Government ministers, heads of organisations and high profile individuals across Australia have sent messages of support for Safe Schools Coalition Australia. Like us, they want all schools in their states and territories to have the support they need to be safe and welcoming of all students, teachers and families.
I am proud to lend my support for Safe Schools Coalition Australia and its important work in partnering with schools across the country to create more inclusive environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.
Research suggests that homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination is likely to be going on in our schools and we must be proactive at addressing this behaviour that is impacting the health and wellbeing of our students and their educational outcomes.
Schools around Australia want to nurture safe school environments for all students and are doing great things to make that happen. The work of Safe Schools Coalition Australia provides powerful support, guidance and resources to assist school leaders and other staff, to explore opportunities in implementing inclusive policies and practices. It provides the language, the confidence and the practical tools to introduce positive changes for the whole school community.
As educators we know the incredible capability, energy and innovation that young people can bring in leading positive change initiatives and Safe Schools provides advice on a platform for students to lead change in their own school communities.
In our time-pressured school settings, the kind of tailored, external support offered by the Safe Schools Coalition– free to all schools and funded by the Australian Government – is invaluable. Stories from principals about the difference the support has made for their schools and students are truly compelling.
We want our schools to be leaders in creating the kind of society we want to live in – where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. I encourage all school leaders to take a positive step for their school community by joining as a member of Safe Schools today, and accessing the support the program provides to make a real difference.
Read the full letter here: ASPA Message Of Support On Letterhead.pdf
ACSSO strongly supports the work of Safe Schools Coalition Australia.
As the peak national body representing the interests of the families and communities of more than 2.4 million children attending government schools that make up two-thirds of Australia’s school age students, we are committed to advocating for safe and supportive schools where every student and every family can belong.
One of the key strengths of the Australian school system is its open and welcoming inclusivity for all students – no matter what religious, cultural or social contexts they may bring. Our Australian character is said to be welcoming with a sense of fair go for all. Part of maintaining this is encouraging our students to value our individual differences in a positive way to develop their own authentic sense of fair go.
The Safe Schools Coalition is one initiative that celebrates diversity and supports student wellbeing – with a focus on the specific needs of same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students. The program does critical work with school communities to raise awareness and empathy, respond to bullying and discrimination, and create learning environments that foster the positive values of respect and inclusion.
We are aware of the incredible support from parents who have witnessed first-hand the work of Safe Schools Coalition staff in their school communities. A parent of a child who recently affirmed their true gender identity at school said that the work of Safe Schools Coalition is ‘critical and life-preserving’. These sentiments have been expressed time and time again by many others.
ACSSO is a proud supporter of the objectives of the Safe Schools Coalition program and the support program staff provide to our school communities. The initiative has deep implications when considered in a broad framework of acceptance, welcome and safety for all as an indisputable part of our authentic and inclusive Australian values. An absolutely safe and inclusive school environment for every student is an inalienable human right. The Safe Schools Coalition’s work is a vital element in supporting this, work that resonates with ACSSO’s core values and sense of purpose. We urge all parents and communities to support their schools in getting behind the work of the program.
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.
Read the full letter here: HRC And NCC Joint Letter Of Support.pdf
headspace is proud to be a supporter of Safe Schools Coalition Australia.
Young people who are LGBTI are at higher risk of experiencing mental health concerns, but it is important to note that this is due to the difficulties associated with disclosure and community attitudes, and not due to the young people’s sexual or gender identity.
headspace recognises that young people who are LGBTI face particular pressures, including bullying and lack of acceptance, in their relationships with family, peers and schools. Initiatives that ensure schools are safe places for young people who are directly affected by these behaviours are crucial.
The work of Safe Schools Coalition Australia is to be commended for its celebration of diversity and raising awareness of the negative effects of culturally entrenched attitudes. It’s important that young people and the wider community are educated to ensure that the particular needs and issues facing young people who are LGBTI are recognised and discriminatory beliefs are addressed.
Likewise, at headspace, we are determined to provide services that are welcoming and responsive to the needs of all young people, including those who are LGBTI as well as address sexual orientation and gender identity issues in service planning, policy development and delivery. Respect and acknowledgment of sexual orientation and gender identity is fundamental to understanding a young person’s experience and needs, and to enhancing mental health and wellbeing.
We look forward to a strong, collaborative relationship with Safe Schools Coalition Australia.
Intersex students exist in every school and education institution. Many of us are same sex attracted. Many of us are heterosexual. Some of us may transition gender, while many of us identify with our sex assigned at birth. Just like non-intersex people.
To this extent, actions to promote respect for same sex attracted and gender diverse students directly benefit many people born with intersex traits. We warmly support actions that make it easier for same sex attracted and gender diverse students to be themselves, and to express themselves. But there’s more of concern to us, and more to the work of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, than these intersectionalities.
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t meet medical and social norms for female or male bodies, and we experience stigma and discrimination as a result. This includes coercive medical interventions intended to make our bodies appear more typically female or male. Those interventions often take place during puberty, when they can impact on a student’s ability to stay in school. Stigma and discrimination also include bullying.
A survey report of 272 Australians born with atypical sex characteristics was published last week. It found that, while 2% of Australians fail to complete secondary school, an extraordinary 18% of people with intersex variations failed to do so. The stories shared with the research team are painful to read. And the consequences of early school leaving, stigma, shame and coercive medical interventions can be seen in high rates of poverty, trauma and disability, and unemployment.
These stories also need to be acknowledged.
Students with intersex traits need a supportive school environment, one that protects them from discrimination and harm due to their physical characteristics, as well as any perceptions about their gender and sexuality.
We are proud to work with the Safe Schools Coalition Australia to ensure that resources for schools reflect the needs of intersex people. We are proud to support a program that helps all LGBT and I students to be more fully themselves; a program that promotes both self acceptance and social inclusion. We are glad that the program has cross-party support.
We have helped to ensure that the “All Of Us” guide includes material on intersex. We are delighted that the resource materials include a video of Phoebe Hart, a heterosexual mother who has important words to say about growing up intersex. We hope and expect further materials to be produced in coming months and years.
The Independent Education Union Victoria Tasmania is the union representing staff in Catholic and independent schools in Victoria and Tasmania. IEU firmly believes in promoting inclusiveness, diversity and tolerance in schools and society. Schools play a vital role in promoting these important values, and students have an absolute right to participate in all education settings free from discrimination and bullying in all its forms, including homophobia and transphobia.
The IEU has as one of its core values the elimination of discrimination in all of its forms including that based on gender and sexual preference. We have long lobbied for changes to the Equal Opportunity Act to ensure that the rights of employees in non-government schools to not be discriminated against, are the same as those in every other Australian workplace.
IEU is pleased to be a supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia. The Coalition provides important support, resources and training for staff and students in schools to assist them to build safe and inclusive learning environments. IEU encourages all non-government schools to also become involved in the Safe Schools Coalition.
I would like to affirm the commitment of ACT public schools to providing safe, supportive and respectful school environments for all students, staff and families. Our schools value diversity and promote positive social behaviour.
We celebrate the contribution of same sex attracted, transgender and intersex children, young people, staff and families to the culture and community of our schools.
I encourage all ACT schools to join the Safe Schools Coalition in making schools safe, supportive and respectful for all same sex attracted, transgender and intersex people.
I congratulate Sex Health and Family Planning ACT, their ACT community partners and the Foundation for Young Australians, who have already provided such valuable support to our schools in supporting our students.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of Australia's children and young people.
Along with preparing us for further study and careers, our school days are a time when we work out who we are.
But for many young people school is not a place where they feel safe or comfortable to explore their identity.
Everyone deserves to feel safe at school. But more than that, every child deserves to feel accepted, valued and free to be themselves.
Having to pretend to be someone you are not, or being bullied because you do dare to be yourself, compromises your well-being and self-esteem and your ability to focus on study.
Unfortunately, we know this is the reality for many LGBTQI young people.
That is why I am proud to support the fantastic work of the Safe Schools Coalition in South Australia to create positive, inclusive and supportive schools for all young people, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
The best strategy to dispel fear and misinformation is education. The Safe Schools Coalition leads the way, raising awareness within school communities, providing professional development for teachers and resources for staff, students and families delivered through SA’s sexual health and well-being agency SHine SA.
Student by student and school by school, you are getting the message out that diversity and difference is something to embrace, not fear.
I am also proud of the South Australian schools that have joined the Safe Schools Coalition. Becoming part of this community sends a powerful message that your school is a place where everyone is accepted and discrimination is not tolerated.
And because our schools are hubs around which communities revolve, when they embrace diversity and reject discrimination these attitudes flow onto the wider community.
When students feel safe and supported they are much more likely to succeed and reach their full potential – and that is what we all want for our young people. We all have our bit to do to make sure schools are a safe and nurturing place for each and every student, where they are free to shape their identity and build their future. With the growing number of schools joining the Safe Schools Coalition, we are making this a reality.
The SA Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) is committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, receive a quality education in a safe, supportive and inclusive educational environment.
We know from current research that same sex attracted and gender diverse young people experience levels of discrimination in Australian schools. These young people are at higher risk of reduced mental health, low academic achievement and absenteeism.
DECD has a commitment with SHine SA to implement the Safe Schools Coalition program in South Australia. SHine SA will provide resources and information about gender and sexual diversity, consultative advice, professional development, student engagement resources and tailored support to meet the unique needs of each school community.
DECD will continue to work in partnership with the Safe Schools Coalition SA and provide leadership and support to schools to develop and maintain policies that actively tackle homophobia and transphobia. We are proud to be part of creating a safe and respectful educational environments for all our students, families and teachers regardless of their sexual or gender identity.
The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring that every young person feels safe, supported and included in their school.
Homophobic and transphobic bullying at school has a significant, detrimental impact on the physical and mental health, experience at school and educational outcomes of same sex attracted and gender diverse children and young people.
Research shows that when schools actively support sexual and gender diversity through promotion of positive policies, programs, and resources, children and young people feel supported to be themselves. In turn, students are more focussed at school, confident to achieve both academically and socially, and are less likely to disengage from education.
Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV) supports Victorian schools to create safer and more inclusive educational environments for same sex attracted and gender diverse students, families, and school staff. The Victorian government has supported SSCV since its establishment in 2010. In this time, over 160 Victorian schools have joined the coalition, making a public commitment to challenging homophobia and transphobia and supporting sexual diversity and gender diversity.
Through providing member schools with free access to professional learning and training, resources and consultation, SSCV aims to dispel misinformation, fear and discrimination, and to send the important message that same sex attracted and gender diverse students, parents and school staff are a valued part of the school community.
Testament to the positive work of SSCV is the establishment of the national Safe Schools Coalition Australian program. Based on the Victorian model, the national program offers a range of training options, as well as resources, tools and support to address the unique needs of school communities across the country. I am proud to say that Victoria is leading the country in this space.
Discrimination, harassment and bullying have no place in Victorian schools, and it is up to all of us to establish safe, inclusive and supportive schools for every student. I envisage a Victorian education system free from bullying in all its forms; partnering with SSCV is a positive step towards this goal.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission is proud to be an official supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition
Research shows that most homophobia experienced by same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse (SSAIGD) young people occurs when they are at school (80%). This negative experience has a significant impact on SSAIGD students’ health and wellbeing during a crucial period of their development.
The Commission is committed to promoting acceptance and respect for SSAIGD students through initiatives such as the Fair go, sport! schools project, which promotes inclusive and safe environments. It’s not just the right thing to do, the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 give students the right to participate in most Victorian schools without discrimination or bullying on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.
We are proud that the national program builds on the model established right here is Victoria in 2010 at La Trobe University. Programs such as the Safe Schools Coalition Australia can have a lasting positive impact, both for SSAIGD students and for their classmates, teachers and families.
Feeling comfortable at school helps create a sense of belonging and provides physical, mental and social benefits.
The RCH Gender Service is a proud and active supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition.
Since 2003, The RCH Gender Service has provided care to more than 250 transgender and gender diverse children and adolescents. Over this time we have seen the positive effects that supportive and inclusive school environments can have on young people. Research shows that children and adolescents who are freely able to express their gender identity and who are supported in doing so, have depression and anxiety levels that are equivalent to their same age peers. In this scenario, young people can learn and develop in ways that maximise their social, educational and vocational potential.
Unfortunately, we also see the devastating consequences that arise from the experience of being bullied at school. Studies of young people show that mental health issues are not inherent to being transgender or gender diverse, but occur due to the isolation, rejection, stigmatisation, discrimination, harassment and abuse that many transgender and gender diverse individuals are all too familiar with. The answer to reducing these negative experiences is in the education of all children and adolescents. Educating children that diversity is normal and something to be celebrated. That it is OK for everyone to be who they are. That everyone deserves to feel safe and to be treated with respect. This is the message of the Safe Schools Coalition and this is why we recommend the Safe Schools Coalition to all of our patients who attend the RCH Gender Service.
PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians &Gays) NSW Inc. aims to keep families together, thereby preventing suicide and self-harm in young gay people.
PFLAG chapters in Sydney and rural and regional NSW:
At PFLAG, we are very concerned that all children feel safe and supported at school. As parents of GLBTIQ children, we know that homophobic bullying and discrimination can lead to severe depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and dropping out of school.
A safe school would provide a supportive and physically safe environment for all children and a policy that is accepting of diversity. It would have zero tolerance of any discrimination or bullying and provide information and support for young people questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
PFLAG chapters in NSW welcome the roll out of the Safe Schools Coalition in NSW, which can be accessed by all schools around the state. We embrace the training and resources provided to participating schools to bring about a safe and supportive environment for all GLBTIQ students.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are voluntary groups that support families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) loved ones.
As parents we know how important it is that LGBTIQ children and young people feel safe and included at their schools in order to fulfil their educational potential. Young people who experience homophobic or transphobic discrimination or bullying are more likely to drop out of school, suffer mental health issues, abuse alcohol and drugs and commit suicide.
Schools that provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBTIQ students will have a school-based policy expressing inclusiveness towards all students. They will provide support and information for young people who are questioning their sexuality or gender. Discrimination and bullying will not be tolerated.
PFLAG groups in Queensland congratulate Safe School Coalition Australia for delivering training, resources and support for participating schools in order to improve safety and inclusivity for LGBTIQ students. PFLAG welcomes the roll-out of this program in Queensland during 2015, accessible to all schools across this vast state.
Above image: PFLAG Mums and Phil from BLAG.