Alarming new Australian research to be launched on Friday shows verbal and physical abuse against same-sex attracted (SSA) youth is on the increase.

Writing Themselves In 3 — the third national report of sexuality, health and well-being of SSA and gender questioning young people — shows a marked jump in homophobic violence in Australian schools, with strong links to higher levels of self-harm and suicide in abused youth.

La Trobe university lead researcher Dr Lynne Hillier said since the last report in 2005, the most recent survey of 3134 young people showed a significant jump in homophobic abuse in schools.

“[Homophobic] violence isn’t going down in schools … really there’s evidence of young people reporting more homophobic violence,” Dr Hillier told the Star Observer.

“What we learned is … young people in schools they deemed homophobic were more likely to have self-harmed and they were more likely to have attempted suicide.

“So the idea of a school being supportive and young people feeling safe and in a supportive school … is incredibly important in all of this.”

The report follows last week’s news item about former Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar student Hannah Williams who was banned from brining her girlfriend Savannah Supski to the school formal this year.

The school argued the event was designed so students could bring male partners, and Supski’s age, rather than the girls sexuality was the reason behind the ban.

Dr Hillier said while the research showed a rise in the number of young people subjected to homophobic abuse, more students are revealing their sexuality than ever before.

“In the first [study], young people were a bit frightened, not knowing what to do, where to go,” she said. “But if you compare the voices from 1998 [the first study] to now, the young people [are] positioned in really good ways, from all of the groups and the internet, there’s so much more out there.

“I’ve never come across so many determined, strong, strident voices just saying who we are is okay and we want to be recognised … we didn’t have that before.”

Hillier’s research also showed that young participants who mentioned religious themes in their responses were also more likely to self harm.

Last week Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced the party would seek an examination of federal anti-discrimination laws.

“Reports that a female student was unable to take her same-sex partner to a school formal are concerning, particularly when our education system should be promoting acceptance and diversity in the school environment,” Hanson-Young said.

“We will introduce a motion into the Senate next week calling for an investigation into the weaknesses of our anti-discrimination laws across the country, and to look into ways we can protect the rights of our young people.”

info: WTi3 will be launched on Friday and available at www.Latrobe.edu.au

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