A bright future calls

Mel Smith
Trade Union Training Officer

As teachers marched down Oxford Street with Federation’s float in the Mardi Gras parade, members celebrated the progress made in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) issues and showed support for the LGBTIQ communities and programs that promote safe and supportive schools.

Up to half a million people cheered the parade on March 5. While the event is often viewed as a party it offers participants the opportunity to make a statement. This year, the theme of Federation’s float was “ Public Education: creating a brighter future for all”.

The LGBTIQ Special Interest Group (SIG) and Restricted Committee chose this theme to highlight the fact that more schools are taking on LGBTIQ-inclusive practices — action that has increased in momentum over the past few years — and Federation’s float showed our support for those schools, teachers, students and parents who seek to make a positive difference in the lives of all.

Support for such programs have been made all the more evident recently with attacks on the government-funded Safe Schools Coalition program that was created in response to research that reported an increase in bullying, verbal and physical harassment of young LGBTIQ people.

The research revealed a link to negative educational and health outcomes, highlighting the need to specifically address homophobia and transphobic behaviour, in particular, in order for all students to be safe and supported at school and able to engage with learning.

Members chose to highlight public education with the float as we work in the only education system that doesn’t discriminate against LGBTIQ teachers, students and families. Additionally, teachers in the public education system promote the core values of public education, of which care and fairness are important values in addressing bullying and harassment, thereby enabling all students to actively engage in learning to achieve their full potential.

Federation’s float was well received by the crowd, and the union has received messages of support from LGBTIQ teachers and their allies for publically supporting LGBTIQ teachers, students and their families.