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Catholic schools' quest for LGBTIQ inclusion

  • 16 October 2018


Various bishops and Catholic educational leaders last week assured their communities and the Australian public that Catholic schools do not exclude the enrolment LGBTIQ young people. In actual fact, Catholic schools are being encouraged to do more than not exclude. To be welcoming and accepting Christ-led communities, explicit inclusivity is necessary.

At Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA), a network of 54 Catholic schools inspired by the life of Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers, we believe there is the need to ensure that the community and young people are in no doubt about the care and acceptance they will receive.

The EREA network includes flexible learning centres, mainstream all-boys and coeducational schools, a Montessori early years centre and two special education schools. Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. However, the challenge of that diversity is to continually strive to ensure that all young people feel welcomed, accepted and valued.

It is EREA's mission to provide a quality, Gospel-based education whereby all young people come to know that they are not only loved by God, but are made in God's image, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender. For this values-based education to be authentic, EREA works to ensure that all young people in its schools are able to learn and grow free from violence of any kind.

The existence of homophobic and transphobic behaviour diminishes the whole school community as it perpetuates narrow gender stereotypes that inhibit the flourishing of all students, not just those who are same sex attracted or gender diverse (SSAGD).

The impact of homophobic and transphobic bullying on SSAGD young people can be significant, leading to higher incidences of mental illness, self-harm and suicide than in the general population of the same age. School personnel should be supported by school policies and practices to explicitly address issues of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

While all EREA schools have broad-based anti-bullying programs, these are less effective when addressing these specific forms of violence. Young people who are SSAGD have been invisible in Catholic schools. There has been a distinct vacuum of acknowledgement and information hampering efforts to explicitly and effectively support these young people.


"At no point do those documents suggest that a student should be excluded due to sexual orientation or gender."


Some teachers have been unsure how to address concerns of bullying, provide pastoral support or respond to questions in the classroom while still staying true to the teachings of the Church.