Southern PHO first to get Rainbow Tick for inclusive practice

May 7, 2024

A South Island nurse leader says being the first primary health service to receive a rainbow tick for inclusive practice is a “fantastic” achievement for her workplace.

What does a Rainbow Tick mean?

Rainbow Tick has previously come under fire for being a “box-ticking” exercise costing thousands per year but with little accountability for the organisations it endorses. In 2019, Victoria University law professor Jessica Lai said that by choosing to become a trade mark, rather than an certification mark, Rainbow Tick had bypassed any external checks on its processes.


In contrast, certification marks — such as Fairtrade or New Zealand-made — are subject to scrutiny by the Commissioner of Trade Marks, she said. The standards they uphold are publicly available on the Intellectual Property Office website.


Rainbow Tick programme director Wikitoria Gillard said its advice was that it could legally certify organisations with its mark.

Documents provided to Kaitiaki by Rainbow Tick — but not yet on its website — showed its process includes surveying staff to identify areas of need before providing guidance on inclusive policy and workplace practices.  Its accreditation — which needs to be renewed each year — appears to be based on self-evaluation.

Rainbow Tick’s process (click to enlarge)

“Making rainbow inclusion a priority for organisations is important mahi and we have seen the positive impact it has on the staff from rainbow communities,” Gillard said.


Rainbow Tick is part of iwi health and social service organisation Kāhui Tū Kaha.

Otago and Southland primary health organisation (PHO) WellSouth has been officially recognised by diversity certifier Rainbow Tick as an inclusive service that embraces sexual and gender diversity.

WellSouth professional nurse lead Kate Norris said it spoke to the values of the organisation and would support and hold staff accountable in promoting an inclusive culture.

Kate Norris.

WellSouth has a diversity, equity and inclusion committee, which meets monthly to review policies, organise inclusive events and identify ways to support staff of all genders, sexual orientations and identities.

Norris said it was a “fabulous resource supporting nursing colleagues to remain reflective, and to value diversity of sexual and gender identity both in the workplace and clinically”.

Part of Ngāti Whātua iwi social and health service provider Kāhui Tū Kaha, Rainbow Tick is contracted by Te Toku Tumai Auckland to provide services to the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) communities.

Rainbow Tick certifies workplaces that meet its benchmarks on accepting and valuing gender and sexual diversity through policies, staff training, staff support and ongoing monitoring.

WellSouth community engagement advisor Deb Gallon — who co-chairs its diversity, equity and inclusion committee — said attaining the Rainbow Tick was “just the start”.

Deb Gallon

The organisation had begun advertising for roles using more inclusive language, celebrating a range of rainbow community events such as ‘Sweat with Pride‘ and offering rainbow competency training to all staff.

The committee has also established a rainbow support network — a safe and welcoming online space to support staff of all sexual orientations and identities across WellSouth’s Otago and Southland locations.

Future plans included more pride walks across locations, developing relationships with rainbow groups, discussing rainbow-inclusive health-care with all teams at regular hui and updating job interview and induction policies, Gallon said.

“We are committed to educating staff, updating our policies and making ongoing changes to uphold our commitment.”

An organisation’s Rainbow Tick is re-evaluated annually. Set up in 2014, it grew from a 2013 Rainbow Health report into the public health needs of LGBTTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, takatāpui, transgender and intersex) communities in Aotearoa. The report recommended policies to ensure rainbow communities received safe and appropriate health care.

A WellSouth spokesperson said the organisation had checked extensively through its General Practice NZ networks, and believes it is the first PHO to achieve the Rainbow Tick in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Staff from the WellSouth Invercargill office celebrating winning a Rainbow Tick for inclusivity.