Challenging Gender & Sexuality Based Bullying and Discrimination

Challenging sexuality & gender
based bullying in schools
Marc Newhouse: LGBTIQ Schools Project Officer
Equal Opportunity Commission
© Equal Opportunity Commission
• In 2010 the third Writing Themselves In national survey was undertaken
by the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health & Society (La Trobe
• 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
81% of WA Gay Lesbian
Bisexual Transsexual
Intersex & Questioning
(GLBTIQ) students classify
their school as NOT
No-one could identify as
potentially supportive.
Did not see themselves
included anywhere eg in
sex education classes.
Homophobic comments,
jokes etc tolerated, not
43% of WA GLBTIQ
students consider their
schools to be ACTIVELY
A higher figure than any
other state
Taught homosexuality can
be cured.
Not taught homophobia
46% of WA GLBTIQ
students attended a
school with no social
support features :
friendliness, students who
speak up against
or structural support
features (library books,
links to groups/services,
No action against bullies.
WA & Queensland were on a par as the most
UNSUPPORTIVE states in Australia
© 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
© 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
In June 2010 the EOC started
the challenging sexuality &
gender based bullying in
schools 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
© Equal Opportunity Commission
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
© 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
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
© Equal Opportunity Commission
What we have achieved
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
© Equal Opportunity Commission
A research report into sexuality
and gender based bullying in
WA schools produced by coresearcher and writer of
Writing Themselves In 3,
Tiffany Jones
Resource materials for
schools to encourage
them to develop their own
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
© Equal Opportunity Commission
• Specifies to
educators that
GLBTI young
people are a at risk
• Guarantees
inclusive education
for GLBTI young
 Flow through of
curriculum and
© Equal Opportunity Commission
• Expects principals to know
about GLBTI issues
• Relies on individual
teachers to include what
they believe constitutes
• Leaves open the possibility
of homophobic/transphobic
teachers to present GLBTI
young people negatively
• No flow through
Why have a direct policy?
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
support for
students to
change and
get involved
in antihomophobia
Next Steps...
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
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 antihomophobia 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
• “I feel as a future
primary school teacher
I would love to find out
what strategies, tools I
can use in my
© Equal Opportunity Commission
Contact Details
Telephone: 9216 3900
Level 2
Westralia Square
141 St Georges Terrace
© Equal Opportunity Commission