Embracing the rainbows colours

20:38, May 29 2012
Sam Orchard
CHAMP: Each week Sam Orchard juggles two jobs as well as writing comics in his spare time.

If any job title deserves a super hero cape to go with it – it would be Sam Orchard's.

The Mt Eden resident started his first fulltime job in March and Affinity Services Trust has given him the title of Rainbow Champion.

"I pretty much get paid to be me," Mr Orchard jokes.

The role is newly created following an Auckland District Health Board report on treatment barriers to mental health and addiction services for the rainbow – or queer – community.

It's a change of pace for the 27-year-old who spent last year writing a comic book for his master of creative writing – a project he scored an A plus for.

While he doesn't get a cape or super powers, the job is designed to create positive change within the health sector. Greenlane-based Affinity initiated the pilot project to look at how the best practice guidelines suggested from the report can work in real life.


Mr Orchard educates and trains people within the trust as to how they can approach situations that include working with members of the rainbow community.

As someone who's accessed mental health services in the past he says it's really cool to see small improvements happening within the sector.

"For me it's about reframing a whole lot of stuff around what we see as normal.

"It's about changing the language around mental health because it creates a lot of discrimination and stigma.

"It stops people being seen as human beings. Instead they are seen as a diagnosis."

It gets a bit personal for Mr Orchard who is transitioning from a woman to a man.

He says he had to be diagnosed as having a mental illness before he could access hormone therapy.

Once the pilot project finishes in June it's hoped the job-model will be applied by other organisations.

When he's not being a rainbow champion, Mr Orchard works on another project for Affinity.

He's helping establish a youth-run and youth-led mental health initiative for Aucklanders.

The idea is to research what services are available for youth and then get a diverse group of people involved in creating a service that reflects the needs of young adults.

It's a project that has Mr Orchard buzzing – he likes the energy of those aged between 16 to 24.

"I just find that they're the ones that have really amazing ideas and a whole lot of really interesting experiences.

"And I think particularly with young people they're just not relating to the diagnosis model anymore. Again it's about seeing the human side of people," he says.

Central Leader