Friends of Rhonda: A networking hub for the industry's queer community

By Ruby Derrick | 29 January 2024

Friends of Rhonda is the industry's latest group for the queer community in advertising, founded by Julia Stretch, senior social creative at Ogilvy Melbourne.

The name for the meetup group Friends of Rhonda connects the phrase Friends of Dorothy, a euphemism that started in the 80s to subtly ask if someone was gay, and Rhonda referring to the well loved Australian ad for AAMI Rhonda and Ketut.

Stretch says she wanted to call it something that essentially, if people got the reference, they were probably a queer person working in advertising in Australia.

The idea stemmed from Stretch’s realisation that there was an absence of ways for finding other people who identified as queer in advertising. 

“It really matters to have those ways to network. Particularly, being queer, you can’t always tell who is or isn’t,” says Stretch. 

Friends of Rhonda started here - an open space for people to drop in, meet other people, and connect with others from a networking perspective, while having it feel low-stakes. 

There are often times, notes Stretch, where the only queer in the agency will be handed all the pride briefs. 

Stretch wishes she had more connections to queer directors or photographers or designers and would love for Friends of Rhonda to also connect queer creatives and producers to help make some great work.

“To do those campaigns, you want to create a team of queer people to work on it together,” says Stretch. 

The aim is for the meetups to be monthly, where people can join and have a drink or a chat about what’s exciting that’s coming up work-wise, but also just to make friends. 

“My dream is that then those monthly catch-ups will create a chance for people to reinforce those connections that they’ve made. It seems insanely early in the process to consider it, but I’ve had someone reach out to me from Sydney asking if I would do it there as well,” she says. 

The benefit of Friends of Rhonda, believes Stretch, is that it's an agency agnostic group that takes it out of a work context, which helps people feel a little freer to be themselves and have those open conversations. 

“Everything that happens at Friends of Rhonda stays at Friends of Rhonda.”

As to the ‘why’, Stretch notes that many people who work in advertising think of themselves as super evolved and perhaps being beyond needing a group of the sorts. 

“The thing about community and particularly queer people is that it’s really crucial to have the spaces where we can be ourselves,” says Stretch. 

“I’m part of the queer community in Melbourne and I’ve seen how important that is to my own life and wellbeing. The reality is that having those places where you can feel like you belong and be 110% yourself in the industry is crucial.”

Julia Stretch.As a working drag queen in Melbourne, Stretch (pictured right) will endeavour to bring elements of that community connection into Friends of Rhonda. 

“It’s funny…my drag name is ‘Mum’. That came from the way I operate within the community. A lot of the younger people see me as someone they can talk to, and I feel like a connector in that way,” says Stretch. 

Her experience in the community will enable her to bring that energy into her job. 

“In advertising you really have to put your whole self into your job. The line between work and life and who you are and then who you are at work can't exist because we’re working in an industry that has to be integrated into culture,” she says. 

It was in the past year that Stretch had a few opportunities to connect with other queer people in different agencies, made possible by the ECD of Ogilvy Melbourne, Hilary Badger. 

“When she arrived here, she saw me and went ‘I’ve got some people you should meet’. It was a huge game changer for me; it felt so right to make connections with like-minded people. 

“I’m really grateful to Hilary for being the catalyst for me in meeting those people that I wouldn't have otherwise met. That’s what really sparked it for me.”

The next meet-up is February 15 from 7pm at Grouse Melbourne (171 Smith St Fitzroy).

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus