“The curiosity was just beautiful” – UniSuper does Midsumma 2024

UniSuper was a proud participant in Midsumma 2024. Read about what being involved in the famous carnival means for our proud LGBTQIA+ employees and allies.

If you’re out in the blazing summer sun on a 38-degree day, it’s important to lather up with some sunscreen—you want to be comfortable in your own skin.

At UniSuper, 7% of our employees identify as LGBTQIA+ compared to around 4% of the general Australian population, so it’s a significant number and something we’re extremely proud of. We’re confident all UniSuper employees can bring their whole selves to work.

Yet, we’re always looking for new ways to show genuine care for our people and communities. A recent Open For Business study found that 92% of organisations surveyed consider diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as a material issue. But it’s one thing to say we care, and another to act. This year, we took a big step forward—you could even say we marched forward.

UniSuper participated in the 2024 Midsumma Pride March and Midsumma Carnival (the only super fund to do both), which saw a range of employees from all corners of our business take part and fly the rainbow flag. Everyone had fun on the march and beneath the UniSuper stall, chatting with the community, handing out sunscreen, water bottles and other goodies.

So, what is Midsumma? It’s Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural organisation, bringing together LGBTQIA+ artists, performers, communities and audiences, per its official website. The Pride March is one of its signature events, drawing around 10,000 participants and thousands more allies to the streets of St Kilda each year.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of pride, diversity, curiosity and acceptance. It’s when you speak to people belonging to, or who are close to, the LGBTQIA+ community, that the strides taken on those warm days become truly significant.

Andrew Fellowes, Head of Legal Negotiations

Why Midsumma? And why now?

UniSuper’s Head of Legal Negotiations, Andrew Fellowes, was an integral voice in the idea. He initiated a dedicated internal working group to prepare a business case that would be presented to the UniSuper executive leadership team, encouraging involvement in the carnival.

Andrew, who celebrates 10 years with UniSuper in 2024, strongly believed it was the right time to publicly get behind LGBTQIA+ events and causes like Midsumma.

“I always just felt that there was an opportunity, given who our core is (the university sector), that we could align to that. The timing wasn’t right a few years ago, but I felt like the timing was right this time around. We said, ‘here’s our opportunity to be ahead of the curve’,” he explains.

“All our core member universities would have a presence—how good would it be to have UniSuper having a presence among those universities, and those universities seeing us?

“But in addition, it also gave our queer employees – and allies – something to focus on, to build and be proud of.”

Andrew is proud to openly identify as gay. He’s seen a lot in his time with UniSuper, including the 2017 gay marriage plebiscite, which ultimately saw Australians say yes to LGBTQIA+ peoples’ right to marry.

Andrew’s always been open in his identity and comfortable at work, but he’s seen a progressive shift from neutrality to tangible support for the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I’ve been an openly ‘out’ person for many, many years, and I even started at UniSuper (in 2014) being very open about who I am,” Andrew says, proudly.

“I’ve never felt discriminated against, or felt like I’ve missed opportunities, in all my time here.

“In recent years, UniSuper's efforts to recognise and support queer staff and community has gone from strength to strength, and allowing their staff to participate in these events, under the UniSuper banner, demonstrates that commitment publicly.”

Logan McBean, Members Services Consultant

If you’ve ever reached out to the UniSuper contact centre by phone or otherwise, there’s a good chance consultant Logan McBean has assisted with your enquiry. If you’ve been greeted by Logan, you won’t have forgotten their infectious zest for life.

A warm and outgoing character, Logan lives an interesting life—doubling as a drag queen outside work hours. They’re nearly “retired” by their own admission, but it’s still an important part of their identity. Internally, Logan’s Microsoft Teams display photo proudly showcases both sides of this identity.

“I still identify as gender-fluid, so having a picture that displays a masculine and a feminine element is something that I pride myself on—be the change you want to see,” they say.

“Previous to this job, I worked for the ATO equivalent in New Zealand, and I was doing bar and cabaret work in the evenings and on the weekends … some pageants and a little bit of reality TV.

“I’ve always been very public in my identity.”

If you haven’t interacted with Logan over the phone, you may have received sunscreen from them in and around the UniSuper stall at Midsumma on completion of a special pop quiz.

“It was great when we saw our members because there were so many who said, ‘I am so glad to see you here’,” they add.

“This is the first time we’ve ever been public with supporting the cause.”

Linda Cook, Super Consultant QLD

For Queensland-based super consultant and ally Linda Cook, seeing UniSuper celebrate Midsumma means non-binary/trans people, like her youngest child, Riven, don’t have to fear being who they are.

Riven came out as non-binary/trans in their early teens—but as Linda explains, it was a scary conversation for Riven to have.

“They came out when they were about 13—they’re 16 now. Coming out and having that conversation is hard … while it wasn’t scary or upsetting for me at all to know they viewed themselves in this way, it was really confronting to see that they were upset and scared,” Linda says.

She hopes promotion of LGBTQIA+ issues will help ease the fears of others in Riven’s shoes: “It means raising awareness, and raising inclusion and acceptance of people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It is so important. These people suffer so much … it is so heartbreaking to see people so scared to just be who they are.

“Having a brand like UniSuper to validate just being who you are … this is just part of who some people are, and if we can accept that, we can accept that in members of our fund, (and) we can accept that as co-workers. It’s so meaningful.”

Saj Sinniah, Learning and Development Consultant

Increasing allyship is something Learning and Development Consultant Saj Sinniah is passionate about. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and having manned UniSuper’s Midsumma stall, Saj was able to see the full breadth of representation at the carnival.

People from all walks of life, and from a range of communities, were there.

“The LGBTQIA+ community is very diverse—and when I mean diverse, you have some very, very interesting people. You have communities within communities that have sub-communities,” he explains.

“It’s all about people finding their niche and wanting to be accepted.”

So what does it take to be an ally? It’s simple: curiosity. A highlight of Midsumma, Saj recounts, was allies asking questions about different people, communities and causes: “People there … were embracing the difference that these people had, and there was definitely that curiosity: ‘can you tell me a bit about that group? What’s with the clothing choice of this group?’”

“The curiosity was just beautiful. There was no judgement, there was no ‘I’m uncomfortable about this’, it was just ‘oh, that’s interesting!’ or ‘that’s really good to know!’

“They were open to being educated—these are allies. To me, that curiosity is one of those ways of showing allyship.”

Andrew O’Neill, Super Consultant VIC

Melbourne-based super consultant Andrew O’Neill is one of those allies. He doesn’t identify as LGBTQIA+, and 2024 marked his first Midsumma adventure. He was blown away by the fun family atmosphere.

“I was actually really surprised by how big it was because I’ve never been before. I don’t identify as being under that particular flag, so to speak, although I’ve worked and had friends that do,” he recounts.

“I heard it was quite big but just seeing the volume of people was quite amazing … you could clearly see that there were families there for the first time as well. One could only assume they probably aren’t part of the community either but were still there soaking up the vibe.

“The little kids were wide-eyed with some of the costumes! It was great seeing them all there. The vibe was great.”

So what prompted Andrew to head to Midsumma in the first place?

“I was there as a show of support, for a bit of fun, and to hand out some sunscreen, some water bottles,” he continues.

“I went to be a part of it and see what it was.”

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