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Despite the broad social acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people, clearly defined inclusive spaces are still needed, such as Brentford Cosmetic Dental. By Frank Leggett
Dr Adam Mattsson is a dentist, practice owner, husband and father. He opened his business, Brentford Dental in the Melbourne suburb of Forest Hill in 2020. Despite starting out in the middle of the COVID pandemic, the business has grown steadily and boasts an ever-increasing client list.
Dr Mattsson and his team are also proud supporters of the LGBTIQ+ community. His practice is a part of the Welcome Here Project whose members provide safe spaces and celebrate the LGBTIQ+ community.
“I’m a gay dentist,” says Dr Mattsson. “I’m a part of the gay community. They have supported me over the years and I return the favour by donating to charities and sponsoring sports teams such as the Melbourne Chargers, Victoria’s gay and inclusive rugby club. I often attend Pride events so I can be seen while networking with my community. I always give away hygiene packs that contain brushes, mouthwashes, and floss. It’s a great way to connect with my patients and spread my name. Being an all-inclusive practice and a visible member of Welcome Here is an integral part of my business.”
Coming to Australia
Dr Mattsson is originally from Syria, graduating from the University of Damascus in 1992. He completed a postgraduate degree in prosthodontics and travelled the world, working in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. His brother was living in South Australia and encouraged Dr Mattsson to visit. He landed in Adelaide in late 2004.
“I loved everything about Australia and decided to stay,” says Dr Mattsson. “I completed my certification exams and remotely finished my master’s degree on implants through the University of California. The clinic I ran in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne for 20 years was hugely successful.”
Dr Mattsson’s first Melbourne clinic grew from one room to two branches, eight rooms, and 50 staff members. Ultimately it all became overwhelming, leaving him feeling burnt out and exhausted. The decision to sell and downsize was easy. Brentford Cosmetic Dental was specifically designed to be a smaller operation.
Working with two associate dentists and his support staff, the practice is renowned for the quality of their work. There has been a nice even trajectory of growth as client numbers continue to increase. From the outset, Dr Mattsson and his staff have been upfront and keen supporters of the LGBTIQ+ community. One of the first things he did was join the Welcome Here Project, an organisation that supports businesses and services throughout Australia that promote environments that are visibly inclusive of LGBTIQ+ communities. Welcome Here rainbow stickers and a charter are displayed in a prominent place to show LGBTIQ+ diversity is welcomed and celebrated within the business.
“I felt it was important to clearly identify and verify our status,” says Dr Mattsson. “All of our clients are overwhelmingly supportive of our inclusive outlook. There is no doubt in my mind that it has been good for business. In all seriousness, why would anyone choose a practice that actively excludes one sector of the community.”
Being openly supportive of the LGBTIQ+ community has led to some negative feedback from certain people.
“Unfortunately, we sometimes get negative comments directed at us,” says Dr Mattsson. “If we can’t accommodate patient expectation about any aspect of their care, we refer that person to another practice. The important thing to remember is that one bad apple doesn’t ruin all the apples in your box. Negative feedback and bad experiences can happen in any situation; the main thing is how you respond to them.”
Progress has been made towards broader social acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people over the years, particularly since the Welcome Here program was established in 1992. Instances of abuse and harassment still occur, however, most recently targeted towards members of the trans community.
“That’s one of the reasons why the Welcome Here project is important,” says Eloise Layard, manager, LGBTIQ+ Health Programs at ACON that oversees the Welcome Here Project. “It provides a way for businesses and organisations to visibly signal their inclusion and celebration of LGBTIQ+ people. By becoming registered, Welcome Here members and organisations are contributing to positive social change.”
Not only is Dr Mattsson running a successful all-inclusive practice, supporting local charities and sports, and operating a safe space for the LGBTIQ+ community, he is also a very proud father. Dr Mattsson and his husband, Joe, have a three-and-a-half-year-old son, Jeane Pierre. This was made possible by successfully utilising an IVF surrogacy program in the USA.
“The unconditional love we receive from our son is simply amazing,” says Dr Mattsson. “I’ve joined a number of gay dad groups in Australia and around the world, and it’s been life-changing. They happily share parenting tips and experiences that really warm the soul.”
Parenting has been such a positive experience that Dr Mattsson and Joe are going to do it all over again. Changes to the surrogacy laws in Australia means that this time, they will be able to organise it locally.
“It’s not a straightforward process and there are mountains of documentation required,” says Dr Mattsson. “It can all be a bit overwhelming but you just have to stay focused on the end result. We’ve been jumping through bureaucratic hoops for the past 12 months and have just received confirmation that we’ve been successful. We’ve never been so happy.”
It’s tempting to believe that an all-inclusive dental practice in the suburbs of Melbourne would be completely non-controversial. Surely, Australia is an accepting society that cherishes a ‘fair go’. Unfortunately, organisations like Welcome Here are still needed to fight the good fight.
“Protecting LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination and harm are critical determinants of the health of our communities,” says Eloise Layard. “Environments that are free of LGBTIQ+ prejudice, discrimination and harassment—and are inclusive—help strengthen the health and wellbeing of our communities. Welcome Here is an important initiative and effective way in which LGBTIQ+ people can feel safe, welcome and included as they go about their daily lives.”
Dr Mattsson has a clear 10-year plan when it comes to Brentford Cosmetic Dental. He wants to keep providing quality dental care to the community, grow the size of his client base, and keep up with improvements in dental technology.
“I attended the FDI World Dental Congress in Sydney and was impressed with how fast the era of digital dentistry is growing,” he says. “I picked up a lot of good ideas that I’m planning to introduce to my practice. Over the next 10 years, I intend to enjoy my kids’ childhood and start cutting back my hours. Of course, I’ll need to find someone reliable so the clinic’s in good hands. I would love to be only working three days a week.”
With a smile, he adds, “When you have kids, you want to build something sustainable for the long-term and know exactly where you are heading. My focus is completely on my family, my business and my health. And to enjoy life!”
To become a member of the Welcome Here Project, a business or organisation is required to sign up to three key commitments: to welcome and include LGBTIQ+ people; create positive change in their local community; and celebrate LGBTIQ+ diversity.
For more information, visit welcomehere.org.au.