The Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) and the Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS) express strong support for Victorian special schools that are adopting the Safe Schools program as part of their health curriculum.

YACVic, the state’s peak body for young people, and YDAS, which works alongside young people with disability to uphold their human rights, are confident that the Safe Schools program will be delivered appropriately for students with disability.

“Safe Schools helps all schools create safe, nurturing environments,” said YACVic CEO, Georgie Ferrari. “Young people with disability deserve the same as other students – to feel safe and welcome at school. YACVic congratulates the Victorian Government’s inclusive approach, which will give students with disability equal access to this important program.”

Safe Schools is aimed at supporting same sex attracted and sex/gender diverse (SSASGD) young people. It 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 SSASGD students, staff and families. The Victorian Government has confirmed that Safe Schools will be adopted by all Victorian schools – including special schools, which cater for students with disability – by 2018.

“Young people with disability face particular challenges when they are same sex attracted and sex/gender diverse,” said Leah van Poppel, YDAS Manager. “We see SSASGD young people with disability – some of whom have been through the special school system – who are bullied or excluded because of their identity. Some don’t access the disability services they need because they’re afraid of what will happen if they come out.”

Both YACVic and YDAS stress that community understanding and appropriate media reporting of this issue are critical to the good mental and physical health of young people who are SSASGD and/or who have disability.

“The Victorian Government is doing its bit to make sure young people with disability who are SSASGD feel safe at school, but it’s up to all of us to get this right,” said Ms Ferrari.

“The best way for all of us to help is to listen to the lived experiences of young people with disability when we’re talking about programs which directly affect their lives,” added Ms van Poppel.

For further comment: Georgie Ferrari, CEOYouth Affairs Council Victoria, 0411 484 428