The program was originally established to provide health education and community development to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and to establish networks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls across Queensland. In addition, the 2 Spirits Program has, and continues to provide direct 1:1 support advocacy and referral for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Living with HIV (PLHIV).
In 1996 the program was established as the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV/AIDS Project (QATSIHAP), and in 2009 the name of the Program was changed to “2 Spirits.” The term “2 Spirits” refers to a person whose body simultaneously houses masculine and feminine spirits. The rebranding of the Program promoted the importance of culture in health education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The 2 Spirits logo was also launched in 2009. Developed by Arone Meeks the logo features male and female images, along with the symbol of infinity. The colours of the logo reflect the colours of the rainbow, as well as colours featured in both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags.
Covering the entire state of Queensland, the Program promotes healthy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirl communities through sexual health promotion, campaigns, community outreach, education workshops, support and referrals.
The Program has utilised a “whole of community approach” to providing HIV, other STI and BBV health education, and to reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls. This approach has been highly effective, as it is culturally appropriate, and allows the Program to reach gay men and sistergirls in remote and regional community settings.
In 2011, the Program underwent an external review – with consultants Bill O’Loughlin and Gregory Phillips meeting stakeholders, previous staff members and community members to determine recommendations for the future of the Program. A total of 23 Recommendations were made on Strategic Focus, Health Promotion and Community Development and Strengthening and Promoting Capacity – giving the Program a strong platform to build into the future.
Unfortunately, the Program has never been adequately funded. Funding targeting LGBTI health rarely specifically focusses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues, whilst funding targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health rarely focusses on LGBTI issues specifically. The funding provided by Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) and later Department for Health (DoH) never received a real increase to meet growing demands.
In 2017, funding for the project was ceased by the Department for Health, with no consultation, and no project evaluation. Despite significant attempts to lobby politicians in Canberra, and nationwide, and despite significant media attention, the project was cut.
Following the defunding of the project, QuAC has agreed to continue the project, on a limited basis, funding the vital project out of the organisation’s financial reserves. QuAC believes that Indigenous health is too important to be ignored, and that cutting funding to vital Indigenous sexual health services such as 2 Spirits sets a dangerous precedent for Indigenous and LGBTI health in the future.