Message from Australia's Human Rights Commissioner and National Children's Commissioner in support of LGBTI school students
We write in support of the work of schools in creating safe, respectful and inclusive environments for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) school students.
Bullying and harassment at school is not limited to LGBTI young people. However many LGBTI young people may internalise self-doubt and negative self-perceptions related to their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status and marginalise themselves from constructive social connections. They also often lack support from family, friends and community members. Within this context, Australian research has demonstrated that bullying and harassment has a substantial, negative impact on the mental health and learning outcomes of LGBTI young people.
Schools have an important responsibility to create and maintain safe and secure spaces for all students, including LGBTI young people. Given this, schools should develop supportive and inclusive policies in consultation with LGBTI students and the broader school community that work for their community to ensure all students feel safe. Schools should also enable teachers to access appropriate resources and professional development opportunities to support LGBTI students. Such initiatives will help schools to provide an open, safe and inviting environment for young people to be comfortable with who they are and to seek help if they need it.
We want all young people to be confident in themselves so they can dedicate their talents and energies toward personal growth, learning, and civic mindedness. Australia has made binding commitments to children and young people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which articulates that all children, irrespective of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, have the right to a safe and healthy childhood free from discrimination. Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights make clear that human rights are universal.
We acknowledge that many schools across Australia are already taking proactive steps to ensure that LGBTI young people have these crucial life opportunities. We encourage all schools to meet their responsibility throughout the new school year by providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students, including LGBTI students. We are happy to continue to work proactively with schools to deliver safe environments for children and young people.