The Victorian Senior of the Year Awards acknowledge older Victorians who volunteer to assist, support and encourage others in their communities.

Held annually, these awards are a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and Council on the Ageing Victoria.

One of those acknowledged this year is Brenda Appleton. Brenda is a tireless advocate for the LGBTI community, with a particular focus on issues related to aged care.

Brenda Appleton voiceover:

I’m Brenda Appleton. I’m the Chair of Transgender Victoria and we’re in our cosy little office in Drummond Street Services in Carlton. Transgender Victoria was set up in the late 1990s and it was set up to assist the transgender diverse community cope in society better than it does.

I volunteer because my life has been difficult. It’s difficult when you don’t meet society’s expectations of gender when you’re different and I’m trying to make it easier for those coming behind.

We need society to be much more accepting of difference. I know many have struggled with mental health issues, not because they’re mentally ill but because of the stigma and discrimination they face in our very judgemental world. We aren’t treated equally. We don’t have equal rights and, still, many struggle to get employment. Many struggle to find appropriate health services and many are struggling in aged care services.

I’ve struggled in my life. I had to have four and half years of counselling to learn to accept myself and, despite that, I had three suicide incidents. I know others suffer in similar ways.

I have a vision that society accepts difference, whatever that might mean. We have a lot of diverse community groups, being LGBTI, being trans and gender diverse. It’s just part of that diverse community.

It would be lovely that we can just accept whoever for whoever.

I am an advocate for my community. I enjoy doing that. I retired nearly ten years ago and have thrown myself into this work. I’m enjoying being able to contribute to my community. I enjoy volunteering. I enjoy doing what I want to do.