by Olivia Knowles, Safe Schools Coalition WA Project Coordinator
From the red dirt and vibrant yellow canola fields in the Mid West to the forests and the winter chills of the South West, the Safe Schools Coalition WA team travelled four and a half hours both north and south of Perth to connect with regional school staff and organisations in Geraldton and Albany during the month of August.
Towards the end of last year, the WA AIDS Council was successful in partnering with Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) to deliver the federally funded (through Australian Government Department of Education and Training) Safe Schools Coalition program in WA. This has enabled us to strengthen our existing work in schools being done through the WA AIDS Council Health Promotion and Freedom Centre programs. Our vision is for all Australian schools to be safe and inclusive places for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families. We are also committed to ensuring that schools in both metropolitan and regional areas have access to resources, support and professional development through Safe Schools Coalition WA.
We were very warmly welcomed by both the headspace Geraldton and Albany teams. We held two free Safe Schools Coalition introductory workshops in Geraldton for staff working in and with schools, with 41 staff in total attending from a range of schools and youth programs. We had 14 participants attend our workshop in Albany.
This trip provided us with a fantastic opportunity to network with the headspace Geraldton team, who recently opened their doors in June. They already have 25 per cent of their clientele identifying as not-heterosexual. and some clients who are gender diverse or questioning their gender. Once again, headspace Albany have a significant proportion of clients identifying as something other than heterosexual, and also as neither male nor female, with bullying a really common issue they seek help for.
In addition to the workshops, we held school meetings to plan inclusivity strategies, provided information and support to staff where transgender students are affirming gender identity at school, and canvassed interest in establishing LGBTI regional school staff networks.
We had some great outcomes from both trips including follow up requests for whole staff training, interest in a LGBTI+ regional schools network, resource requests and workshop attendees presenting the workshop material back to other staff at their school.
Some feedback from workshop participants included:
"Good to see this promoted within the community – thanks!"
"I enjoyed practical strategies for immediate implementation!"
"The information was presented clearly and seeming very relevant to what’s going on in schools today"
"Well done! Great food and very worthwhile session. Thank you."
Here are some examples of how workshop participants anticipated their teaching/professional practice changing as a result of the session:
"We are already inclusive, now we will be more explicitly supportive and more visible"
"I am putting up a rainbow sticker or two and a safe space poster. Kids need to know I think they’re all ok"
"I will be thinking about and alleviating my own behaviour and comments to promote environment of safety and inclusivity"
"We will try to have Wear It Purple day and challenge language"
"We will make our space visibly safe for young people to approach staff"
"I will share some resources with staff and other students"
Both trips contributed to a project aim of ensuring that schools in both metropolitan and regional areas of WA have access to Safe Schools Coalition training, resources and support.
If you would like more information and to access support for your school, please contact Olivia Knowles on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0484 649 016.