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6 min read

Beacon of hope: Victorian Pride Centre

Profile of Nicole Richards
Written by Nicole RichardsPosted on 16/5/2022

“The Victorian Pride Centre is a space that is a beacon of hope,” says Victorian Pride Centre CEO Justine Dalla Riva. 

“It shows the tenacity and resilience of the LGBTIQ+ community that knows its worth and wants that worth to be valued by the broader community.” 

The genesis of Australia’s first Pride Centre, where Australian Communities Foundation hosted its recent Impact Fund fifth anniversary celebration, dates back to 2016 when members and leaders of the LGBTIQ+ community vowed to create a multipurpose space to house services and facilities that could positively impact lives of community members.  

Led by the inaugural chair, Jude Munro AM, the Pride Centre was built around a skills-based board that quickly secured $15 million in foundation funding from the Victorian State Government. After an EOI process, during which the City of Port Phillip offered to gift the title of the iconic Fitzroy Street, St Kilda site to the Centre, construction began in mid-2019.  

The Victorian Pride Centre is a space that is a beacon of hope

“The site itself was previously home to Monroe’s restaurant which was not only a St Kilda institution but also an important meeting place during the 80s and 90s for members of the trans community who would enter via the back door in the car park,” Justine explains. 

“What’s beautiful about this now is that we welcome our trans friends through the front door of the very same site and we’ve named the rooftop servery Monroe’s in recognition of that important connection with the previous establishment.”  

The $35 million social, cultural and community hub officially opened its doors in July 2021, only to have them shuttered soon after by Covid. Reopening in November last year, the state-of-the-art Centre is home to 14 organisations including LGBTIQ+ focused organisations and businesses that support the community including Koorie Pride Victoria, JOY media and StarHealth. 

With a stated purpose of connecting, supporting and amplifying LGBTIQ+ voices and resources in service of an equal and inclusive future for all, the Pride Centre operates as a DGR1 non-profit, structured as a company limited by guarantee. 

Victorian Pride Centre CEO Justine Dalla Riva gives a tour of the premises.

For Justine, who has worked across the non-profit sector for almost two decades, the Pride Centre’s values of pride, support, celebration and belonging have deep personal resonance.   

“I like to say that I’m a proud lesbian and mother of two, but I wasn’t always proud,” she explains. 

“I grew up in a religious family and went to a religious school and that meant I lived with a sense of shame about who I was. That shame was ever-present – I didn’t come out till I was in my late 20s, so that’s a long time to pretend to be someone you’re not.  

“I know what it’s like to be hiding who you are from the people you love most and not being able to be your authentic self, much less feeling a sense of pride in who you are. 

“For me, leading the Pride Centre is about giving others the opportunity of knowing that there is a place where they belong and where they are valued. The Pride Centre is here for them now and it will be here into the future for the generations that follow.”  

The Pride Centre is about giving others the opportunity of knowing that there is a place where they belong and where they are valued

Philanthropy has played an important role in the activation of the Centre, with philanthropic and corporate partners supporting infrastructure and operational aspects that have helped bring the Pride Centre to life, particularly reaching out to younger members of the LGBTIQ+ community. 

“In terms of our focus, this isn’t about duplication or working in silos and we’re not in the business of traditional service delivery,” Justine explains. “Our role is to facilitate, to connect individuals and organisations and to amplify the services and the voices that are already there on the ground.” 

Pride Centre director, Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) fundholder and former ACF director, David Imber, says philanthropic support is “absolutely critical” to the Centre’s long-term sustainability. 

Justine chats to Pride Centre director David Imber at ACF’s Impact Fund 5th anniversary celebrations.

“We have received significant capital and in-kind contributions to build the Pride Centre, but we receive no recurrent government funding,” he explains.  

“Philanthropic partnerships are critical because they allow us to activate the Pride Centre and do things that are necessary to support our community but that we can’t make profitable. Programming events for under-served members of our community is a huge priority for us, but that kind of work takes time and money.  

“We need resources to plan and engage with the community and to put on activities and events that work for people who may not have the financial means to travel to the Pride Centre or to pay to attend events. Engaging with corporates and having progressive hiring fees provides some opportunity to cross-subsidise but philanthropic investment allows us to plan and operate at scale.” 

The Pride Centre’s flexible and multi-use spaces for hire include meeting rooms, an expansive rooftop terrace, co-working spaces, a theatrette and gallery – all used to great effect during ACF’s recent Impact Fund fifth anniversary celebration.  

With a robust and diverse calendar of events already in place, David says the Victorian Pride Centre is not only “a symbol of how far we’ve come as a community and a society” but also a promise to future members of the LGBTIQ+ community.  

Australian Communities Foundation’s Georgia Mathews speaking at the Impact Fund event, held at the Victorian Pride Centre.

“We want to co-create the future with our community, so while we have ideas and plans, we’re also very aware that our success as a social, cultural and community hub depends on it being loved and used broadly,” he says. 

“We’re very keen to ensure we don’t get typecast as a venue just for parties or just for healthcare or for any one letter of our community. We’re open seven days a week and you don’t need an appointment – just come in!  

“Whether you’re young or old, trans, non-binary or cisgender, we want people to feel very comfortable coming in and making the centre work for them. Some people will come into use the medical services, others to work or volunteer, others to run or attend events. I hope we provide the canvas, and some support, but that people make the Pride Centre their own.” 

For more information on how you can support the Victorian Pride Centre, see the Centre’s Access Pride funding proposal on our Granting Opportunities platform.