When teachers Jem O'Shea and Brodie Gray returned to their hometown Nowra, they wondered if anyone had formed a social meetup group for queer people yet.
When they found no one had, they figured if they were asking the question, then other queer people in the community probably were too.
"I have two friends that have just moved down from Sydney. And they asked, 'so what happens down here, are there any queer events?" said Jem.
"Brodie and I were both silent. Then we thought, maybe we should just make a queer group ourselves."
The duo started scribbling meetup ideas - from dog walks, to camping trips and local queer events - and that's how Queers Down South was born.
Built from an Instagram page in April, they now have 400 followers and have held multiple local meetups.
"We basically just wanted to bring people together," said Brodie.
"Even moving back to Nowra from Sydney, I noticed it was still hard to break back into friendship groups," said Jem.
"Then COVID hit and there was also the bushfires. There wasn't much socialising and it felt a bit isolating down here."
Jem and Brodie's aim is to form an inclusive group so local LGBTQI+ community members could feel "loud and proud" in their regional town.
"When I went to Europe and came out of Amsterdam train station, I thought 'wow it's so queer-friendly here, there are so many rainbow flags' - but then I realised it was Pride Month. There was parades and it made me feel really proud," said Jem.
"When I took that trip, it was when I first realised I was gay and being in that environment made me think 'oh, it is okay that I accept myself.'
"Even in Sydney it feels more accepting. So doing the meetups down here is to build that community for people so they can feel comfortable and be who they are and not feel like they have to drive to Canberra, Sydney or even Wollongong to feel proud."
In the future, Jem and Brodie are hoping to create events for young people.
"We've had people ask if we're going to be doing any under 18 events. We'd really love to do a rainbow disco one day," said Jem.
"I didn't work out I was gay until my 20s and I think if I was in a more accepting town when I was younger, it would have been a different story."
"If we could even make a difference for one kid, that would be amazing," said Brodie.
With a good turn out for their events so far and many arriving on their own, Jem and Brodie think it's clear a meetup group was needed.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.