The Safe Space Alliance was founded by artist and LGBTQI+ activist Shannon Novak. It began as an artwork at The Suter Art Gallery in Nelson, New Zealand, in response to the growing need for clearly identifiable safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community.
The gallery was the first safe space as verified by the Safe Space Alliance, and the Safe Space Alliance logo was installed temporarily on the gallery windows. The idea then spread to the surrounding community in Nelson including Nelson City Council who became a verified safe space, then funded a light art project that projected the Safe Space Alliance logo onto buildings around the city.
The idea then extended to other cities in New Zealand with the help of Auckland’s Britomart Group, then went international.
New Zealand is relatively progressive in terms of LGBTQI+ rights, but there are still areas that need attention. Recent statistics show that the LGBTQI+ community in New Zealand often feel unsafe. In the “Counting Ourselves” report, five out of every seven participants (trans and non-binary) aged 15 and older (71%) reported high or very high psychological distress, compared with only 8% of the general population in New Zealand. In a “Youth2000” report, 57.9% of same or both-sex attracted young people were afraid that someone would hurt or bother them at school. These statistics revealed a growing need for safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community in New Zealand.
Following further research, it became clear this need wasn’t confined to New Zealand. Many other countries around the world had a similar need and it was then, the Safe Space Alliance went international.
The vision of the Safe Space Alliance is a world where the LGBTQI+ community can freely express themselves without fear and be free from violence, bullying, and hate speech no matter where they are. It will be a world where the LGBTQI+ community has the same rights as those outside the LGBTQI+ community and same level of acceptance.
Safe Space, Shannon Novak.
The Suter Art Gallery, Nelson, New Zealand.