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Unimelb Marches for LGBTIQ Inclusion

18 January 2016

‘Diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are strategic buzzwords for many Australian universities, but implementing measures that foster these goals can prove challenging.

In a step forward for inclusion, The University of Melbourne will participate in the Midsumma Pride March for the first time.  The Pride March is an iconic feature of the Midsumma Festival, an annual celebration of Victoria’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) community.

Frances Connors from the University of Melbourne Student Union’s Queer Department says the suggestion to participate in the march came from university staff.

“It’s really exciting to see the uni come forth and be actively wanting to include all of the diverse LGBT+ queer students,” she says.

Midsumma Festival was initially developed as Victoria’s answer to Sydney’s Mardi Gras. Now in its 21st year, organisers proudly proclaim it as one of the world’s top five gay and lesbian culture festivals.

The festival’s mission is to “inspire inclusion colourfully”. Its diverse program of events recognises the full spectrum of LGBTIQ individuals and experiences, including theatre, art exhibitions, poetry, music and dance events.

However, inclusion can be difficult even for a LGBTIQ festival. Last year, festival operators discovered that some attendees found the acronym to be too prescriptive. In response, they dumped it and adopted DGS – Diverse Gender and Sexuality — which they feel is more adaptive and inclusive.

Recent research shows that Australian universities are struggling to be responsive to LGBTIQ needs. Last year, The Australian LGBTI University Guide found that only one in five universities had policies that fully reflected anti-discrimination legislation.

According to their research, The University of Melbourne is neither among the worst, nor the best of universities when it comes to catering for LGBTIQ individuals. The university performs well in terms of the presence of student societies, protection policies, and LGBTIQ events. However, it performs poorly in terms of staff-ally networks (specifically trained and sensitive staff members who give support and advice) and in providing specific health and careers advice.

Connors says that participation in the march is a step in the right direction but it’s important to remember the serious obstacles for LGBTIQ individuals and their inclusion.

“While it’s good, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that we’re not safe and, even if attitudes are changing, to really double down and focus on those who are most vulnerable.“

 

To book or for more information on the Pride March go to: https://events.unimelb.edu.au/events/5924-midsumma-pride-march-join-the-university-of-melbourne-contingent

Image credit: The University of Melbourne Facebook Page.


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