Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle got involved with a joint radio broadcast about LGBTI youth in Melbourne today.

3AW’s Neil Mitchell joined JOY 94.9’s David McCarthy at City Square, dedicating two hours to the issues faced by young LGBTI people.

JOY 94.9 FM general manager Conrad Browne said the aim of the broadcast was to get the issue of LGBTI youth suicide into the public and heralded today as a success.

“The whole point of the broadcast was for us to get the message out there and get the discussion happening and with things like that happening, and the feedback we got via SMS, email and call-ins, we know we reached a lot of people today,” he said.

Browne said the joint broadcast was the number one topic on Twitter during the two-hour simulcast, getting about 20,000 people involved.
“It wasn’t to solve all the problems, it was to get the dialogue happening and get the broader areas of the community talking and hearing each other,” Browne said.

Melissa, one of the callers, shared her story about her 12-year-old gay son who had attempted suicide recently for the second time.

“People need to be aware, even at the primary school level, that it’s just as important to feel welcomed and embraced for them being them,” Melissa told listeners.

Another caller, Karen, talked about her 17-year-old gay son who had always been accepted by his family.

“He can just be walking up the street or in a shopping centre and he’s being called a fag and a poof and I just think it’s disgusting,” she said.

“People need to open their minds and their hearts and if they’re not causing any harm to anybody else, why should their sexuality bother anybody?”

Browne said community attitudes were changing but Australia had a “long way to go”.

“Hopefully with people like Jeff Kennett talking about it and all the other people we had on today, we’re going to really permeate into the wider community, to those people who may not understand all of the issues,” he said.

“We all just want to make sure young kids are looked after and treated right and make sure everyone feels good about who they are.”

Karin McKenzie was a member of the live audience at City Square today and has a gay son.

She said she was impressed with the broadcast and that it was really important to get the message out there.

McKenzie said the issue was about acceptance and people in general who were considering suicide thought they were “beyond acceptance”.

“They think they’re unlovable and often it doesn’t matter if your family, say me as a mum says ‘I love you et cetera’, they don’t believe it because of the despicable ridicule and scorn and debasement from others continually,” she said.

“It’s a miracle they survive.

“I think the arrows of hate, of hate and non-acceptance slay these people.”

The 67 year old said there were four options for parents with gay children.

“You can break off contact and that will put deep arrows of hurt in your child. You can try to change them but it says they’re unacceptable as they are,” she said.

“You can stick your head in the sand but it’s not going to go away or you can accept reality and love them, accept them as a normal person.”

Browne said there was no follow-up program lined up with 3AW just yet but he said it was “inevitable” due the station’s now strong relationship.

Re-listen to today’s interviews here.

Photo courtesy of Betty Sujecki.

INFO: Lifeline 13 11 14

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