THE evidence is overwhelming and conclusive. Homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and anti-intersex prejudice often takes a heavy toll on people’s lives and their health.

In 2010, the Writing Themselves in 3 report found that of the same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people surveyed, 80 per cent faced verbal and physical abuse in the places where they should be most free to be themselves – schools.

This abuse is associated with poorer mental health outcomes across most of the main indicators of health and wellbeing, a fact borne out by the recent publication of the Growing Up Queer report, which concluded that LGBTI young people were six times more likely to consider taking their own lives than other young people.

When the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) consulted with members of the community, including young people, over recent years, the stories of discrimination and outright violence they told were confronting. These included a young gay man, now in his 20s, who recounted being “punched, and even burned with cigarettes on one occasion…[a]t least one teacher saw, but a blind eye was turned” as well as a bisexual man who was so badly harassed at high school he felt ashamed and wanted to constantly repress it.

The Safe Schools Coalition NSW, launched last week, aims to turn this around, from the beginning of people’s lives.

Part of a national initiative being run by the Foundation for Young Australians, the Safe Schools Coalition in NSW is being led by Family Planning NSW, with the support of ACON and the NSW GLRL.

At the heart of the Safe Schools Coalition initiative is a very simple commitment to equality – the notion that each young person should feel safe and able to reach their full potential at school, free of impediments that stymy physical and intellectual growth and that crush peoples creative spirits.

The Safe Schools Coalition model recognises that one size does not fit all and is responsive to the needs of a school, whether that involves a school audit, the provision of resources, training for teachers or simply referral advice for students or teachers.

Each and every member of the community can make a difference to someone else’s life by encouraging their school to sign up to Safe Schools Coalition NSW – whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent or you know people who are.

NSW, change is finally here.

Jed Horner is the Policy and Project Officer at the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. 

Follow the NSW GLRL on Twitter via @NSWGLRL




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