An enriched, diverse and proud school community

Last week at Carey we celebrated Pride Week. Over the course of the week, staff and students had the opportunity to participate in several activities designed to support awareness and understanding. One highlight from the many events was to hear from Melbourne-based writer Jordi Kerr[1]. A lot of Jordi’s writing explores ideas around identity, self-belief and self-acceptance and they shared with the audience that they ‘discovered the world, and [themselves], through reading’. Thursday’s highlight was a joint event with MLC’s Pride Group, a pizza night and screening of the film Mulan. Pride Week at Carey culminated with Wear it Purple Day on Friday 30 August. Wear it Purple Day has the aim of fostering supportive, safe, inclusive and empowering environments. A significant part of the event is to champion LGBTQIA+[2] role-models to help young people establish the confidence to be who they are.

Similarly, the overall aim of Pride Week is to represent a time to celebrate LGBTQIA+ students, staff and families and it showcases Carey’s commitment to creating and maintaining safe, supportive and inclusive environments. Fundamentally, it is a week for every member of our community because it is as much about the role of an ally as it is about people who identify as same-sex attracted or gender diverse. Australia’s leading online mental health organisation, ReachOut, describes an ally as ‘someone who stands up for, supports and encourages the people around them. It’s a term that gets used a lot in the LGBTQIA+ community. In this case, it refers to someone who is heterosexual and/or cisgender[3], but who tries to make the world a better place for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.’

It really doesn’t take much to be an ally, but doing so can have such a powerful impact. For staff and students at Carey it means supporting equal rights for everyone – regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender or religion; doing what each of us can do to call out discrimination and to fight for equality; and trying to make the world a better place for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+.

Pride Week at Carey was great fun and we’re grateful for the work of Pride Group teacher-convenor, Simon Carver, and the entire Carey Pride staff and student group, for its success. We indeed had much to celebrate. Visibility around a week like this one and its aims remains important for other reasons as well. It’s very sad to think that the origins behind an event like Wear it Purple Day – one of great joy and pride – comes from the 2010 death by suicide of 18-year-old university student Tyler Clementi. Tyler had experienced years of bullying and harassment and was publicly outed by another person without his consent.

Moreover, parents may be interested to know that the keynote speaker at Carey’s Term 3 Staff Day was clinical psychologist Dr Jacques Rizk. Dr Rizk specialises in supporting LGBTQIA+ young people. He shared some sobering statistics that none of us can afford to ignore. Anxiety and depression rates are significantly higher amongst this group of the population than their cisgender, heterosexual peers. Also, over 75% of LGBTQIA+ people have experienced some type of bullying, harassment or violence on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics[4]. It’s statistics like these that reinforce just how important events like Pride Week are for a school community like ours.

Dr Rizk shared some great advice with staff and his presentation led to lots of important conversations throughout the day and beyond. He challenged participants to appreciate that our own attitudes towards, and beliefs about, gender and sexual minorities matter and that our knowledge of LGBTQIA+ culture also matters. He also encouraged us to get to know our students’ world, seek out helpful resources and powerful role models and to be visible in our support and care.

Perhaps most profoundly, Dr Rizk invited Carey staff to identify the ways the LGBTQIA+ students and staff in our school enhance our community. This is a concept that goes beyond tolerance (I can live with it), acceptance (It’s okay) and respect (I have a high regard). It moves towards an acknowledgement that we all have something to teach one another and that LGBTQIA+ people can – and often do – enrich the perspective of people of any sexual orientation, gender identification, or school community, for that matter.

Allan Griffin
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Wellbeing

[1] Jordi identifies as non-binary in gender, and prefers the pronouns they/them, rather that she/her or he/him.

[2] Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexuality. The + symbol stands for all other sexualities, sexes and genders that aren’t represented in this acronym

[3] A person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex

[4] Australian Human Rights Commission (2015)