Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has launched a national guide to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students in Australia to find a supportive and inclusive university.
The LGBTI University Guide was developed as a collaboration between the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Star Observer, Transgender Victoria, Out for Australia and Organisation Intersex International Australia.
Universities were assessed against a series of 15 criteria and on the basis of information publicly available through university and student union websites.
“This is the first time Australian universities have been assessed on their anti-discrimination policies, health and welfare support, staff training and other measures to ensure LGBTI inclusiveness,” Commissioner Wilson said.
“It is an important first step towards making Australian universities safer, more inclusive places for LGBTI people,” he said.
The Guide revealed that while most Australian universities had anti-discrimination policies in place, only one-in-five accurately reflected current legal protections for LGBTI people. Only a third of universities had mandatory training for existing staff in regards to equal opportunities involving LGBTI people; and specific sexual health advice was also generally lacking.
“Australian universities are making progress in building a culture of inclusiveness and respect for LGBTI students and staff, but a number of concerning issues still remain,” Commissioner Wilson said.
“Ensuring University is a safe and inclusive environment is extremely important for LGBTI students who have often spent years in secondary school fearful of acceptance from their family and peers if they ‘come out’. University is often the first place that LGBTI students feel they can be themselves.”
Commissioner Wilson recently conducted a national consultation to explore key rights issues affecting LGBTI people. One of the issues identified was the essential role that schools and universities make to build a culture of inclusiveness and respect for LGBTI people.
“We know that young LGBTI people are at risk of social isolation, abuse and tragically sometimes harassment in all aspects of their life, from family, to work, in sport, in school and universities.”
“All students have the right to study and participate in a safe and supportive environment, free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The LGBTI University Guide is available online at http://lgbtiuniguide.org.au