Carers help make Mardi Gras special for aged care resident

After a lifetime of helping pave the way for LGBTQI rights, a Bupa Aged Care resident says this year’s Mardi Gras celebration has been one of the best yet. Craig Ralston reflects on growing up as a gay man and settling into life in aged care, as he prepares his party hat for the weekend’s parade.

Meet Craig Ralston, a resident at Bupa Aged Care Greenacre and one of many who paved the way for LGBTQI rights.

“I came out when I was in my 20s and I’m 65 years old now. I had plenty of gay friends so support was great in that regard,” Mr Ralston said.

“The first Mardi Gras in ‘78 was pretty full on but I didn’t let that stop me from carrying on as a normal gay man. I did plenty of drag at some of the clubs around Oxford St as well as The Entrance and Gosford in the RSL clubs where I used to work at the time.

“I’ve always felt comfortable here at Bupa, the staff always make sure we’re doing something fun and that we’re looked after. Am I looking forward to watching the Mardi Gras? I’ll be watching it on the TV with my party hat on,” he said.

His upbeat view on living in an aged care home is reflective of the home’s Person First approach, providing tailored care for people with diverse backgrounds and unique needs.

The home’s General Manager, Brooke Richards, said it has been a long hard fight for people like Craig to secure acceptance for the LGBTQI community. She says older people who fought the fight are sometimes more humble about their achievements, but should be extremely proud.

“LGBTQI ageing is a unique experience that needs a considered and consultative approach which respects differences and embraces diversity and inclusivity," she said. 

We are extremely proud that our home offers open hearts and caring hands to older people from the LGBTQI community and beyond.
Brook Richards, General Manager Bupa Aged Care Greenacre

“Craig is such an inspiring role model to many people within our home. It’s so important for us as carers to celebrate and reflect upon the lives and achievements of our residents and to shine the spotlight on what makes them so unique."

It was for this reason, the home reached out to Queer Screen’s Board Director Matt Janssen to see if anything could be done to make this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations extra special for Craig.

Without any hesitation, Matt and the Queer Screen team came to the table and organised for Craig and his carer to attend a premiere screening of ‘Becoming Colleen’ during Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival.

The award winning documentary is about Col Young affirming her identity and gender as Colleen.

“We celebrate the contributions of LGBTQI staff, volunteers and aged care residents like Craig who’ve made collective contributions to the community over a period of decades.

“We thought Becoming Colleen was a great movie for Craig to see because there is a generation of men and women facing the prospect of aged care living after embracing their sexuality for such a long time.

“But films like this and people like Craig prove that there’s both resilience and vulnerability because of the era of when these men came out, however it is humbling to see people like Craig living in aged care homes where they can be themselves,” Mr Janssen said.