News

16 May 16Hope Terdich

DUSA BELIEVES IN MORE THAN MARRIAGE EQUALITY

An Open Letter

May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), and out of respect for our students that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, intersex, asexual or simply queer; we, the Deakin University Student Association, pledge our support for marriage equality in Australia. However, as part of that pledge, we’d like to discuss some of the other issues faced by the community that don’t get nearly as much attention.

Queer students suffer many forms of discrimination in their everyday life. According to a 2015 Australian Human Rights Commission report, more than 70% of queer people said that they had at some point in their lifetime experienced bullying, harassment or violence due to their gender or sexual identity. The result of this discrimination can be extreme: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 31.5% of queer people have an anxiety disorder and 19% suffer from depression or similar disorders; and the Twenty10 Youth Service has also estimated that there are between 5000 to 6250 homeless queer youth in Australia.

Higher education allows us to learn more about the world, and by extension, ourselves; and at DUSA, we believe that welfare and advancement of the interests of our students are important. Unfortunately, amongst the threats of violence and homelessness, and the reality of mental illness, it is often difficult for queer youth to reach their academic potential or to achieve a higher education at all. Queer people are not broken, or a victim to their gender or their sexuality; they are simply a victim of unjust discrimination. This very discrimination is epitomised in the exact wording included in Australia’s Marriage Act, ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others’. This is a law that has, and will continue to impact our students. As the student representative body, DUSA is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination that affect the health and wellbeing of Deakin’s student community and to ensure the representation of our students on a local and national level. We strive to promote responsible actions to effect political and social change relevant to the Deakin experience.

To this end, on Wednesday May 11th 2016, at DUSA’s Annual General Meeting, the attending members of the Deakin University student community unanimously voted to amend DUSA’s constitution and add a new, autonomously elected position to the DUSA Student Council, Queer Officer. The intention behind including this new role was to:

  • engage queer-identifying students studying at Deakin University;
  • provide avenues for queer representation and participation within both DUSA and the University community;
  • act as a visible, approachable and supportive contact point within DUSA for queer-identifying students; and
  • develop and maintain knowledge of current issues affecting queer-identifying students and the support services available to them.

DUSA’s mission is to ensure our students are successful; to respect all individuals; to act with integrity and embrace challenges. Today we are proving our commitment towards these goals. Marriage equality generates a great deal of political discussion, and there is certainly a lot of media attention towards it, but it’s probably not the most pressing issue for a lot of queer-identifying students. This statement allows us to acknowledge that marriage is both a celebration of love and recognition of our relationships and of course, we want that for our students. But this is also the opportunity to point out that being denied the right to marry the ones they love is not the be all and end all of the issues faced by the community. It’s simply an example of the systemic issues faced by our queer-identifying students and, by extension, Australia’s queer community. Together DUSA and Deakin University can work together to make our university more accommodating to the needs and comforts of the queer individuals who choose to study here. We can help the community find one another, provide the Safe Spaces and support services necessary, and run campaigns to educate and promote understanding and acceptance. We are committed to supporting and acting in the best interests of our students and helping where we can.

There is a lot of work ahead of us but pledging our support for marriage equality in Australia is a good place as any to start. This pledge is one of the easiest things any organisation could do; you only have to take the time to write a statement. But to write that statement without acknowledging the wider and uglier issues faced by the community would simply be a gesture. Achieving marriage equality will not end the harassment and bullying; it will not increase and expand the mental health services catered towards queer individuals or give the homeless a place to live. There is nothing wrong with such a gesture. If even a single student were to take from that gesture that their existence was acknowledged and that someone cared about them, then that gesture would be entirely worthwhile. But it is the action that follows our gesture that matters. This pledge is only the beginning, and it is also a promise to work more closely with the queer community at Deakin University.

In January 2015, the Republic of Ireland conducted a referendum that revealed that 62.07% of those enrolled to vote believed that marriage equality should be legalised in their country. Subsequently, Ireland’s own Marriage Act was amended. Polls have told us that about 72% of our population believe that marriage equality should be legalised in Australia.

Marriage equality is an inevitable change. And yet every day that passes is another day that we allow discrimination to continue to be entrenched in Australian law. We, the Deakin University Student Association, pledge our support towards marriage equality; and call on the Australian Parliament to act in the best interest of the people they are representing. It’s time to legalise marriage equality because this is only one of many issues faced by the queer community that we need to resolve.

And this issue is the easiest to fix.

Sincerely,

Deakin University Student Association

 

Further reading

http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/

https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SOGII%20Rights%20Report%202015_Web_Version.pdf

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/lesbian-gay-bi-trans-and-intersex-lgbti-people/factors-affecting-lgbti-people

http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/6AE6DA447F985FC2CA2574EA00122BD6/$File/43260_2007.pdf

http://www.twenty10.org.au/

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ma196185/index.html

http://www.dusa.org.au/getmedia/07d2647e-e78b-452f-a9aa-e02067210594/Minutes-of-AGM-May-2016-110516.pdf.aspx

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2015/act/35/enacted/en/html

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/marriage-referendum/results

http://www.crosbytextor.com/news/record-support-for-same-sex-marriage/

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/poll-shows-growing-support-for-samesex-marriage-20140714-3bxaj.html