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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 March 2016) . . Page.. 842 ..

With teen suicide being an epidemic in our country and our territory, I would expect federal MPs to speak in a less inflammatory manner about these issues. My work with Menslink taught me that suicide amongst young men between the ages of 15 and 32 is at epidemic levels. It is completely unacceptable that the Liberal Party is second-guessing mental health professionals and undermining the critical work they do.

It is my intention in this place to speak positively about the LGBTI community and to support our young people towards having happy and fulfilling lives. The facts are that people of diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity may account for up to 11 per cent of Australia’s population. That is a large proportion of the community which is prone to experiencing marginalisation and harassment without active steps towards understanding. That is why it is important that we as legislators, and the federal government as the body responsible for the safe schools program, actively take strides towards ensuring these people of diverse gender and sexuality are an accepted part of our community.

The bullying figures are significant. Sixty-one per cent of LGBTI young people report experiencing verbal homophobic abuse, while 18 per cent experience physical homophobic abuse. That is a startling figure in this day and age, and shows that the steps we have taken towards making our schools safer spaces have in fact not been enough. These are figures that one would expect in another era, not in 2016. Some of these students experience cyber-bullying, social exclusion and humiliation. Eighty per cent of homophobic bullying involving LGBTI young people occurs at school. This is where we clearly need to target bullying.

As a result of bullying, LGBTI people are three times more likely to experience depression compared with the broader population, and almost 50 per cent of all LGBTI people hide their sexual orientation or gender identity in public for fear of violence and discrimination. These figures are clearly unacceptable and show that the effect of bullying in our schools is lifelong and sometimes irreversible.

I am proud that the Labor Party provided funding towards addressing this problem. The Safe Schools Coalition offers resources and support for staff, students and families. The resources are aimed at creating safe, positive environments for LGBTI students. Aspects of the program include specialised training and workshops for staff, student and staff analysis surveys, and providing a range of free printed and digital resources.

Amongst these resources is the “All of us” tool, aligned to the year 7-8 health and physical education area of the Australian curriculum. This teaching resource is designed to increase students’ awareness around gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex topics. It is simply a further part of their learning of gender and sexuality matters in their first years in high school.

Safe schools operates in 517 schools across Australia, has 15,102 staff members trained through its program and has 95 support organisations. Those 15,000 staff members are all now equipped with the tools to appropriately handle issues of gender and sexuality.

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