A NEW queer mentoring program has been launched to help sexual and gender diverse students at Monash University as they enter the workforce.

Students that identify as LGBTI or queer will be partnered with a professional who will provide guidance on how to navigate their sexuality at work.

A recent study revealed that homophobic jokes and harassment in the workplace contribute in part to higher rates of mental health disorders within the LGBTI community.

In a sample of 3134 young Australians, 61 per cent admitted to experiencing verbal abuse because of their sexuality.

Monash University’s Queer Mentoring Program co-creator Michelle Maes believes having a queer link in the workforce will help remove the worry many students may feel.

“For LGBTI students, it’s important for them to have role models,” she told the Star Observer.

“To be able to see that there are people like them in the workplace, and that they are successful.

“As an ally and parent of a couple of queer children, I’ve seen first-hand the issues they face… the [mentors] are not counsellors, but by sharing their own experiences they can provide some modelling.”

The idea for the program came to Maes earlier this year, then two months ago she met fellow co-creator Minto Felix to put it into effect.

Despite initially anticipating the interest of around 10 to 15 students, the program has already signed up nearly 50 Monash students.

Castan Centre for Human Rights deputy director Paula Gerber knows from personal experience the troubles faced by graduating LGBTI students.

“I was a lawyer in private practice for 20 years and I recognise how hard it is to be an ‘out’ person in a heterosexual organisation where heteronormativity abounds,” she told the Star Observer.

“It’s really going to make it so much easier for younger people coming into the workforce to know that they can call on these mentors for advice.”

To get the initiative up and running, Maes and Felix engaged with the university’s queer officers, departments, and career advisors.

Monash careers director Tammy Fitzgerald hopes the new program will help queer students navigate an already complex workforce.

“It’s important as part of us working with students to enhance their employability in a tight labour market,” she told the Star Observer.

“We recognise that LGBTI students and graduates have more hurdles and barriers than heterosexual people, and we want to do anything we can to support them.”

This initiative follows in the footsteps of similar programs being undertaken at fellow Victorian universities, such as RMIT’s Pride Mentoring.

Monash University’s Queer Mentoring Program begins this month, and will run for six months.

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