Diversity in Education conference – creating a sense of belonging
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 2, 31 March 2023, page no. 25
The Diversity in Education conference, held in conjunction with WorldPride events in Sydney, was hosted by the Australian Education Union (AEU) and the New South Wales Teachers Federation, with support from Education International.
A delegation of five QTU Pride Committee members (pictured below) attended the teacher union-focused event, which gave Australian and international LGBTQ+ unionists an opportunity to present current issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. The conference also sought to bring awareness and understanding of the gains and challenges facing LGBTQ+ workers within schools.
Susan Hopgood, President of Education International, opened the conference and declared 2023 a critical point in the advancement of LGBTQ+ communities. The ability to share knowledge with the international union movement is crucial, and as teachers we have a vital role to play in creating a sense of belonging, for students and colleagues alike. She also reiterated that, as a broader union movement, we all play a critical role in promoting best practice within our schools and workplaces.
AEU President Correna Haythorpe echoed Susan’s remarks, adding that every person has the right to identify as they choose and that there is a need to address safety in our educational settings. She spoke about the need for clear industrial conditions within our industrial instruments that provide for proactive LGBTQ+ policies that protect the rights of all LGBTQ+ workers. She also reminded the conference that being seen and heard in our workplaces creates a sense of belonging for all, and that there is no place for discrimination against LGBTQ+ staff or students.
Hilario Benzon, Associate Director of the National Education Association (NEA) Center for Racial and Social Justice (USA), delivered a highly informative and emotive plenary, describing what a great state school for every student looks, feels and sounds like. He also spoke about the more than 300 legislative bills currently tabled across the USA that are seeking to undermine the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
He also spoke of the need to be true to your authentic self in your workplace and of the resilience and solidarity of the LGBTIQ+ community in the face of constant threats by conservative governments.
QTU member and Pride Committee member Emerson Zerafa-Payne spoke to conference in an impassioned keynote address outlining the lack of sufficient LGBTQ+ references in current education policy, both in Queensland and nationally. He also shared First Nations perspectives on the historical narrative surrounding gender binaries. The lived experience shared by Emerson was an eye-opening, uplifting and challenging reminder that much has been achieved - but much more remains to be done.
A range of workshops was also held throughout the day, centring on a range of issues including how to use the union to build a visible LGBTQ+ presence in your workplace, the resourcing and training that is available for LGBTQ+ students and staff, and the current policy and legislation impacting upon LGBTQ+ communities at home and globally.
Overall, the Diversity in Education Conference provided delegates with an opportunity to hear from a range of inspiring speakers, with LGBTQ+ issues not only being highlighted and discussed, but workshopped and addressed.
The QTU’s dedicated Pride Committee has responsibility for matters that impact on or relate to LGBTQ+ education, inclusion and advocacy, and the employment, status and conditions of Union members who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. You can find out more by visiting the QTU website (https://www.qtu.asn.au/lgbtiqplus).