1 March 2016: The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic), the state peak body for young people, expresses its strong support for Safe Schools Coalition Australia. Safe Schools is a thoroughly researched, evidence-based program that works primarily with teachers and school welfare staff to eradicate bullying and make schools welcoming and inclusive for same-sex attracted and sex/gender diverse students, staff and families.
“Every single school in Australia is educating students who are same-sex attracted and sex/gender diverse,” said YACVic CEO Georgie Ferrari. “All of these students have a right to be educated alongside their peers, in a safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, for too many young people this is not their experience.”
In a 2010 survey of over 3,000 young Australians who were same-sex attracted or sex/gender diverse, young people took the courageous step of describing the harassment, bullying and violence directed towards them. A shocking 31% of transgender and gender non-binary young people reported having been physically attacked, as did 23% of same-sex attracted young men and 14% of young women. Nearly two-thirds of same-sex attracted and sex/gender diverse young people described having been verbally abused. Young people who had been abused for their sexuality or gender identity were significantly more likely to misuse alcohol or other drugs and to attempt self-harm or suicide.
The most common place where abuse occurred (in 80% of cases) was at school.
The right of every child and teenager to an education is enshrined in Australian law and recognised around the world via the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. And yet a fifth of same-sex attracted and sex/gender diverse young people described missing school and seeing their marks drop due to abuse related to their sexuality or gender identity. 10% described changing schools to avoid abuse, and 8% dropped out of school altogether.
Young people in Victoria have benefited from the strong support shown for Safe Schools by the Andrews Labor Government and their Coalition predecessors. However, without federal funding the reach of the program would be compromised.
“Unfortunately, damage is already being done. We have been dismayed by the misinformation about Safe Schools propagated by some commentators, and by the harm that such discriminatory language and hateful views may be causing to vulnerable young people and their loved ones,” said Ms Ferrari.
YACVic works closely with Safe Schools Coalition Victoria through the HEY Project, funded by the Victorian Government. We will be writing to the federal and Victorian state Ministers for Education to express our support for Safe Schools Coalition’s excellent work.
FOR FURTHER COMMENT
Georgie Ferrari, CEO, Youth Affairs Council of Victoria
Ph: 03 9267 3711 or 0411 484 428