A day after making her inaugural speech in the NSW Parliament, new Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann has spoken out about homophobic bullying.
“I draw to the attention of the House the disturbing issue of homophobic bullying in schools,” Faehrmann told the Legislative Council.
“Most teenagers will not be surprised to hear that best estimates suggest that close to half of gay and lesbian young people experience verbal abuse or bullying because of their sexuality or gender identity.
“However, I am concerned that many other people in the community do not understand the scale of what is going on in our schools and communities, nor the immense pain that even verbal bullying can cause.”
Faehrmann read from a letter a young man had sent to her about the anguish he felt as a result of homophobic bullying at school.
“I felt that if I came out at high school then it would have been just as bad as putting a target on my face and telling everyone to have their best shot,” the man wrote.
“I … had no one to talk to about it. No friends, no family, no one. I felt so alone and just wanted to scream and cry but couldn’t.”
Faehrmann told MLCs they had a responsibility to examine the issue and to listen to young people so that long-term responses could be developed.
“Addressing prejudice when it rears its ugly head is an enormously complex task,” she said.
“To address this we need to look at many underlying factors, including cultural norms shaped by religion and ideology.
“Just as this Parliament has shed light on the issue of domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse in the past, it is time this Parliament shed light on the extent of homophobic bullying in our schools.”
Faehrmann told Sydney Star Observer she was beginning a consultation process on the issue and was calling for input from members of the GLBTI community.
“Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be talking to as many people as I can,” she said. “I have a number of meetings scheduled with stakeholder groups already.
“This is an extremely complex issue and it requires a lot of planning and discussion across a whole range of people and organisations.
“But I know that many of the answers to the problem of homophobic bullying are with the people who have experienced it and I want to hear from you.”