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.
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.
What is 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.
The 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 Schools?
Safe and inclusive schools benefit all students and are key to students delivering their full potential.
National 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.
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'.
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.
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
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 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:
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
To get involved, please contact the Safe Schools Unit via email or phone on: