To better understand the experiences and needs of young people in the ACT, The ACT Safe and Inclusive School’s Initiative undertook a series of visits to LGBTIQA+ and ally student groups in ACT High Schools and Colleges.
Visits to student groups were arranged via email with supervising staff and were conducted during their regular meeting times (usually during lunch hours) with teachers present. A total of 10 student groups were visited from March to May 2021. Unfortunately, further group visits were impacted by the second COVID-19 lockdown period in the second half of that year.
We visited 7 High schools with students from Years 7-10 (12-15 years old) and 3 Colleges with students in Year 11 and 12 (16-18 years old). Nine school groups visited were in ACT public schools and 1 group was at a private/independent school.
Students were asked to reflect on what is working well at school to support LGBTIQA+ students, and what they would like to see more of to support LGBTIQA+ students. From the student responses we discovered that student groups/safe spaces, active affirmation and support from the school and staff, and celebration of days of significance were the biggest positive supports identified by students. Conversely students identified that more classroom education, additional support from the school and staff, and more work to address bullying and the use of slurs was needed.
From these findings, SAIS recommends that inclusive education, active support and affirmation from schools and staff, alongside work to address the experiences of bullying and harassment experienced by LGBTIQA+ students, should continue to form the basis of future work in this area.
Additionally, we can confirm that the presence of a student group and support from the school were highly valued and considered beneficial by students. From this, we also recommend that future work in this area endeavours to support the student leadership opportunities, foster community connection, and provide social support through these groups.