A statement in support of our LGBTIQA+ students and colleagues

We are a union that champions equality because, as teachers, we want our children to grow up in a world that accepts all and celebrates diversity. After all, it is what we should practise, model and teach every day in our public schools.

Despite this, however, we know that there are young people in our schools whose life is not easy.

Many of these students may identify as LGBTIQA+ or are questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

So many of these students come to school each day frightened. Frightened of the physical assault they may suffer, whether it be a punch or a sly push from behind. Frightened of the insults. Frightened of being ostracised. Fearful of the name-calling they will endure. Scared of what life may hold for them. Silent in class, rather than answer a question and risk having their answer labelled as ‘gay’ by a fellow student.

Many endure this for years; every day, on the bus to school, in class, at recess, at lunchtime and on the way home.

We also know that for many home is not safe either.

We know that the ubiquity of social media has meant that there will be no relief or respite until they turn off their phone.

And we know that many will become deeply depressed; some will attempt suicide and some will die.

Of course, we also know that there will be many who will find support at their school but far too many do not.

We know that many teaching colleagues are targeted because of their sexuality and/or gender identity. Sometimes this could be an insult by students they teach or an innuendo designed to embarrass and humiliate. Sometimes it is more, much more.

We also know that many of our students and staff who come from same sex families can also be targeted.

As teachers we are all too aware of just how dangerous and damaging insulting public comments uttered by well-known figures can be in inciting negative behaviours among young people. Such comments can also cause young people to internalise these concepts which can have detrimental impacts on their wellbeing and mental health, and possibly lead to self-harm and suicide.

We also know that with violent incidents, almost invariably the assault has been preceded by verbal insults. Words matter, which is why respectful and inclusive language is important.

The recent attacks on LGBTIQA+ people by a wealthy footballer, under the guise of ‘religious freedom’ must be deplored.

There is a fundamental principle here: no religious belief gives any person the right to denigrate, insult or humiliate fellow citizens.

Religion must never be used as a cover to incite hatred.

As teachers, we will need to ensure that all members of our school communities are protected and supported during these times.

— Maurie Mulheron