MP Warren Entsch
MP Warren Entsch

THE tragic impact of bullying on young LGBTI Australians has been highlighted in Parliament today by federal MP Warren Entsch, Chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group of LGBTI Australians.

Mr Entsch outlined the disturbing findings of a new report titled ‘Growing up Queer’, which examines the mental health of young people who are growing up in today’s society as gender variant or sexually diverse.
More than 1000 people aged 16-27 participated in a national research study through the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, with partners the University of Western Sydney and Twenty10.
Mr Entsch congratulated the agencies for undertaking the project, saying that the report had “sent a pang of great sympathy and sadness through me”.
“Almost two-thirds of respondents reported homophobic or transphobic harassment or violence across different aspects of their lives, including in schools, families, the workplace, the streets and other public sites, such as sporting events,” he told Parliament.
“As a result, 16 per cent of the young people had attempted suicide and 33 per cent had harmed themselves.”
Mr Entsch highlighted the negative impact that harassment, bullying and violence had on young people’s educational experiences, with some changing schools numerous times and others dropping out of school altogether.
Most disturbingly, while peers were the most frequent source of homophobia and transphobia, it was the harassment by some teachers that had the most profound impact.
Young people who had been rejected by their families often found themselves in situations of homelessness and financial strife, while others reported very negative experiences when dealing with Government services and human welfare agencies.
“Given that many of them had moved out of the home before turning 18, they were reliant on these services for accessing income support and housing,” Mr Entsch said.
In the workplace, young transgender people said they found it particularly hard to find a job. “A big issue was the discrepancy between birth names and chosen names on employment forms, and unsuccessful attempts to find work because of attitudes from employers.”
Mr Entsch said that the Parliamentary Friendship Group, which has 27 members across all parties, had a particular focus on addressing legislative, regulatory or institutional discrimination.
“I note that the report recommends that the current exemption of private schools from Anti-Discrimination legislation relating to sexuality needs to be repealed so that these young people have the same rights as their peers in government schools.
“It also clearly demonstrates the need for greater community education and training of educators, doctors and health professionals.”
Mr Entsch invited all LGBTI-relevant organisations to register with his office to stay informed about the LGBTI Friendship Group’s activities during the 44th Parliament.
“I also invite them to please come to us with any ways in which we can help to improve these young people’s experiences in education, employment and accessing government services.
“We cannot allow this persecution to continue impacting on the lives of young and vulnerable Australians.”