More than 200 young people from across North East Victoria attended the North East Pride Collective’s fourth annual Rainbow Ball – the region’s biggest LGBTIQA+ youth celebration – held in Benalla in June.

The North East Pride Collective (NEPC) is a group of LGBTIQA+ people aged 14 to 25 years. The group is facilitated by Gateway Health through the WayOut Wodonga program. The NEPC coordinates LGBTIQA+ events for young people in North East Victoria – including the Rainbow Ball.

The event aims to celebrate, connect, empower and affirm LGBTIQA+ young people in regional areas.

Free transportation was available from Albury Wodonga, Indigo Shire, Mansfield, Wangaratta, Shepparton and Myrtleford to ensure accessibility for LGBTIQA+ young people and their friends from across the North East.

Entertainment included:

  • drag artists Deja Drag and Viktoria Valentine
  • a DJ and dancefloor where young people danced the night away (they even did the Nutbush!)
  • a runway show where young people strutted their stuff, showing off an array of different outfits and styles.

“The Rainbow Ball is now an established event within our North East Victoria and Border region, and the support we have received over the past three years has been phenomenal! To ensure we remain accessible to all our LGBTQI+ peeps across the entire North East region, the location of this year’s ball was chosen to be Benalla! This event is SO important for our young LGBTQI+ population. Living in country Victoria/NSW, young queer people often experience bullying, exclusion, and a lack of community. So, this once-a-year event opens a free, accessible, and most importantly, safe space for our region’s LGBTQI+ youth population to have fun, celebrate, and be themselves. We hope that our attendees leave the Ball feeling loved and supported by their community and that we are opening up a discussion in the region to improve LGBTQI+ awareness and support.” – Jai Butler, NEPC

“The rainbow ball is so important to young people in regional areas because it’s an annual reminder that you aren’t alone. Often in regional and remote areas young people, especially those belonging to a minority community such as the LGBTQIA+ group feel isolated and distanced from similar people. The ball is a reassurance that you aren’t alone. It’s a reminder that your community is always here and it makes young queer kids especially feel safe and as if they can grow into their identity with support and compassion otherwise hard to find.” – Arabella (Bea) Hazel, NEPC

The NEPC was established in 2018 to provide advocacy and support for LGBTIQA+ young people. Founded by young people, the aim was to cultivate a youth-driven space for LGBTIQA+ events in North East Victoria.

The NEPC addresses social isolation experienced by young LGBTIQA+ people in regional areas by creating safe, fun, visible and inclusive spaces and events for young LGBTIQA+ people to connect, belong, and be celebrated.

The inaugural Rainbow Ball was held in 2019 in response to a direct request from LGBTIQA+ young people who experienced discrimination when asking to attend school formals with their same-sex partners.

A big thank you to the organisations that partnered with the NEPC to make the Rainbow Ball a success:

  • WayOut Wodonga – Gateway Health
  • AlburyCity
  • Benalla Rural City
  • The Diversity Project
  • Indigo Shire Council
  • Junction Support Services
  • Rural City of Wangaratta
  • Strathbogie Shire Council
  • Mansfield Shire Council
  • headspace Albury/Wodonga