From September to October 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will conduct a voluntary postal survey to ask the Australian public whether or not they support marriage equality – that is, a change in the law to allow same-sex marriages to be legally recognised in Australia.

The voluntary postal survey will ask the question, “do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. The Australian public can respond either yes or no.

Because of this, you may soon start hearing conversations surrounding the marriage equality debate. For LGBTQI students, this can be a challenging time.

What’s it like to be an LGBTQI student in Australia?

In Australia, being an LGBTQI student is completely okay – in fact, it’s hardly anything out of the ordinary!

Reports have found that the average age most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals come out is around 20 years old (Pew Research Center) – so there’s a very high chance you’ll be studying alongside many LGBTQI identifying students, just like yourself. Most universities across Australia have dedicated Queer Collectives and safe-spaces for LGBTQI students to both seek and give support, network and socialise.

In Australia, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status is against the law, as enforced by the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. As an LGBTQI student studying in Australia, you have legal rights not to be discriminated against – especially in matters of

  • employment
  • accommodation
  • provision of goods, services and facilities
  • education

Whilst there’s still some way to go, reports show that Australian support for LGBTQI communities – and marriage equality – is on the rise.

Studies have shown that 81% of young people (aged 18–24) support marriage equality (Galaxy 2012). The 2016 Census also “counted approximately 47,000 same-sex couples in 2016 – up from 33,000 in 2011 (a 42% increase) and 26,000 in 2006 (an 81% increase)” (Census). What’s more, Australia’s longest running lifestyle survey, the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia report (HILDA), revealed that whilst in 2005, only 43% of women and 32% of men supported equal marriage/parenting/employment rights for same-sex couples, this rose to 67% of women and 59% of men in 2017 (HILDA report). The ABC has also recently compiled data showing how same sex marriage views vary across the country.

See more: read our article ‘Resources for LGBTI International Students’ here.

Don’t tolerate discrimination or harassment – reach out!

Unfortunately, stigma still exists – a study found that 66% of young LGBTQI people reported experiencing verbal abuse because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, with evidence further suggesting that LGBTQI students are at higher risk of assault, harassment and discrimination (National LGBTI Health Alliance). However, although there’s definitely room for improvement, Australian universities are mostly welcoming to LGBTQI students, and many students are open about their LGBTQI identities.

Universities should be safe spaces for all. If you’ve experienced, or are currently experiencing, discrimination or harassment, don’t feel afraid to reach out.

Reachout has a fantastic article on self-care and how to look after yourself during the marriage equality debate here.

LGBTQI Events 

From geek-meets to weekend bush-walking trips, dragon boating teams to badminton clubs – with a little bit of searching you’re likely to discover a diverse range of LGBTQI-specific events, festivals, societies or meet-ups in and around your local area.

Mardi Gras & Fringe Festivals

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis GrasAustralia’s largest annual celebration of LGBTQI cultures and communities, is world-renowned. Highlights include the Sydney Mardis Gras Parade, Queer Thinking academic panels, the Mardis Gras Film Festival and Bondi Beach Drag Races.

Other major festivals celebrating pride and diversity include:

… just to name a few!

Check out a comprehensive list of LGBTQI festivals here (Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras).

LGBTQI Meetups

Useful networking apps and sites such as Meetup, Hobspot and/or Eventbrite are all fantastic resources for finding groups in your local area who share your hobbies and interests. More generally, you can also check out popular event & entertainment websites like TimeOut (LGBTQI events: Sydney, Melbourne) and Concrete Playground.

Minus18 – Australia’s largest networking service for LGBTQI youth (18-21 years) run by LGBTQI youth –  frequently host craft days, farm trips, workshops and other social events, as well as their annual Queer Formal (in Adelaide and Melbourne) where you can “wear what you want, and come with whoever you like” (Minus18). They also provide helpful advice, online resources (check out their articles about university life for LGBTQI students) and youth peer-mentoring services.

Student networks & services on-campus

Student groups, societies and networks on campus not only provide a multitude of support services and safe spaces for LGBTQI students but also frequently organise meet-ups and social events. Queer societies at major universities across Australia include:

See more: Minus18’s comprehensive list of Australian Queer Student Societies.

You can also search and compare the LGBTQI on-campus services at universities across Australia using The Australian LGBTI Uni Guide.

National Support Services

See our Resources for LGBTI students article for more information about culturally-specific and national support services.