The current social & political climate
With all of this talk of Marriage Equality, the plebiscite and postal vote I thought I’d make a timely shoutout to all RTO & TAFE Managers, reminding you of the importance of supporting your Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI) students.
What does the current research tell us?
Reports from Beyond Blue suggest that the mental health of LGBTI people is among the poorest in Australia. Lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians are twice as likely to have a high/very high level of psychological distress as their heterosexual peers (18.2% v. 9.2%) This makes them particularly vulnerable to mental health problems. The younger the age group, the starker the differences: 55% of LGBT women aged between 16 and 24 compared with 18% in the nation as a whole and 40% of LGBT men aged 16-24 compared with 7%. For more detail take a look at the full report – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/bw0258-lgbti-mental-health-and-suicide-2013-2nd-edition.pdf?sfvrsn=2
Why is it important to support GLBTI students?
School, College or University is often the place where young #GLBTI students feel most safe. It should come as no surprise that this is often the safest place for a young GLBTI person to come out. Are your teachers and training coordinators ready and equipped to handle this kind of classroom situation?
The Star Observer Newspaper has reported that a TAFE student recently made a formal complaint about being bullied by a fellow student after she “came out” as transgender. See- http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/trans-tafe-student-lodges-harassment-complaint/161034
It would appear that in this instance the TAFE wasn’t equipped to support and provide a safe place for their student being bullied. I can’t help but wonder how many RTOs, TAFEs and Universities really would be willing, ready and able to step up and support a young transgender person throughout their educational experience and personal journey of transition.
I have been talking about the need for RTOs and TAFEs to have provision in their ‘complaints and appeals’, and ‘student support’ policies, procedures and business processes to ensure that they are providing a safe and inclusive environment for all learners – including GLBTI students for quite some time now. However simply updating your policies isn’t enough. If your organisation is committed to creating a supportive environment for all students, including GLBTI students the most valuable thing you can do is educate your teachers.
I am interested to know if you believe that your organisation is already equipped to deal with this type of complaint or support need? Perhaps you have faced similar types of issues in your organisation. I would love to hear about what approaches were taken and how you managed the experience for all students in the classroom environment.
What can my organisation do to support its GLBTI students?
I believe that there is a huge gap in the knowledge and understanding of the support needs of GLBTI students in education. Professional development is needed in all parts of our education system from early childhood, right through to higher education. Earlier this year my friend and colleague Rebeckah Loveday from SensWide Employment teamed up with the VET Development Centre to deliver a webinar titled: ‘Supporting learners of diverse gender, sexuality and orientation’. For more information click here.
UPDATE 05/09/2017: Over the past few weeks the VET Development Centre has had a large amount of interest in their webinar ‘Supporting learners of diverse gender, sexuality and orientation’ so much in fact that they have decided to host another webinar focussed on ‘Supporting GLBTI Learners in Vocational Education’ this will be happening on Tuesday, 19 September, 2017 from 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM, click here to register >>> http://www.cvent.com/events/webinar-supporting-learners-of-diverse-gender-sexuality-and-orientation/custom-17-74e1ad1e252342e4add0808eb1896f75.aspx
There is a lot of work to be done in across all divisions of the education sector to ensure that GLBTI learners are supported. As a Vocational Education & Training Sector consultant and former policy advisor, it is my experience and opinion that many Community Colleges, RTOs and TAFEs are currently leave themselves exposed by putting their head in the sand and by not being proactive in taking action.
Next time you are reviewing the professional development schedule in your organisation, why not take a step up and include a useful informative session for your teachers on ‘how to support GLBTI students’?
If you are wanting to discuss this topic further please feel free to get in touch with Matthew Dale at Audit Express by phoning 1300735541