Research by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University has revealed the serious problem of bullying provoked by homophobia in Australian schools with about 9-11 per cent of students who struggle with their sexual identity under threat.
ARCSHS Researcher, Associate Professor Anne Mitchell, uses the term “same-sex attraction”, where a student may experience attraction to someone of the same gender.
“These people are not necessarily gay and in fact many of them aren’t, but they’re all dealing with the issue,” she says.
According to Professor Mitchell, young people struggling with this issue are often very isolated and become alienated from their school, church and families, and when accompanied by bullying the impact is profound, and leads to higher rates of self harm.
“The key to turning the situation around is to create a ‘zero-tolerance’ environment from staff in a similar way that racist behaviour and bullying is not tolerated. If that sort of ethos was established in the school a lot of the homophobic bullying would die out,” she says.
ARCSHS applauds the recent awareness notice sent to all Victorian school principals by Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike. Professor Mitchell made it clear, however, that this is an important issue and more needs to be done.
“We have a long way to go before we get every school doing what is required on the ground to make them really safe for same sex attracted young people.”
The third national survey to be undertaken by Dr Lynne Hillier at ARCSHS next year, and Professor Mitchell is hopeful that the progress will have had an effect, and there will be some kind of improvement.
Editor’s Note: Original news release can be found here.