Anti-homophobia advocates have welcomed Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s move to speak out against bullying in global anti-homophobia campaign It Gets Better.
In the video posted on YouTube last week, Rudd said the message was for teens who are bullied because they are gay.
“In Australia it’s reported that one in two LGBTI teens experiences bullying at school. It’s got to stop. Let me say quite simply, it’s not okay,” he said.
Safe Schools Coalition Victoria coordinator Roz Ward said Rudd had sent a positive message.
“It gives confidence to teachers and parents, and students themselves, to realise that if you’re standing up against homophobic bullying then you’re actually on the right side and you’re on the same side as the people who make decisions in this country,” Ward told the Star Observer.
Ward said she believed Rudd’s message would resonate most with teachers.
“There’s still hesitation from staff members in schools who aren’t quite sure what they are supposed to say or do, or whether they’ll be backed up if they challenge homophobia,” she said.
Rudd joins US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Queensland premier Anna Bligh and a host of community leaders and celebrities lending support to the anti-homophobia campaign.
“Australia is a country that prides itself on diversity and that is why we need to challenge homophobia in schools and in our communities,” Rudd said in the message.
Anti-homophobia campaigner Daniel Witthaus said he hopes Rudd’s message encourages other political leaders to lend their support.
“It’s heartening to see the former leader of our country, and someone who still plays a prominent role in the Government, is actually sending such a positive message that it’s not okay if people are bullied,” he told the Star Observer.
“What’s great is the absolute clarity of his message.”
Rudd, however, has also been criticised by some in the community for his continued opposition to same-sex marriage.
“The [Gillard Government] should end the ban on same-sex marriage,” Ward said.
“It’s actually something, whenever we talk to students about discrimination against GLBTI people … it’s the number one thing that comes up.
“They say same-sex couples can’t get married and they know this is a form of discrimination, so it becomes confusing to say you can’t be homophobic and you can’t treat people differently because of their sexuality and then on the other hand to be doing that so obviously with the marriage ban.”
Rudd’s It Gets Better message appeared following discussions at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth last week in which he raised the issue of the criminalisation of homosexuality.