As I was driving into Deakin University this week for a meeting, I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before. A rainbow flag was flying high, near the entrance of the campus and it prompted a response within me that I hadn’t expected – pride.
The rainbow flag has represented several things in the past few centuries, including peace, hope, social change and international cooperation. Over the past 30 years in Australia it has largely been adopted by the LGBTI community to represent the celebration of life in all its diversity. It has become known as the Pride flag and has increasingly been flown by organisations, businesses and community groups as a symbol of inclusion.
At Warrnambool College, like the wider Warrnambool community, we have been on a journey of understanding to ensure that all parts of our school community are equality accepted, celebrated and included. This includes those from different racial backgrounds, religious backgrounds, political perspectives and sexual orientations. It’s what government schools are called to be – a place of learning where all students and staff are welcomed, find a place of safety to be themselves and respect the diversity which makes up our human nature and the world. There are things we cannot accept of course – violence, belittling and inhibiting other’s chances to learn. But when it comes to our personhood, who we inherently are on the outside and the inside, we value each individual and present learning and life opportunities that allow everyone to thrive.
Next week, on May 17th, is IDAHOBIT day – the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia. It marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Much like other days where minority and marginalised groups are recognised, it provides our community with a chance to stop and reflect on what we are doing to ensure that all peoples in our community are given the opportunity to live lives of hope and positive contributions. Next Thursday we will do just this at Warrnambool College. During our school council meeting this week, councillors asked that the school fly the rainbow coloured Pride flag alongside the Australian and Aboriginal flags at the entrance of our school on May 17th. We want this small, yet significant symbol to represent safety and inclusion of all students and staff at our school. It is interesting to note that the colours of the Pride flag represent values that are consistent with our school and community – red represents life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, indigo for serenity and violet for spirit. It is a positive reminder of our connection to each other and the world we live in.
I understand that there are members of our school community that will be delighted with this small act of inclusion. In contrast, there will be some that are confused and disappointed that we are recognising the day publicly. Our school community is home to a wide diversity of skills, abilities and interests. It is also home to a diversity of opinions which contributes to the richness of our school culture. As we continue to journey towards understanding and celebrating diversity, I encourage everyone to consider the significance of providing a safe, inclusive learning space for all students to thrive.