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Too queer for school forum targets homophobia


Brigid Veale
12 February 2007

High levels of homophobia in schools will be the focus of a community forum ‘Too Queer for School’, to be held at Southern Cross University on Monday, February 19.

The forum is being hosted by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Peace and Social Justice, the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) Northern Rivers and Family Planning NSW.

The community forum will be followed on Tuesday, February 20, with a one-day teacher-training course ‘That’s so gay’.

Associate Professor Baden Offord, co-director of the Centre for Peace and Social Justice, said there were extremely high levels of homophobia in schools.

“This regional engagement between the Centre, ACON Northern Rivers and Family Planning NSW is an excellent opportunity to respond to this issue,” Professor Offord said.

“Last year a friend of mine, a single mum, faced the challenge of her 15-year-old son coming out at school, in an environment where homophobia is deeply entrenched in the language and social/peer relationships.

“We hope this community forum and teacher-training course will provide tools for discussing and understanding the issues which young people face, and developing strategies to address homophobia in education settings.”

ACON Northern Rivers manager Dr Tania Lienert said addressing homophobia in schools was a priority for ACON.

“The NSW Government has recognised the need to fund programs to combat homophobic violence on our streets,” Dr Lienert said.

“But it’s important to change the attitudes that cause the violence in the first place.

“So in the lead-up to the state election in March, ACON will be seeking assurances from all major political parties to undertake anti-homophobia programs in both primary and high schools.”

The guest speakers at the forum will be:
• Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, a senior lecturer in the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University. Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli writes and researches on social justice, diversity and equity issues in education and health.
• John Ryan, a secondary teacher from Richmond River High School, who in 2002 won a NSW Premier’s Scholarship to research the debate on boys’ education. He is starting a Master of Arts this year titled ‘Under the Radar: Exploring Personal Complicity in the Silence Surrounding Sexuality in Schools.
• Liz Hammond, manager of health promotion for Family Planning NSW. Ms Hammond has worked for 23 years in the areas of education, health service delivery and health promotion. She is a founding member of the NSW Anti Homophobia Interagency.

The teacher-training course will include guest speaker Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli and a panel of young people, teachers and parents who will discuss their personal experiences.

The community forum will be held on Monday, February 19, from 5pm to 7pm in Room Z181. Bookings can be made by phoning ACON on 66221555 or 1800 633 637.

The teacher training will be held on Tuesday, February 20, at Invercauld House. Places are limited and registration is $80. For information contact Family Planning NSW on 87524349 or email [email protected]

Photo: Associate Professor Baden Offord.