Influential and Tireless Campaigner for Equality Suran Dickson Will Be Keynote Speaker For The First New Zealand LGBTI Awards
By Ciaran Warner
Event organiser and founder of Diversity Role Models Suran Dickson has been announced as the keynote speaker for the first New Zealand LGBTI Awards.
The Awards, which will take place on Thursday November 29th at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland, are intended to “draw attention to those LGBTI people and straight allies who are putting their heads above the parapet to further advance LGBTI equality,” Suran says.
Born in New Zealand, Suran was living and teaching in London when the suicide of British teenager Dominic Crouch in 2010, whose father Roger Crouch also committed suicide eighteen months later, shocked and galvanised Suran into action. Quitting her job as a teacher, she threw herself into creating an organisation that would combat homophobia through both education and compassion, and provide support for those in the LGBTI community who had been targets of persecution.
Within six months, she was successful. The launch of Diversity Role Models took place in the House of Commons, with British Prime Minister Theresa May in attendance.
Today, she is one of the most significant voices in the LGBTI community, both in New Zealand and the UK, with online newspaper The Independent ranking her tenth on its Rainbow List of Influential LGBT People in 2014.
Her involvement, she says, was based heavily on the visibility and availability of role models within the LGBTI community, particularly for the many younger members of the community with whose difficulties she is all too familiar with.
“There’s no visibility, no one to look up to for those in that community who do struggle with mental health, self-harm, increased suicide risk, and also for their peers who may have grown up in homes where there was less visibility or LGBTI people might not be spoken about so positively,” Suran says.
“These Awards give them the opportunity to see people who are just people, who are doing great things in the world and who happen to be from that community.”
While she sees New Zealand as “far along the path” of diversity and tolerance for those within the LGBTI community, she believes there is still work to be done.
“There are people in businesses I visit who are still in the closet, who don’t feel comfortable being out at work, and I question that in 2018 - is it the language being used? Are the right policies in place? Is there a lack of communication? So a large-scale event like this shines a spotlight on those companies that are doing a great job, and then those that aren’t perhaps become aware that there’s some work to do. So it simply highlights a gap that I think still exists,” Suran says.
Her reaction to the enthusiastic response to the New Zealand LGBTI Awards so far, with over 2000 votes cast for the nominees and over 300 tickets sold so far, has been one of gratitude, describing it as “heart-warming.”
“Seeing the enthusiasm and excitement as people were voting, and to have that many votes, is fantastic,” she says.
“I’m really looking forward to the night, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic affair, I’m looking forward to finally getting there and meeting all the people who have been building excitement in the background and who have been really supportive of this happening.”
The New Zealand LGBTI Awards ceremony will feature a number of familiar faces, including the Topp Twins, Jools and Linda, who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, Lucy Lawless, who is Ambassador for the Awards, and Tamati Coffey, who will be MCing the evening.
Contact New Zealand LGBTI Awards:
Phone: +61 2 8097 0054
Phone: 0274 587 724