Rainbow hubs: How Pride organisers are creating safe spaces

Drag Queens, dancers and extravagant floats tend to be the images we conjure up when we think of Pride celebrations. 

But at Auckland's Ellen Melville Centre, it's quiet, there's free tea and coffee and scrabble. 

It's one of 28 Proud Centres; Auckland Council Community centres which have been transformed.

Director of Auckland Pride, Max Tweedie says, "They're safe community spaces that are free for anyone to program events into."

And the rainbow community are making full use of these centres. 

More than 150 free events have been planned across two weeks of Pride celebrations - from pot luck dinners to plays.

Mike Sheeran, the programme coordinator at the Ellen Melville Centre says the hub is serving its purpose.

"It's a really great place for people to connect and feel part of a family," he said.

Tweedie agrees, "we know that when our rainbow communities are able to participate and feel a sense of community there's much better social outcomes in terms of mental health."

Safety has been paramount to the organisers who last year butted heads with police when asking them to participate in plain clothes. 

Tweedie says, "they were never excluded from pride, they were only asked that their uniforms were excluded from pride.

"We've taken the same approach this year."

The decision came after members of the rainbow community said a police presence can be triggering for people who've been harassed by officers in the past.

It also came to light, police had scrapped plans for a force-wide rainbow training program. 

While the parade was scrapped last year, Aucklanders celebrating Pride can join in a march to a pride party in the CBD tomorrow evening.

For more information on Pride events visit www.aucklandpride.org.nz.