Taking on the challenge of further study through university is an exciting new beginning for most although the increased pressure of this study, compared to secondary schooling, generally leads to a greater need for support.
For LGBT students finding support specifically for them varies across South Australia’s universities, making it more difficult to find that extra bit of support that many students would seek during their years of tertiary study.
The three South Australian universities, Adelaide, University of South Australia and Flinders, all have a different range of support available for LGBT students from a complete network of teacher and peer support at Flinders to a social group with UniSA.
President of the Adelaide University Student Representative Council and former Queer Officer Idris Martin has found through his work that there generally are not a huge amount of services available specifically for LGBT students.
“There aren’t any specialised services run by the uni or unions that I’m aware of for queer students,” he said.
“However, there is an Adelaide Pride organisation on campus which is quite active, they have quite a large membership which provides a safe space for queer students and questioning students to socially interact with other students on campus.
“The SRC also has a queer officer who especially looks out for queer students on campus and any issues they might be facing.
According to Martin there is the underlying concern, particularly for young students, of mental health issues.
“Queer people have shown to be more prone to these issues due to, I guess, underlying queer phobia that permeates society so as a result we see queer students being more disenfranchised and more disadvantaged during the university experience than straight students would be,” he said.
“When you’ve got issues like student homelessness and issues with mental health, these things are even more likely amongst queer students so that is fundamentally why these services tend to be much more needed.”
Behind the groups that are available for LGBT students there is a lot work and dedication required, particularly for starting a new group, as in the case of UniSA.
UniSA’s Pride Club has had a slower start than the other universities which can be attributed to the university remaining spread over several campuses. Despite this the personal drive of the club’s members, including organiser Barrie Shannon, has allowed for a small, supportive group to form.
“You look around campus and you see the ads for all the other groups, you see them together, representing themselves,” Shannon said.
“Right now when LGBT issues are in such an exciting social, political arena…you want to become more involved and rally for support. I think you need it because there’s so much more going on.
“For instance with rallies we need to get more people to go to them, you need more people to be exposed to (LGBT) issues and for people to feel that it’s okay to be associated with such groups.”
Shannon found that prior to finding the UniSA Pride Group he didn’t have that extra bit of support he needed for issues relating to same-sex attraction.
“I’ve always had, not problems coming out because I came out when I was 15, but … problems that have weighed a lot on my mind and I think having to worry about that and not having the collective to go to could well have made me suffer, especially for my grades because last year I didn’t do really well.”
Finding the LGBT support groups also became a particular focus of Martin who, in his time as queer officer, felt a strong desire to have the university’s pride group come out into the open more.
“Obviously there is quite a strong queer subculture in the community but that can be really hard to translate to within the university culture and the campus culture sometimes.
“Personally I’ve experienced people trying to kick me out of the uni bar because I’m a fag but at the same time I think students need to be aware that this isn’t the predominant thought, this isn’t the predominant feeling of most of the students.
“If they are having those troubles and they are able to just bring these problems to someone, that will usually get the job sorted.
“What I often tell queer students is that while they might feel alone, they are actually not alone and the support is there, they just need to reach out for it.”
The next step in LGBT support for the University of Adelaide is to build a network similar to the Flinders University ALLY network which lists all of the queer-friendly staff and services on campus.
AT A GLANCE
There are a variety of LGBT services available amongst the different universities which are being accessed by all university students regardless of their sexuality. Acceptance for everyone is a key theme for the organisations whilst maintaining the main roles of providing a safe environment for LGBT students. Overall, there are many different support services available for students but here is a quick overview of the support services available that are specifically for LGBT students.
Flinders University Ally Network
ALLY staff have the knowledge and acceptance of LGBT issues so that students of the Flinders community have a safe and confidential place to air any LGBT concerns and support. An ALLY is also a point of contact for students who are seeking information on LGBT issues for their studies.
Information about the network can be found by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Adelaide University Pride
The Adelaide University Pride group is based in the Dr George Duncan Room on level 6 in Union House. Fortnightly meetings are held as an informal catch up between students. The group can be contacted at email@example.com
The Adelaide University also has a queer officer as part of the Student Representative Council which can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
UniSA Pride Club
UniSA Pride is based primarily on social media to create a point of contact for students who identify as LGBT and are looking for a bit of peer support. Fundraisers and social events are also planned throughout the year. The club can be contacted and followed via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/unisaprideclub
Article originally published by blaze and Gay News Network.