Safe Schools

Safe Schools is a formal and public commitment that schools make to create an inclusive and safe environment for their school community, including for LGBTI students, families and teachers. This commitment recognises that creating a safe and inclusive environment is key to tackling bullying, discrimination and harassment at schools, particularly arising from homophobia and transphobia.

All students should be safe from bullying and feel included at school. Students who don’t feel safe or included at school cannot learn effectively.

What is Safe S​chools?

The Safe Schools program helps schools foster a safe environment that is supportive and inclusive of LGBTI students.

How this commitment is realised is determined by each school, based on its local context and the needs of its school community.

Safe Schools is not a subject in the curriculum, nor is it prescriptive in any way.

Schools have the discretion to use as many or as few of the resources, training materials, and other support that the program offers to help them deliver their commitment.​

Why Safe Scho​ols?

Safe and inclusive schools benefit all students and are key to students delivering their full potential. 

Nation​al and international research shows that positive and inclusive school environments lead to better academic results, increased confidence and better attendance at school.

The Victorian Government wants to improve outcomes for every student, in every classroom, in every community. It also wants all students in Victoria to develop high levels of resilience.

For many people, the question of their gender or their sexuality is straightforward, however for some it is more contested as they don’t fit neatly into the category assigned to them at birth or with the ‘norm’. It is important for all children and young people to understand that not everyone is the same and to respect this.​

Background

In 2010, the Victorian Government established Safe Schools to make sure schools are safe places for all students, including LGBTI students, and are free of homophobia and transphobia.

Safe Schools is now managed and delivered directly by the Department.

The Government has committed to expand the program to all government secondary schools by the end of 2018. Primary schools and non-government schools can also access support from Safe Schools.

Homophobia and transphobia at school

All young people have a right to feel safe at school but many LGBTI students have negative experiences in Australian schools.

LGBTI young people experience high rates of bullying and the vast majority of this abuse occurs at school.

The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people found that:​

  • 61 per cent of LGBTI young people report experiencing verbal homophobic abuse
  • 18 per cent report physical homophobic abuse
  • 69 per cent report other types of homophobia, including exclusion and rumours
  • 80 per cent of respondents experienced the reported abuse at school.

To review and/or download the ​report, see:​

LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicide and attempted suicide of any population in Australia. Suicide attempt rates are six times higher for same sex attracted young people than their heterosexual peers. The average age of a first suicide attempt is 16 years - often before 'coming out'.[1]

LGBTI young people at schools where protective policies are in place are more likely to feel safe compared with those in schools without similar policies (75 per cent compared with 45 per cent). They are almost 50 per cent less likely to be physically abused at school, less likely to suffer other forms of homophobic abuse, less likely to self-harm and less likely to attempt suicide.[2]​

If you are in need of immediate support, please contact one of the following services:

  • Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • Headspace 1800 650 890
  • QLife 1800 184 527
  • for emergency medical assistance, please call 000.​

How does Safe Schools work?

What makes a school a Safe School is its public commitment “to building an environment that is safer and more inclusive for the whole school community”.

How this commitment is implemented is at the school’s discretion and therefore looks different for each school.

Schools choose from a range of evidence-based and age-appropriate information, resources and professional learning to help them prevent, and respond to, bullying arising from homophobia or transphobia. This could involve a review of school policies and practice, professional development for school staff, and establishing a student led group to organise inclusive events.

Victoria is diverse. Our schools need to reflect the diversity of their communities and cater to the needs of students and staff, and their families. Given this diversity, school principals take into consideration the views of their school community when working with children and young people and determining the best approach to implementing their commitment to being a Safe School.​

How does my school become a Safe School?

The Safe Schools Unit can work together with your school to build safer and more inclusive environments for your whole school community.

To get involved, the Safe Schools Unit can be contacted via email or phone on:

Safe Schools Members

To see a Safe Schools membership list, last updated on 16 March 2017, see: Safe Schools List 16 March 2017 (pdf - 143.97kb)

This list reflects the Victorian schools that made the Safe Schools pledge to "build an environment that is safer and more inclusive for the whole school community" prior to the program's transfer to direct delivery by the Department of Education and Training from Term 1 2017.

In line with the Government's election commitment the Department of Education and Training will expand the program to all government secondary schools by the end of 2018 and all Victorian schools will continue to be able to access the resources and support provided by the program.

The Government expects schools across Victoria to ensure the safety and inclusion of all students in their care, including LGBTI students, and is providing support through the Department of Education and Training - including through ongoing delivery of the Safe Schools program - to enable them to do so.
 
You can contact Safe Schools at safe.schools@edumail.vic.gov.au for more information. You may also wish to contact your local school directly to discuss their approach to LGBTI inclusion and support.

Safe Schools resources

Staff at Safe Schools may access support and advice on matters like how to:

  • satisfy the Department's Gender Identity Policy and anti-discrimination legislation
  • prevent bullying of LGBTI students
  • respond to bullying incidents, especially incidents of homophobia or transphobia
  • adopt a whole-school approach to preventing discrimination, harassment and bullying
  • create supportive and inclusive school policies
  • train staff on creating supportive spaces for LGBTI students
  • set up and developing student-led activities to create positive, inclusive change, and
  • equip other staff and students with skills and ideas to create inclusive environments.​

Staff at Safe Schools may access resources such as:

For accessible versions of these documents, contact​: safe.schools@edumail.vic.gov.au​​

Gayby Baby resource

Gayby Baby's website provides resources for schools to encourage a whole school approach to welcoming diverse families in the school community.

The resources are tailored to meet the achievement standards and content of the Health and Physical Education learning area of the Australian curriculum.

To download the School Action toolkit and for more information, see: ​Gayby Baby

Contact us

To get involved, please contact the Safe Schools Unit via email or phone on:

​References

[1] Rosenstreich, G. (2013) LGBTI People Mental Health and Suicide. Revised 2nd Edition. National LGBTI Health Alliance. Sydney, p. 3.

[2] T Jones and Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission (2012), A report about
dis​crimination and bullying on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Western Australian education
, p 11.​