2017 was a monumental year for the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia.
From September to November of that year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) ran a voluntary nationwide survey that asked one simple question: do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry? When all the votes were tallied, the numbers revealed that the majority of Australians did in fact support same-sex marriage, with nearly 62 per cent voting “yes”. On 9 December 2017, the Marriage Act 1961 was amended and same-sex marriage was finally legalised in Australia. The legislation symbolised a new wave of hope and acceptance for the Australian LGBT community – a community that LGBT international students join upon arrival in the country.
If you’re an LGBTQIA+ international student or you’re looking to learn more about the ways you can show support for the LGBTQIA+ community, look no further. Here are some of the most important things to note about LGBTQIA+ culture in Australia.
What does LGBTQI stand for?
As you’ll see in the interview below, LGBTQI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex. Sometimes, the acronym will include an asterisk (reading like this: LGBTQI*), which is used as a “catch-all” for all identities and individuals not captured by these six letters. You may also encounter the acronyms LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQI+ or LGBTQIA+ when referring to the same community.
What are LGBTQIA+ rights in Australia like?
In Australia, LGBT rights are protected by various pieces of legislation. First, 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 LGBT international student in Australia, you have legal rights not to be discriminated against – especially in matters of
- Provision of goods, services and facilities
As was previously mentioned, members of the LGBTQIA+ community also have the legal right to marry based on the 2017 amendment made to the Marriage Act 1961.
What’s it like to be an LGBT international student in Australia
In Australia, being an LGBTQIA+ student is completely okay – in fact, it’s hardly anything out of the ordinary!
In 2016, Australia’s non-heterosexual population over the age of 18 was estimated to be roughly 592,000 people across the country. While there is limited research showing how much these figures have changed, it’s likely that they have increased since then.
In other words, there’s a very high chance you’ll be studying alongside many students belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, just like yourself. You’ll also benefit from the abundant TAFE and university support for LGBT students in Australia. Most universities across the country have dedicated queer collectives and safe spaces for LGBT international students and domestic students alike. Here you can seek and give support, network and socialise.
Curious to discover the exact support services offered by Australian universities? Check out the Australian LGBTI Uni Guide, a tool that compares the support resources offered by various Australian institutions.
What support resources for LGBTQI international students exist in Australia?
Unfortunately, stigma against the LGBTQIA+ community is still pervasive around the world, including in Australia. Queer people are often subject to various challenges, such as bullying and discrimination, mental health issues and abuse. According to Relationships NSW, six in 10 people in the LGBTIQ community have suffered from verbal taunts and abuse, while two in 10 have experienced physical assaults.
If you’ve experienced, or are currently experiencing, discrimination or harassment, don’t feel afraid to reach out to your school’s support services department or to any of the organisations below:
- Rainbow Network, which features a directory of support services and groups for LGBTQIA+ youth
- Queerspace & Queerspace Youth
For urgent assistance:
You can also check out our article for information on additional support resources for LGBT international students.
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 LGBTQIA+ events, festivals, societies or meet-ups in and around your local area.
Mardi Gras & Fringe Festivals
The world-renowned Sydney Mardi Gras Festival, coordinated by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, is Australia’s largest annual celebration of LGBTQI cultures and communities. Highlights from past years have included the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, academic panels, the Mardi Gras Film Festival and Bondi Beach Drag Races.
Other major festivals celebrating pride and diversity include:
- The Sydney Mardi Gras Festival
- Midsumma Festival in Melbourne
- SpringOUT in Canberra
- Feast Festival in Adelaide
- The Brisbane Pride Festival
- PrideFEST in Perth
- Queens Ball in Hobart
- Darwin Pride Festival
- The Queer Screen Film Festival
… just to name a few!
Worried about missing out? The Australian Pride Network has got you covered. Check out their comprehensive list of upcoming LGBTIQ festivals in Australia to make sure you never miss an event.
Useful networking apps and sites such as Meetup and Eventbrite are fantastic resources for LGBTQIA+ international students looking for local groups who share their hobbies and interests. More generally, you can also check out popular event and entertainment websites like TimeOut, which highlight exciting upcoming events for cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and Concrete Playground.
Minus18 is Australia’s largest networking service for LGBTQI youth (18-21 years) run by LGBTQIA+ youth. They frequently host craft days, farm trips, workshops and other social events, as well as an annual Queer Formal (in Adelaide and Melbourne) where you can “wear what you want, and come with whoever you like.” They also provide helpful advice, online resources 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 LGBTQIA+ students but also frequently organise meet-ups and social events. Some of the queer societies at major universities across Australia include but are not limited to:
- UTS Queer Collective (University of Technology Sydney, NSW)
- UNSW Queer Collective (University of New South Wales, NSW)
- Pride Club of the University of Adelaide (University of Adelaide, SA)
- MSA Queer Department (Monash University, VIC)
- ANU Queer Department (Australian National University, ACT)
- UQ Union Queer Collective (University of Queensland, QLD)
- UWA Student Guild Pride Department (University of Western Australia, WA)
Didn’t see your education provider? Head to its website to discover its networks and services designed to support the LGBT student community in Australia.