The University of Western Sydney is bringing homophobic violence out of the closet, with a forum planned to discuss reasons, responses and solutions.
Members of the gay and lesbian community sector, policy makers, police and victims of homophobic violence will all come together on February 25 for the Being Out West open forum.
Hosted by the univeristy’s Equity and Diversity department, the event will give local gays and lesbians an opportunity to share their experiences and raise awareness among the wider community.
“We want to bring the issue into the open,” the department’s head and former Human Rights Commissioner Sev Ozdowski told Sydney Star Observer.
“If people knew what was happening, they might have a negative attitude to homophobic violence, but the broader community quite often doesn’t know. It’s not on their radar.
“This is a human rights issue. It links to hatred. It links to prejudice. It is not a crime that is happening because of a range of attitudes and situations. Here we are dealing with a very specific set of attitudes that impact on human rights.”
Education is the key to changing things, Ozdowski believes.
“You need much more education,” he said. “You need to first off realise that it’s happening. Then people need to know why it’s happening.
“Then you need to talk about the consequences for the community, because the people who get bashed for who they are have families, and it ends up affecting everybody.”
Speakers include NSW Police corporate spokeswoman on GLBT issues, Supt Donna Adney, representatives from ACON’s Anti-Violence Project and a member of the Attorney-General’s Crime Prevention Unit, but it is Greg Harland who will speak directly about the impact homophobic violence can have.
Last year, Harland and his boyfriend Aaron Warnecke became the very public face of violence in the western suburbs, after being bashed by men wielding metal poles.
“I’m really glad UWS is doing this. Education is the key to give people the understanding that homophobia is not okay,” Harland said.
“I didn’t want to be silent on the issue, pretend that it didn’t happen. If we just carry on like it doesn’t happen, no one learns from it, so as a community we can’t stay quiet on these issues.”

info: Being Out West will be held on Thursday, February 25, at UWS Parramatta campus, cnr Victoria Rd and James Ruse Drive. Starts 6pm.

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