The Brumby Government has pledged a $80,000 to develop a program to combat homophobia in schools.

Education Minister Bronwyn Pike told Southern Star the Government would provide the money to Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria (GLHV) to develop a program to educate teachers and help create a safer school culture.

“I’ve been quite concerned about our work generally with young gay and lesbian people within our schools,” she said.

“This money will provide the opportunity for more work with schools … to try and foster a culture of mutual support for same-sex attracted young people and delivering professional development within our schools, so our teachers are a lot better at this work.”

A Government document giving advice on how to deal with homophobia, Supporting Sexual Diversity in Schools, was sent to schools across the state in 2008.

However, in a policy blueprint, Beyond Homophobia,  published this year by GLHV, a questionnaire of 318 mostly teachers and youth workers, showed only 57 percent believed they would be supported by co-workers if they put up a gay or lesbian poster.

The new project will be rolled out by Rainbow Network Victoria which connects schools and youth workers dealing with same-sex attracted and gender questioning youth.

The money will go to developing resources to distribute in schools as well as teacher training.

Rainbow Network Victoria project coordinator Roz Ward told Southern Star the first stop is to create a ‘Safe Schools Coalition’.

To join, schools must be engaged in addressing homophobia or training on the issue.

“It’s about giving the more proactive teachers in this area a platform within the school, to get schools up to a certain level of safety and support for sexual diversity,” she said.

Ward said the move was about achieving ‘best practice’.

“The first step really is showing the positive impact [training] can have in schools, rather than convincing people or telling them off for not doing anything.”

Pike said there would be discussions with non-government religious schools about engaging with the program once it’s developed.

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