Amnesty WA urge govt to continue funding Inclusive Education WA

Amnesty International LGBTQIA+ Action Group in Perth have written to WA MPs, urging for the continuation of the Inclusive Education WA (IEWA) program.

Earlier this month, OUTinPerth reported that funding for IEWA, WA’s rebranded version of the Safe Schools program, was due to come to an end on October 31st 2020.

WA Education Minister Sue Ellery told OUTinPerth that “while it is a valuable resource, few schools were using the face-to-face Inclusive Education WA service.”

Amnesty International LGBTQIA+ Action Group Perth have joined local LGBTQIA+ advocates, as well as WA Greens leader Alison Xamon, in urging the McGowan Government to continue funding for the program, which has been administered through the WA AIDS Council.

You can read the letter in full below.

We are writing to you today on behalf of Amnesty International Western Australia. We are part of the world’s largest human rights organisation, spanning 150 countries and more than 7 million members and supporters. The fundamental vision of this organisation is a world where human rights are enjoyed by all people.

The letter we are writing to you today is in regard to Inclusive Education WA. IEWA provides professional development to school staff which aids them in better understanding the needs of LGBTQI+ students and delivering programs including health and anti-bullying curricula which are inclusive and respectful, and which in turn improve the mental and physical health of these students. Whether or not a child is a member of the LGBTQI+ community, and whether or not they are aware of it at a young age, fostering diversity and inclusion in and of itself has been proven to increase wellbeing and productivity and encourages all students to be respectful of the lives and rights of others who may be different from themselves. We feel that this is crucial for our young people to learn, not just for the sake of their individual wellbeing but for the workplaces, families, and communities they will grow into.

It has recently been brought to our attention via our LGBTQIA Action Group in Perth that the decision has been made not to renew funding to IEWA after October 31st this year. This is disappointing given the goals and benefits of the program as outlined above, but especially because of the WA’s government’s previous stance in supporting a LGBTI+ Health Strategy. IEWA and the LGBTI+ Health Strategy 2019-2014 both explicitly acknowledge the disproportionate homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, and suicides amongst the LGBTQI+ community, and in particular the trans and gender diverse community. We therefore feel that defunding IEWA without a clear plan for an alternate program to take its place blatantly contradicts the knowledge and values on which these programs were based, and knowingly devalues the health, wellbeing, and educational experiences of LGBTQI+ students in particular.

From the human rights perspective, there is support for programs such as IEWA found in several treaties and principles, including but not limited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For example, there are 5 separate articles in the UNCRC alone that we have identified that are specific to this situation:

Article 6

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

As is explicitly acknowledged by the LBGTI+ Health Strategy, LGBTQI+ people in Australia continue to face exclusion, discrimination, stigma and even violence which leads to disproportionately poor mental and physical health outcomes, especially where LBGTQI+ identities overlap with other identities such as disability, CALD or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background. This includes disproportionately high mental illness, suicide attempts and successful suicides amongst LGBTQI+ young people and especially amongst trans and gender diverse young people.

The Telethon Kids Institute’s “Trans Pathway” Report (2017) – which was cited in the LGBT+ Health Strategy developed by the Western Australian government, is the largest study ever conducted into the mental health and care pathways of trans and gender diverse young people in Australia. It showed that trans and gender diverse young people in Australia were 20 times more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to cisgender students, and that 1 in 2 trans and gender diverse young people had already attempted suicide prior to being surveyed.

It also found that, for better or worse, the school environment was amongst the most influential (second only to the family environment) when it came to the self-reported health and wellbeing outcomes of trans and gender diverse young people. IEWA publications also acknowledge the importance of the school environment in the development of young people and the current proliferation of bullying and exclusion that is present. The Department of Education has already acknowledged by funding this program in the first place that addressing the treatment of LGBTQI+ young people in schools is critical to their physical and mental health, to the point of in many cases being a matter of life and death. We therefore struggle to see how the decision can be made to cease funding for this program with no clear plan for improvement or replacement, as doing so knowingly endangers LGBTQI+ students.

Article 13

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.

Article 28

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity

Article 29

1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

It is the right of every child to receive an education for at least their primary school years and to be encouraged to pursue higher learning, however bullying (both physically and verbally) which is experienced by 74% of trans and gender diverse students, and peer exclusion which occurs to 89% of trans and gender diverse students (Telethon Kids Institute, 2017) creates hostile school environments which not only affects their ability to learn, but means that many will either have to transfer schools, pretend to be something they are not, or suffer in silence. Surely it can be agreed upon that this is a situation that no child should be placed in.

It is also of great concern to us that several policies common to schools throughout the state deny equal opportunity to LGBTQI+ students, for example:

· Failing to protect LGBTQI+ students’ inherent human dignity by treating their identities and/or rights as hot-button debate issues or abstract thinking exercises;

· Failing to provide adequate pastoral care to LBGTQI+ students by allowing teachers, principals, counsellors and chaplains (who attend many public schools in lieu of secular counsellors or psychologists) to remain unequipped to provide for their needs;

· Failing to provide health or sexual education suitable to the needs of LGBTQI+ students;

· Failing to allow LGBTQI+ students to participate fully in events including sports (particularly where these are divided by gender) and school dances, and/or failing to create an environment where students feel safe to do so.

Every student has the right to able to reach their full potential, however LGBTQI+ students are frequently held back from this due to factors such as bullying, peer exclusion, and discriminatory policies creating a hostile environment. IEWA was a valuable tool in combatting these issues and improving outcomes for their physical and mental wellbeing, and for a fulfilling educational experience. Ceasing to fund this program without any clear plan to replace or improve it leaves many LBGTQI+ students vulnerable and will ensure that discrimination and disadvantage, where these are intentional or not, continues to hold them back.


LBGTQI+ students, and in particular trans and gender diverse students, continue to experience severe disadvantage when it comes to their mental and physical wellbeing and their ability to achieve their full potential in the school environment. Amnesty International Western Australia therefore consider it unconscionable that that funding to this vital program be ceased without a clear plan to improve or replace it. We request that if funding cannot be reinstated for IEWA, that an alternate program be initiated as soon as practicable to pursue the same goal. We must take every care possible to ensure that all students flourish, and it is proven time and time again that they best flourish when they are allowed to be who they are, in an environment which has the will and the resources to support them.

In the interests of the health, the lives, and the human dignity and equality of LGBTQI+ young people across Western Australia, we thank you for your consideration.

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