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© Equal Opportunity Commission Challenging sexuality & gender based bullying in schools Marc Newhouse: LGBTIQ Schools Project Officer Equal Opportunity Commission
© Equal Opportunity Commission Context In 2010 the third Writing Themselves In national survey was undertaken by the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health & Society (La Trobe University) 3134 people from all over Australia aged 14 to 21 years surveyed 75 % experienced some homophobic abuse 61% experienced verbal homophobic abuse 18% experienced homophobic physical abuse 80% of this abuse happened at school! Levels of abuse have increased since surveys of 1998 and 2004.
© Equal Opportunity Commission Writing Themselves in 3: WA WA & Queensland were on a par as the most UNSUPPORTIVE states in Australia 81% of WA Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transsexual Intersex & Questioning (GLBTIQ) students classify their school as NOT supportive No-one could identify as potentially supportive. Did not see themselves included anywhere eg in sex education classes. Homophobic comments, jokes etc tolerated, not questioned 81% of WA Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transsexual Intersex & Questioning (GLBTIQ) students classify their school as NOT supportive No-one could identify as potentially supportive. Did not see themselves included anywhere eg in sex education classes. Homophobic comments, jokes etc tolerated, not questioned 43% of WA GLBTIQ students consider their schools to be ACTIVELY HOMOPHOBIC A higher figure than any other state Taught homosexuality can be cured. Not taught homophobia wrong. No action against bullies. 43% of WA GLBTIQ students consider their schools to be ACTIVELY HOMOPHOBIC A higher figure than any other state Taught homosexuality can be cured. Not taught homophobia wrong. No action against bullies. 46% of WA GLBTIQ students attended a school with no social support features : friendliness, students who speak up against homophobia’ or structural support features (library books, links to groups/services, posters) 46% of WA GLBTIQ students attended a school with no social support features : friendliness, students who speak up against homophobia’ or structural support features (library books, links to groups/services, posters)
© Equal Opportunity Commission Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA) Sexual Orientation & Gender History Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) Marital or relationship status Sexual orientation Gender identity Intersex Status 4
© Equal Opportunity Commission Why is the EOC involved? Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that Australia protects children and young people from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. Equal Opportunity Act 1984: Inform/educate/rights/ obligations/ eliminate discriminatory policies/practices/complaints Writing Themselves in Three report (2010) identified that the most common place of verbal & physical homophobic abuse is at school Approximately 10% of young people acknowledge feelings of same-sex attraction while they are at school. A smaller percentage of students question their gender. For many students, these feelings begin during primary school or earlier.
© Equal Opportunity Commission The project Aims of the project are to: Bring school and GLBTI communities together to find ways to address the specific needs of this extremely vulnerable group Raise awareness about this serious issue in WA In June 2010 the EOC started the challenging sexuality & gender based bullying in schools project
© Equal Opportunity Commission Methodology Consult & Engage with key stakeholders The objectives of the initial stage of the consultation and engagement stage are to: Inform the Commission’s engagement and training Strategy in relation to DSG students in the Public Education system and, Assess current policies, perceptions and attitudes within the public & private education systems in relation to DSG students Establish a high level Steering Group comprising of key stakeholders Establish a task based Working Group 7
© Equal Opportunity Commission Steering Group (senior reps) Working Group (service delivery staff) Membership -16 organisations Department of Education Freedom Centre WA Gender Project Gay and Lesbian Community Services Gay and Lesbian Equality Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays WA AIDS Council State School Teachers Union WA University of Western Australia UnitingCare West True Colours WA Secondary School Executives Association, Relationships Australia, Catholic Education Office, WA Curriculum Council, Department of Health – Child & Adolescent Community Health, Uniting Church WA, Youth Affairs Council WA 8
© Equal Opportunity Commission What we have achieved Nationwide Education Department Policy Comparison and GAP analysis. A fact sheet series produced by the EOC to help staff, parents and students deal with sexuality and gender based bullying Resource materials for schools to encourage them to develop their own policies A research report into sexuality and gender based bullying in WA schools produced by co- researcher and writer of Writing Themselves In 3, Tiffany Jones
© Equal Opportunity Commission Fact sheets for schools The fact sheets have been sent to every primary and secondary school in WA Many schools have requested extra copies to be sent to their school with one school including a link to the fact sheets in their weekly online newsletter to parents
© Equal Opportunity Commission Key Finding? School based direct protective policies: explicitly name homophobic & transphobic discrimination and bullying - make a dramatic difference to self-harm and suicide rates Homophobic bullying is different to standard bullying in that historically there has been broad institutional support for homophobic beliefs It may be harder for school staff to challenge homophobic abuse than other bullying such as race It is more difficult for young people to access help The alienation resulting from homophobic bullying is likely to be more absolute
© Equal Opportunity Commission 12 Specifies to educators that GLBTI young people are a at risk group Guarantees inclusive education for GLBTI young people Flow through of guidelines, programs, curriculum and support Expects principals to know about GLBTI issues Relies on individual teachers to include what they believe constitutes diversity Leaves open the possibility of homophobic/transphobic teachers to present GLBTI young people negatively No flow through Direct Indirect
© Equal Opportunity Commission Why have a direct policy? Provides support for students to lead change and get involved in anti- homophobia projects In schools where specific policies were implemented young people were 20% less likely to self harm and over 10% less likely to suicide REGARDLESS of abuse, they were 22% less likely to be abused and students felt 40% safer!
© Equal Opportunity Commission Next Steps Launch - Distribution: 1.Guidelines Supporting Sexual & Gender Diversity in Schools 2.Staff Survey Launch - Distribution: 1.Guidelines Supporting Sexual & Gender Diversity in Schools 2.Staff Survey
© Equal Opportunity Commission Safe School Coalition … A ‘Safe Schools’ coalition following the Victorian model The Safe Schools coalition in Victoria has over 41 members including private and church schools at primary and secondary levels With funding from the Victorian government it provides support for schools to tackle homophobia and support gender and sexual diversity Provides professional development opportunities for all school staff Creates and distributes improved and updated resources for teachers and students Develop membership for schools and school workers Provides support for students to lead change and get involved in anti- homophobia projects
© Equal Opportunity Commission Feedback from WA “The more frequently the issue is talked about, the quicker the message will disseminate!” “Great conversations! Keep having them.” “I feel as a future primary school teacher I would love to find out what strategies, tools I can use in my classroom.”
© Equal Opportunity Commission Contact Details Telephone: Internet:www.eoc.wa.gov.au Address:Level 2 Westralia Square 141 St Georges Terrace Perth
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