January 18, 2022

The Werribee News is the local newspaper of Werribee, Victoria state. We publish weekly and has a circulation of five thousand's website visits per week.

Innovative gaming program supports LGBTQIA+ youth

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The online gaming program helps young members of the LGBTQIA + community feel confident and proud of their identity.

The Rainbow Group is an offshoot of genU GAMER, a program that uses love of gaming to develop confidence and social skills. The program began as a way to help young people break out of isolation and support mental health recovery, and has proven beneficial for people with autism, Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD.

The Rainbow Group is the brainchild of Alistair Shirley, who helps the group and supports customers. Alistair identified a significant gap in the mental health services available to LGBTQIA + Youth – that there were no options that were truly focused on peer communication and building trust and identity.

“I came to mental health with the thought that I wanted to help the LGBT community because it helped me,” says Alistair.

“I would be a completely different person today if I didn’t have the support I received.”

“The community, like any other community, deserves support that is useful and holistic to them”

genU GAMER was founded on the idea that play presents a unique opportunity for personal growth. The power to choose and create your own character in role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons gives customers the ability to “test” identities. It’s something that Alister himself says has been an important cornerstone for his own personal journey.

“The reason I found out I was queer was because I played queer characters”

When creating the program, emphasis was placed on participant safety – a priority throughout the genU GAMER program, but important to the Rainbow Group in terms of privacy. That’s because when it comes to some of the participants, Alister says, “They may not have a safe space where they can be who they are.”

It is a distinct advantage of the online managed group. The results, says Alister, speak for themselves. Clients who have gone from being shy or experiencing significant social challenges have broken through those barriers to work as a team to win missions and fight monsters.

“Seeing their mutual trust this way and seeing them find ways to help each other … it’s really fun to see them and hear them laugh and joke.”

As the program expands and continues to help young people come to terms with their identities, Alister looks forward to delivering in-person Rainbow RPG groups in key areas of Wyndham, Geelong and Melbourne.

“At the end of the day, the Rainbow Group is meant to be a space where you can truly feel supported and be yourself.”

For more information, phone the genU team on 1300 558 368.

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