Be brave. Be strong. Be you. Pride lunch celebrates diversity and inclusion

L-R: CCIWA’s Devon Zaltsman, Ollie Mallis, Charlotte McVee, Elizabeth Morris, Cass Wright, Kym Lloyd and Saphire Reed.

Stories of bravery and authenticity headlined Crown’s Pride Luncheon, underpinned by the theme Be brave. Be strong. Be you.

At the largest corporate event for WA Pride Month on November 10, prominent transgender woman Danielle Laidley showed vulnerability in sharing her ‘journey of becoming her true self’, including navigating gender dysphoria, addiction and mental health challenges.

The event also included presentations from Kate Wickett, former CEO of Sydney World Pride 2023 who spoke about the festival’s world-renowned success; Pride WA CEO Dr Lauren Butterly; and Minister Stephen Dawson, who was the first openly gay WA politician.

CCIWA was proud to support the event, with 10 of its employees in attendance, including members from its Diversity and Inclusion Council.

“To me, this year’s theme highlights the strength, liberation and – ultimately – happiness that comes from being consistently true to who we are,” says Devon Zaltsman, CCIWA Senior Marketing Specialist.

“As queer people, we spend our formative years shaping and moderating ourselves to conform to the societal standards around us in an effort to be deemed ‘normal’.

“Moving into adulthood, we begin to deconstruct the protective scaffolding we’ve built around our personalities, with some of us taking many, many years to be able to discern who we truly are from who we’ve built ourselves to be.”

He says while self-authenticity can be hard and scary, the theme is a reminder that it’s essential to achieve self-love and acceptance.

LGBTQIA+ community ally and CCIWA’s Director of Commercial Legal, Cass Wright, says the theme also resonates with her.

“Many people are remindful of inclusion but being brave requires action and there’s never a better time to stand beside our LGBTIQA+ community to show our respect and support as we fight for equal rights,” she says.

Laidley’s true self journey

Laidley, a former AFL player – including for the West Coast Eagles – and coach, lost the opportunity to share her true identity with her family, friends and the world when Victorian police shared confidential photos of her in custody.

She says the motivation behind writing her memoir, Don’t Look Away, was to “tell my story in my own words … and I didn’t want anyone to go through what I went through”.

“If there’s a young or old transgender person who could take something valuable, [or] a family member, a work colleague that they can help and support and understand the issues we [transgender people] go through, the world will be a better place,” Laidley says.

“It’s been a really – at times – tough journey, but the reality is, as I stand here today I wouldn’t change it.”

Some days Laidley’s gender dysphoria would manifest as “quiet” and others it would “want attention”. It could be so “paralysing” that she couldn’t do the normal things in life.

“I’ve always been a woman; my outside has just not been congruent with how I felt on the inside. Now my whole body and my soul is as one,” she says.

“Everyone wants to love and be loved. They want to belong. They want to be supported. And most want to be their authentic selves in any culture, in any society,” she says.

“We get one shot at this life and we can’t do it ourselves, so please make sure we reach out to people.”

CCIWA a proud progressive employer

CCIWA is honoured to be recognised as an ‘inclusive employer’ by the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) in 2023, one of 82 organisations.

The recognition reflects CCIWA’s commitment to understanding and celebrating diversity and inclusion within the organisation. This is the third year CCIWA has received this recognition.

CCIWA is progressively working on policies in relation to LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion. It has introduced several initiatives in the space, such as giving employees the choice to have pronouns on signatures.

People who identify as LGBTQIA+ comprise 10% of CCIWA’s employees.

Zaltsman, who has been with CCIWA for three years, says a conservative history and peripheral aspects of the brand image gave him initial reservations about CCIWA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. However, his perceptions have since changed.

As an openly gay cisgendered man, I’ve experienced no obvious barriers relating to the trajectory of my career,” he says.

“CCIWA has been a comfortable, supportive environment for me – and this is evident when looking at my personal growth over the years.

“The level of comfort and support felt by other LGBTQIA+ people is identifiable too; perspective-shifting conversations are held, pronouns are proudly shown, aesthetic-centric self-expression is apparent and although we’re all on our own journey – I can see how, much like myself, my queer peers would agree that CCIWA offers us a safe space where we can come to work as our whole-self, even if that self is still a work-in-progress.”

Wright joined CCIWA in August 2023 and feels pleased with the organisation’s inclusive and diverse culture.

“As a newcomer, I felt the respect among employees when I first arrived and I am delighted and proud of the progression particularly towards LGBTIQA+ people,” she says.

“Our culture is acknowledged in the recent DCA survey results with 91.5% of participants feeling valued as a respected team member and over 94% saying their leader treat everyone fairly. These are great results and true to our purpose to make WA a great place to work and live.”

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