over
Fairer Victoria is the group within The Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) responsible for advising on embedding inclusion, access, and social and economic participation across state government projects.
Fairer Victoria is in the process of developing a ten-year LGBTIQ+ Strategy in order to reform and improve policies, programs, and services for LGBTIQ+ communities.
The strategy includes a vision for Victoria where:
- All Victorians feel safe, have equal rights and can live wholly and freely.
- LGBTIQ+ Victorians experience the benefits of full participation in economic, educational, community and social areas at all stages of life.
- Victoria leads the way in LGBTIQ+ equality, celebrating the community and taking sustained, enduring and measurable action.
The evaluation of outcomes was included as a central component of the strategy, as Fairer Victoria wanted to ensure its efforts were resulting in actual improvements.
Yet, progress can indeed be a difficult thing to measure.
spur:’s job, then, was to develop a strategic approach for measuring the outcomes of the LGBTIQ+ Strategy.
Our work compromised three key parts; a comprehensive analysis of existing approaches to outcomes (including those in the Victorian public sector), a recommendation that Fairer Victoria adopt a community-led approach to outcomes, and an implementation plan.
No reinventing the wheel
The Victorian Government has recently aligned how its Departments talk about, define, and measure success for Victorian communities through the Victorian Outcomes Reform Statement:
The Statement has been used by Departments to articulate the big picture, population-level outcomes they want to see for communities. It also provides a framework for understanding how government activities might achieve these outcomes and measuring their impact. Many Department outcomes frameworks (the thing that links your activities with the results you want to achieve) are built using the Statement, including:
- The Family Violence Outcomes Framework
- The Public Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Framework
- The State Disability Plan
- The Community Resilience Framework
- The Aboriginal Affairs Framework
- The Victorian Mental Health Plan
These frameworks have already identified thousands of population-specific outcomes and their measures—many of which are relevant to LGBTIQ+ communities.
For example, in the Family Violence Outcomes Framework:
- Domain : Family violence and gender inequality are not tolerated
- Outcome: Victorian homes, organisations and communities are safe and inclusive
- Indicator: Reduction in people subject to family violence
We know that LGBTIQ+ communities disproportionately experience family violence.
And in the Public Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Framework:
- Domain: Victorians are healthy and well
- Outcome: Victorians have good mental health
- Indicator: Decrease suicide
We know that LGBTIQ+ communities disproportionately experience suicide.
Fairer Victoria and spur: identified the opportunity to harness the work already being done across the Victorian government and utilise this information as a foundation of Fairer Victoria's evaluation approach.
Therefore, spur: undertook an analysis of all available outcomes frameworks—to cross-analyse and extract indicators and measures relevant to LGBTIQ+ communities.
Over 800 existing indicators and measures used in existing government outcomes frameworks could be utilised.
What did this mean? A lot less work for Fairer Victoria as they would not have to reinvent the wheel for outcomes measurement.
The spur: approach
spur: needed to find a way to ensure the outcomes framework was not just reasonable, but usable. It must be understood, embraced, actioned, evaluated, and iterated by all stakeholders affected by and affecting the outcomes framework:
With this in mind, spur: recommended Fairer Victoria adopt a community-centered approach to their outcomes framework.
Traditional approaches to outcomes frameworks often privilege a single stakeholder measuring progress of their own actions. For example, an organisation might only measure its own work in progressing a cause, in absence of other actors in the space.
This is understandable —but limiting. It’s a bit like tracking the traffic congestion on one road and drawing conclusions about the whole city: you don’t have a whole picture of everything going on all the other roads, intersections, bridges and more.
This fragments the picture of change and fails to acknowledge the reality that population-level outcomes are typically achieved only with the sustained efforts of an ecosystem of stakeholders.
On the other hand, a community-centred approach allows multiple stakeholders to understand how they’re contributing towards shared goals and outcomes—both individually and as a group. This approach supports and fosters both collaboration and autonomy.
A community-centred approach is particularly powerful when all stakeholders have contributed to its development too—something Fairer Victoria had already made efforts in. This promotes a common purpose, ongoing engagement, allocative efficiency, and accountability for key stakeholders:
A community-centered approach to outcomes helps these stakeholders to find common purpose, greater engagement, better resourcing, and shared accountability.
Yet, the challenge that remained was good, actionable data.
The data problem
Data forms the backbone of any outcomes evaluation approach.
The ability to effectively measure progress (or regress) towards real outcomes for people comes from the compelling stories data can tell us. An outcomes framework must utilise representative and beneficial data. It must be capable of reflecting the changes in the lived experiences of communities at its core.
Each of the existing Victorian outcomes frameworks utilise myriad datasets to measure progress, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Victoria Police, universities and many more. These datasets typically capture a range of insights on demographics and identity, socioeconomic position, family make-up, safety and security, community connectedness, mental and physical health—the list goes on.
However, absent from most government (and ABS) datasets is data on LGBTIQ+ identities.
While not unique to the Victorian government, Fairer Victoria has set their sights on changing this reality. Fairer Victoria has already provided departments across government with best practice LGBTIQ+ data collection standards. But these changes don't just happen or get adopted overnight.
Designing out the data problem
It was clear that better data collection needed to form part of the evaluation approach.
spur: determined Fairer Victoria’s evaluation data must be:
- Able to capture the LGBTIQ+ communities at large, but also but also the distinct Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer+ communities within - lest it fail to provide nuance.
- Reflect multiple identity intersections - such as LGBTIQ+ people living with a disability and Indigenous LGBTIQ+ people.
- Captured under rigorous testing conditions, and with integrity.
Without representative and reliable data, an outcomes framework will not be able to say much about progress and outcomes. Without good data, outcomes frameworks are relegated to nice to have documents that sit in drawers and do very little.
Yet, the problem of lack of established LGBTIQ+ datasets remained.
So, spur: recommend that Fairer Victoria open the data doors and allow community organisations to contribute their own data and integrate datasets towards a shared pool. After all, a wider net of potential datasets also increases the likelihood of capturing more intersectional identities, and moving the outcomes framework towards data efficacy and representativeness.
Community-owned and community-informed outcomes
Helping a state government responsible for 7 million people evaluate their progress to improving outcomes for LGBTIQ+ communities is no mean feat.
The end result of spur:’s recommendations was to up end the initial conception: a community-owned outcomes framework, which is not just a reflection of how government builds towards LGBTIQ+ outcomes, but a north star of outcomes for the whole community.
A central data repository, built and refined by the LGBTIQ+ community, is the vehicle of this progress. In turn, this creates a shared responsibility, accountability and a living, breathing movement towards a better and fairer Victoria for LGBTIQ+ people.
After all, as Australia’s history of LGBTIQ+ activism tell us, progress requires people working together.
Fairer Victoria is looking to deliver the Strategy before the end of 2021. We look forward to seeing and living the real outcomes this important work will facilitate. Fairer Victoria knows the work is far from over, but have set the agenda and roadmap for a better world for LGBTIQ+ Victorians.
spur: delivered this work as a Network Partner Organisation through 123+, an initiative that aims to build the capacity of LGBTIQ+ initiatives around the world.