Thursday, June 30, 2016
ED---Kildonan-UnitingCare

Shepparton schools embrace diversity

David Lee March 16, 2016
DIVERSE SAFETY… From left, Diversity group member, Zane Scott, community development worker, Damien Stevens and Diversity Project caseworker, Anna Diktakis. Photo: Emma Hillier.

DIVERSE SAFETY… From left, Diversity group member, Zane Scott, community development worker, Damien Stevens and Diversity Project caseworker, Anna Diktakis. Photo: Emma Hillier.

AS national debate continues around the Federal Government’s review of the Safe Schools program, a local youth worker says Shepparton is leading the way in offering safe and inclusive education for secondary students.

Kildonan UnitingCare’s community development worker, Damien Stevens said it was pleasing to see Shepparton High School, Benalla P-12 College, Goulburn Valley Grammar School, McGuire College, Mooroopna Secondary College and Wanganui Park Secondary College join the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, a coalition of organisations and schools working together to create safe and healthy school environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.

“We know that school is the place where most homophobic and transphobic bullying takes place and that can impact on students through poor academic achievement and higher rates of suicide.

“In effect, these schools are saying to students that the teachers and other staff are determined to offer them a chance to come to a school where they will be included and treated with respect,” he said.

Mr Stevens, who is regularly invited to talk to local students about LGBTI inclusive practice, said the Diversity Project had spent the past 15 years ensuring schools are well informed, educated and resourced.

“Kildonan’s Diversity Project is making a big impact in creating safer, more inclusive and healthier school environments for local 14 to 25 year olds and its pleasing to see schools- and students- embracing this.”

Mr Stevens said there was evidence that huge and valuable inroads are being made locally.

“A highlight for me was recently being invited by a young person, who wanted to transition, to join him in addressing his school and talking about how they could make the environment better for him. The principal, who was initially cautious, was so happy with the presentation to students that I was invited back to address staff.”