The thrill of in-person events, of being in the same room to share experiences, celebrations, conversation and music, is not taken for granted by any of us. So it was with real joy that joined our family in the LGBTIQ+ community to celebrate the 2021 GLOBE Community Awards with a black tie event at Melbourne’s Plaza Ballroom.
The awards arrived at an important juncture for social justice in Australia. The debate around the religious discrimination bill dominated headlines in the days leading up to the awards, while the release of the Victorian Government’s LGBTIQ+ strategy – while not gaining as much media – saw the state government’s important work on the next decade of inclusivity made public for the first time.
Dubbed Pride in our Future, the strategy looks to ensure equal rights and freedoms for LGBTIQ+ Victorians, with a review of all relevant laws led by Minister for Equality Martin Foley, and overseen by Commissioner for the LGBTIQ+ community, Todd Fernando. The plan includes reforming both the public service and the police to ensure they are both non-discriminative and approachable for queer Victorians, and it was with the same focus and spirit that the GLOBE Awards were held.
The emphasis on the word “community” was evident throughout the night, with the support and pride from everyone gathered – both in person and watching the live feed – evident for all nominees and winners.
Among those were the business leaders who saw in adversity an opportunity to reach out to their neighbours, making spaces for people in need, and who were celebrated with the Jobsbank award for Excellence in LGBTIQ Small Business and Enterprise.
The winner, Piano Bar, does far more than simply what it says on the box. Sure, it is a bar – beginning life in Geelong before spreading across regional Victoria – and it has a piano. Needless to say the business model became problematic during the pandemic, when public cultural life vanished. Of course, the people who create that culture didn’t.
Piano Bar’s directors, Aaron Skinner and Andy Pobjoy, were perceptive enough to notice their real asset was the community which grew around live music, spoken word, stand up and drag. So, they switched to streaming, and came up with an LGBTIQ+-friendly program that saw Pobjoy sweat it out online for one hundred consecutive nights.
“We wanted to make sure our audience was connected at a time when we were all so disconnected from everyone,” says Skinner. “It also gave our team work when other hospitality venues were firing staff. It gave us a purpose for each day.”
The team at Piano Bar were so persistent in their livestreams they amassed a substantial following, creating a large enough audience to expand from Geelong and Colac into venues in Ballarat, Bendigo and – just announced at the Awards, one soon-to-come to inner Melbourne.
“We don’t brand ourselves specifically as a gay bar,” explains Skinner. “But everyone is welcome. We love bringing fabulous to regional towns in Victoria and are proud of the safe spaces we’ve created. And, we employ a diverse team of talented people – most of whom identify as LGBTIQ+.”
Piano Bar took home the award on the evening, but the regional Victorian team was running among an impressive group of nominees. Other finalists for the Excellence in Small Business Award were Tax Assist, an accounting service providing financial advice tailored for small businesses and entreprenuers in the lgbtqi+ community, and LOVE, another innovative live-events venue that kept the flame burning for queer artists throughout lockdowns.
“Recognising and supporting LGBTIQ+ businesses who have gone above and beyond for our communities over the past year is something we’re very proud of,” says Justine Moss, director of the board here at Jobsbank. “Finalists LOEV, Tax Assist and the winner Piano Bar, have done innovative and important work for their communities throughout Victoria, and we congratulate all three.”
Head to the GLOBE website for more information and the full list of winners.
At Jobsbank we are passionate about inclusion and the difference it makes – not just to one person, but to teams and whole organisations. We believe in an Australia where everybody belongs. That’s why we’re helping to build more inclusive workplaces one business at time. Whether you have specific focus areas or you’re looking to achieve transformational change – our services are tailored to meet your specific needs and provides you with the insights and tools to deliver sustainable solutions.
Originally known as the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Business and Enterprise, for 30 years GLOBE has reflected the diverse communities it represents within the rainbow alphabet and across all of Victoria. GLOBE enables connection and learning for individuals and businesses over a range of events, and through its community grants program, has donated more than $140,000 to worthy individuals, students, charitable organisations and small businesses since 2014. The grants are funded through the GLOBE Community Awards, which celebrate the wonderful work of LGBTIQA+ individuals and programs across Victoria.
Words: Tim Grey
Photo: Jobsbank CEO Corinne Proske with the Jobsbank team at the GLOBE Victoria Community Awards.