Navigating COVID-19

The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) is being felt by all of us. We all need to look out for each other and our health. Diverse communities may be feeling additional pressures and unique challenges surrounding the economic and health situations created by the coronavirus.

This page lists resources relevant for communities and their allies – please share these resources and encourage people to reach out if they need support.

Recognising the challenge that COVID-19 presents, Equality Australia assembled a roundtable of LGBTIQ+ and allied organisations to open the conversation about the specific issues facing LGBTIQ+ people in Australia due to COVID-19 and its impacts – read the report. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation in the United States has also published a research brief outlining health and economic risks faced by the community during the public health crisis.

It is indeed a tough time for all of us and we hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy during this pandemic. We would like to send our thanks to all the frontline health care professionals and the essential workers who are helping the world battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and share our deepest condolences to those who have lost their loved ones during this hard time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the University of Melbourne community and Pride in Action Network members in so many ways. As international students and members of the LGBTQIA+ community trying to navigate this tough time, we are personally reflecting on issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many international students landed in this nation believing an education in Australia is ­– beyond the adventure of new land to live in – a necessary advancement to a brighter future. This global pandemic has shattered the dreams of many of us and has left thousands of international students in an extremely vulnerable position with no support.

Many of us have lost jobs or financial support from family. Because of their temporary student visa status, these students are not eligible for government financial support, leaving many students struggling to afford their tuition, rent, bills or even food and other necessities.

International students with Asian heritage are now facing waves of racial discrimination in Australia. There was recently an unprovoked attack on two international students from the University of Melbourne. Hurtful remarks related to the COVID-19 pandemic also exist on social media platforms. This pandemic is not an excuse for anyone to practice prejudice and violence motivated by fear and hatred. We must stand with and support each other to move forward together. We are all in this together as parts of this beautiful, courageous and diverse community.

According to the University of Melbourne Annual Report of 2018, 42% of the student population are international students coming from over 140 countries. Many will be members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many community members to return to their home countries or remain in other quarantine environments where their wellbeing and safety are compromised. Consensual same-sex sexual acts are criminalised in 63 countries and freedom to express sexual orientation and gender identity is limited in 34 countries (ILGA, 2019). Even within Australia, community members could be living in households and areas where discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ communities still exist.

I, Long, have decided to move back to my home country and am planning on deferring my study. Here, I served 14 days in a quarantine facility with other Vietnamese international students from all over the world. Although life in the facility is not the easiest, I had the privilege to be myself, supported by others around me and am amazed by how much the LGBTQIA+ community in Vietnam has accomplished. However, my time inside the quarantine facility comes to an end and I move into quarantine at home. I face the reality that I am not yet out to my family; I am going back into the closet which I stepped out seven years ago when I moved for my education. My personal experience has helped me acknowledge my own privilege and understand more about the issues of wellbeing and safety the LGBTIQIA+ community is facing during the pandemic. 

I, Jack, want you to remember that you don’t have to be productive or active right now. Try your best not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Now more than ever, it is an important time for us to love ourselves. On the bright side, I am using this social distancing as an opportunity to improve a lot of my skills, such as taking a good selfie in the mirror or learning how to flirt with guys online. Having friends, who are also international queer students, on my side to support me in this difficult time is helping me to get through all of this. Talking to them online, Zoom dating and online partying, regardless of our distance, is helping me to keep myself in the present and feel less alone during this isolated period. As a cisgender, able-bodied gay male with adequate support I am privileged in this situation. It is much more difficult for many of my international friends and fellows and it was heartbreaking to see that my friend Long had to go back to Vietnam while I am still able to stay here to continue my online study with no distraction.

Our thoughts are with those queer students who may have to navigate moving home, perhaps into unsupportive spaces. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your friends, family, and professionals. Get in touch with Stop 1 or your department for advice, guidance and even scholarship opportunities. We are here to provide support, at least morally and mentally at this stage. Many organisations are delivering support services and groups via phone, Zoom, or chat rooms, like Thorne Harbor Health or Headspace. Your health, safety and wellbeing should be the number the one priority. Let’s keep practising social distancing a little longer so we can get back to our normal life as soon as possible.

We know it is hard for you, but you are surviving day by day. You are not alone, we love you, and we are so proud of you. Stay safe and stay strong, friends. Keep going!

Long and Jack

  • QLife Australia – phone and webchat counselling for all LGBTIQ people. Webchat 3pm – midnight every day, phone 1800 184 527 6pm - 10pm.
  • Queerspace – a confidential, non-judgmental and queer-affirmative counselling service.
  • ACON Substance Support Counselling – free short term counselling or LGBTI people and people with HIV seeking support in relation to their use of alcohol and other drugs.
  • Thorne Harbour Rainbow Connection – Offering someone to talk to, peer support (regular contact with a peer volunteer from the LGBTI community), nutrition and food support, help with housing insecurity. Contact 1800 961 780 (9am-5pm Monday to Friday) or
  • Intersex Peer Support Australia Co.vid-connect – weekly lunchtime video catchups for the Intersex community
  • UMSU – The University of Melbourne Student Union has pulled together resources for students including financial, housing and employment support.
  • Family Violence service – WithRespect is a family and intimate partner violence service supporting LGBTIQ+ communities and their families
  • Undercurrent –  how to support friends, family and community members who are experiencing family and intimate partner violence
  • Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors – safety tips, information, and privacy strategies for survivors on the use of technology
  • LGBTIQ Legal Service – helping LGBTIQ people living in Victoria with legal problems, such as accessing Centrelink, employment issues, health complaints, family violence and tenancy issues. Get in touch by emailing or by calling/texting 0490 086 090 to arrange a phone or video appointment.
  • Black Rainbow — Australia's leading Indigenous suicide prevention and mental health support source for LGBTQ+ people.
  • PFLAG Australia — Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
  • Trans Pride Australia — Social and support group for trans and gender diverse people and their loved ones.
  • Zoe Belle Gender Centre (ZBGC) — An online service supporting the health and wellbeing of Victoria's sexuality and gender-diverse community, with information available to anyone in Australia.
  • Beyond Blue Forums – Forums on looking after yourself during corona.
  • ReachOut Forums – Forums on a range of topics
  • 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
  • Lifeline – 131 114
  • Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277
  • Online mental health courses – Offered free during the pandemic by This Way Up

Whether you are hosting a Zoom meeting or participating in one, you are able to change your name and add in your pronouns. You can do this prior to the meeting, by editing your profile, or you can update your name while you are in a video call.

Other ideas include:

  • Letting other people know how to change their name in Zoom at the start of the meeting.
  • Let everyone choose whether to turn their video on or not.
  • Try not to assume anyone’s gender. If you’re the host, start with “welcome everyone” or another gender-neutral greeting.
  • Remember you can still wear your rainbow lanyard in video meetings!