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Program to take on homophobia in schools 

''No idea what to do'' ... William Field, a youth worker, was beaten and abused at school for being gay. A new program aims to improve attitudes towards gay students. Photo: Steven Siewert

WILLIAM FIELD knows first hand the pain that homophobia can inflict. The 21-year-old dropped out of two high schools after he was beaten and abused for being gay.

He said teachers often responded to his complaints by saying he should not talk about his sexuality.

''I had no idea what to do and I'd come home crying every day because I had no one like me and people were saying I was a girl,'' he said. ''It would have been so good to have had people in school who could tell us what it was like, or speakers who could tell us what it was like, to be gay.''  

The Education Minister, Verity Firth, has announced a $250,000 program to tackle homophobia in schools. The program, ''Proud Schools'', will be trialled at 12 high schools in Sydney and the Hunter and on the Central Coast.

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society found two in three ''same-sex attracted or gender questioning'' young people had been verbally abused because of homophobia and one in five had been physically abused.

Four in five said the abuse took place in school and that they felt unsafe as a result.

The program will include teacher training and workshops with students and parents.

The government hopes it will eliminate the fear and isolation felt by many gay students by helping teachers, principals and the school community to address homophobic attitudes.

The gay and lesbian lobby ACON welcomed the program. The ACON president, Mark Orr, said the program could improve the mental health and well-being of young gay people by promoting a more inclusive school environment.

Mr Field, who is now a youth worker, said the program needed to encourage gay role models and open discussion of homosexuality in schools. ''But not by stereotyping people who are gay.''

The 12 schools to trial the program this year will be announced after consultation with school communities.

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society is preparing a paper that will identify how schools can improve support for young gay people.

A committee comprising government and non-government agencies will monitor the program and report back to Ms Firth's office.

A spokesman for Ms Firth said while strategies to tackle homophobia were embedded in welfare programs, this was the first homophobia-specific initiative to be developed.

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Reader Comments (3)

I'm sorry to hear of what William went through but so proud that he has spoken out to ensure it's a topic that finally will be addressed and to see him doing well with the community in his youth work.

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I actually run a Same-Sex-Attracted group for young people in a regional area, close to sydney. i emailed Verity Firth the minister for Education and Training abou this program and i recieved a generic "you concerns have been noted" letter back.

does anyone, know anything more about it?


March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Hi there Jamie,

Thanks very much for your comment. Here at This Is Oz, we know a little about the 'Proud Schools' program.
We'll send you an email to address your queries directly


This Is Oz Admin

March 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterThisoz Admin

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