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Fostering more diverse and inclusive workplaces in water

As part of the journey towards fostering more diverse and inclusive workplaces, Yarra Valley Water will be participating in Wear it Purple Day on 27 August, an annual event inviting people to celebrate and advocate for LGBTIQ+ people within their workplaces and communities.

Wear it Purple Day was developed by young people to highlight the impact of bullying and discrimination towards LGBTIQ+ youth, with the event aiming to raise awareness and nurture inclusions throughout Australia.

Yarra Valley Water Senior Graphic Designer and Pride in Water co-founder Jacquie Moon said celebrating Wear it Purple Day is part of Yarra Valley Water’s commitment to creating safe and inclusive workplaces for LGBTIQ+ people.

“We normally do an event for Wear it Purple Day every year, but due to COVID we are limited this year. But we will be inviting staff to get involved by dressing up in purple or setting up their workspace with the colour and posting an image on Yarra Valley Water’s internal communication platform, and talking about what wearing purple means to them,” Moon said.

“It’s a great opportunity to talk about inclusion, but also to create safe workplaces, and to create assurance for young employees to feel safe and included where they work.

“This year particularly, during COVID, it’s also about thinking about young people who live at home, who aren’t able to work or attend school, and how that might be impacting them as an LGBTIQ+ person and their mental health.”

Creating a space for change

While Wear it Purple Day has been around for about 10 years now, Moon said it’s important to continue the conversation.

“Things are getting better for our LGBTIQ+ people, but things can get better still. It’s a really important day, not just for LGBTIQ+ people, but also for LGBTIQ+ allies. Allies can wear purple to show that they stand by and support LGBTIQ+ people within their workplace, or their family,” Moon said.

“We find that a lot of parents will celebrate the day to publicly support their children, or people in their lives that are coming out at bisexual, or transitioning gender. It’s an important opportunity for them to talk about what’s happening in their lives, too.”

Moon said the event is about making sure that we are creating workplaces that are safe and inclusive for everyone, regardless of gender, but also cultural background, faith or ability.

“For LGBTIQ+ people, we are not just talking about creating workplaces that are safe, we are creating workplaces that celebrate that diversity and lived experience. We are better off, as businesses, for having diversity,” Moon said.

“The world is changing and creating workplaces with diverse thinking is crucial. By conducting these inclusion days, we are pushing forward a little bit more, every time. Valuing and including diverse thinking and experience is really important for the future of our workplaces.”

Working towards inclusive policy

Yarra Valley Water has recently relaunched its LGBTIQ+ Pride Network. While the utility has a diversity and inclusion strategy, the business is now moving to create an LGBTIQ+ Pride Action Plan.

“This will give us the opportunity to consult within the business about what we need to do to create more inclusion for LGBTIQ+ people, and our customers, as well. We are creating a new enterprise agreement looking at how we ensure this inclusion,” Moon said.

“We’ve been looking at language, but also gender affirmation leave. For example, for a staff member that’s transitioning gender, they will have access to four weeks of leave that they can use for appointments, surgery or for recovering from surgery.

“This is a big deal for someone who is transitioning. They don’t have to save up their sick or annual leave so that they can accommodate their transition. We want them to feel supported within the workplace.”

Moon said these significant policy changes will help make the workplace inviting for LGBTIQ+ people, but also help to continue the conversation around how to create genuinely safe places to work by being forward thinking about what people need to stay long-term employees.

“There’s a lot more to do, but this is the beginning of a big journey. We’ve got these policy changes coming in, but what other changes can we make? If someone is transitioning gender, how can we celebrate this life-changing event in that person’s life?” Moon said.

“How do we make sure we are using their new name, their correct pronoun, and ensuring we are not creating a situation where they have to out themselves? How do we create education and training opportunities for staff and leadership to come on board?

“We need to be talking with our LGBTIQ+ people and asking them what they need, rather than assuming to know what it is that helps them in their journey.”

Sharing the pride journey

Two years ago on Wear it Purple Day, Yarra Valley Water launched Pride in Water – a network created for LGBTIQ+ people and allies that helps to create a more inclusive water industry for staff, contractors, customers and the broader community.

“At the moment we have 29 water authorities around Australia who have signed on to support Pride in Water,” Moon said.

“The idea of Pride in Water is that water businesses can share experience and support each other to make important changes. If we have gender affirmation leave at one workplace, that policy change has the potential to occur in the entire water industry.

“That’s the long-term goal of Pride in Water. It’s about making new policies accessible for all businesses, so that companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

“Similarly with the Pride Action Plan, we are still at the beginning of doing this work, but we are able to document our process and share this experience with other water authorities that are starting out too.”