Beau's helping improve human rights for LGBTQI people in Bali

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world, being subjected to discrimination is often a harsh reality.

In Bali, homosexuality is not criminalised, but it can be deemed at odds with societal and cultural norms, making it difficult for members of the LGBTQI community to secure support on health and identity issues.

One organisation working to improve human rights and health awareness for LGBTQI+ people is the Gaya Dewata Foundation (YGD), Bali’s only community-run gay and transgender organisation.

The YGD has worked with gay and transgender communities in Bali for the last 20 years, and continues to improve sexual health and educate people on HIV/AIDS, sexuality and gender issues.

“We are trying to build healthier, more tolerant communities”

Australian volunteer Beau Newham worked with YGD as a community engagement and social media program developer for 12 months.

Although we are based in Bali, we have clients from all over Indonesia,” explains Beau.

“We work with people from different backgrounds, religions and economic situations, and try to find ways to build healthier and more tolerant communities in Bali and Indonesia more widely.”

Australian volunteer Beau Newham back with colleagues from the Gaya Dewata Foundation
Australian volunteer Beau Newham (back) with colleagues from The Gaya Dewata Foundation in Bali, Indonesia. Supplied: Beau Newham
Australian volunteer Beau Newham and a colleague working on a laptop at the Gaya Dewata Foundation v2.
Australian volunteer Beau Newham with a colleague. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

“Some people in Indonesia can act in a quite hostile way towards the LGBTQI community, meaning we must tread a fine line in how we engage with the wider community.

“Thankfully the national HIV/AIDS prevention program has been supportive of our efforts, so hopefully they will continue to value the work of YGD and allow the organisation to grow,” he says.

From social media to campaigning

Day-to-day, YGD outreach workers travel around Bali’s capital, Denpasar, visiting clients, taking them to health clinics, providing free condoms and talking to people in tourist areas about HIV/AIDS.

Beau’s days are largely spent in the office in Denpasar with other management staff, working on awareness-raising programs and grant applications.

“My role has varied greatly over my time at YGD. At first, I focused on raising the public profile of the organisation, especially online. We worked together to build a new website and create a strong social media presence.

“Now that those systems are in place, I’ve been working on grant applications and helping YGD develop new ways to approach HIV/AIDS prevention in Bali. Funding a small organisation like this is difficult, but we are trying our best to keep the YGD going.”

Rice fields in Bali
Rice fields in Bali, Indonesia. Supplied: Beau Newham
Rice terrace Ubud Indonesia
Rice terrace in Ubud, Bali. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

Embracing the slower pace of life

After growing up in Sydney, adjusting to a slower pace of life in Bali was at times challenging – but ultimately rewarding – for Beau.

“Working in Denpasar and living near Seminyak can sometimes get a bit much, so I like to go on weekend trips away and explore the quieter side of Bali,” he says.

“I think the biggest lesson I learnt in Indonesia is patience. People take their time here, in every aspect of life. I think international volunteering has helped bring this out in me.

It’s an enriching experience on every level and I think I’m better for having lived here,” concludes Beau.

Beau Newham was volunteer Community Engagement and Social Media Program Developer with Yayasan Gaya Dewata from November 2014 to December 2015.