It is the duty of child-focused organisations to demonstrate their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of LGBTIQ children and young people, especially given what we know about the impact of stigma and discrimination on mental health.
Study shows lack of safe & nurturing environments for LGBTIQ children and young people
Recently, the Productivity Commission published its Inquiry Report into Mental Health.
Amongst other findings, the report acknowledged the poorer mental health outcomes of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) communities due to factors including, “…stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, homophobia, transphobia, stereotyping, ostracising and harassment”. 
According to Australia’s LGBTI Health Alliance, when compared to the general population:
- LGBTI  young people aged 16-27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime
- Transgender people aged 18 and over are nearly 11 times more likely
- People with an intersex variation aged 16 and over, nearly 6 times more likely 
Let’s just let those numbers sink in for a second. This data is staggering, and speaks to the discrimination, violence and prejudice that LGBTIQ children and young people continue to face.
To be clear, poorer mental health outcomes for LGBTIQ people are not related to identity; they’re related to stigma, abuse and violence, as well as the minority stress caused by living in a world that excludes you and leads you to feel invisible. In the absence of affirmation, these experiences can become internalised and impact self-worth and well-being.
 Productivity Commission (2020). Inquiry report: Mental health, vol 2, p. 93.
 The LGBTI Health Alliance uses the term LGBTI in its reporting of the data. Child Wise uses the acronym LGBTIQ in its work. When referencing LGBTI Health Alliance data, the term LGBTI has been used, but otherwise LGTBIQ has been utilised.
 LGBTI Health Alliance (Feb 2020). Snapshot of mental health and suicide prevention statistics for LGBTI people.
Child-focused organisations are responsible for safeguarding LGBTIQ children and young people
This data also shines a light on the responsibility that child-focused organisations have in creating safe, nurturing and welcoming environments for LGBTIQ children and young people.
Principle 4 of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations requires that: Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice. The National Principles were established as a framework to guide child-focused organisations in fostering safe environments for all children and young people, and Principle 4 reminds us that equity is essential to effective safeguarding; it can’t be just an aspirational idea, sentiment or promise.
It must be present in policy and practice. An environment which is not equitable risks the safety of all children and young people - not just those who are LGBTIQ; it also impacts families and the wider community. Not only are people more exposed to prejudicial, discriminatory and violent behaviour, but they will be less likely to see the organisation as a safe place to speak up about other concerns they have, including abuse of all forms.
What child-focused organisations can do to make LGBTIQ children and young people feel safe
It’s no longer enough for organisations to say that everyone is welcome , valued and treated ‘the same’, and think that that is a sufficient response to Principle 4. Given the clear lack of safety experienced by LGBTIQ children and young people, leaders of child-focused organisations must now step up and take proactive, meaningful and tangible action to demonstrate they are committed to the safety, inclusion and affirmation of LGBTIQ children and young people who spend time in their organisations.
Here are some ideas we’d encourage leaders of child-focused organisations to act upon:
- State your commitment in policy. Make it clear that yours is an organisation dedicated to the emotional, psychological and physical safety of LGBTIQ children and young people, and their families. And communicate this loudly and proudly in ways that everyone can understand.
- Tackle bullying at all levels of your organisation. Child Wise regularly talks to children and young people about safety and we hear time and again that bullying is a major worry. Homophobic and transphobic bullying is rife in organisations. According to Australian research, 61% of same-gender attracted young people have experienced homophobic verbal abuse, and 18% experienced homophobic physical abuse, with 80% of the abuse reported to have happened in schools.  Adults in organisations who fail to address bullying are complicit. Organisational policies and procedures must make it clear that bullying will not be tolerated, and adults must nurture a culture where bullying is not only challenged, but seen as abhorrent by everyone.
- Don’t stop at acceptance – aim for support, appreciation, celebration and nurturing. Back in the 90’s, Dr Dorothy Riddle, an American-Canadian psychologist, developed the Riddle Scale of Homophobia.  Amongst other things, the scale taught us that to really challenge stigma, society mustn’t stop at tolerance or acceptance but strive to do better. Organisations that are truly committed to the safeguarding of LGBTIQ children and young people will be aiming to not merely ‘accept’ them, but to support, appreciate and nurture them, seeing their diversity as something to celebrate.
- Ensure access to inclusive, affirming supports. This may involve establishing referral pathways to LGBTIQ specialist services, developing internal support services, as well as training adults in your organisation in LGBTIQ affirmative practice. It may also involve supporting children and young people to develop LGBTIQ peer support groups and activities.
Organisations must also regularly measure, benchmark and report on inclusion to uphold accountability and get feedback on the initiatives being undertaken in order to avoid tokenism.
 Hillier L, Jones T, Monagle M, Overton N, Gahan L, Blackmen J et al. (2010). Writing themselves in 3: The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people. Melbourne: Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society.
 Riddle, D. (1994). The Riddle scale of homophobia.
Are you ready to build an inclusive child safe organisation?
The above are just some of the ways child-focused organisations can strive to create safety for LGBTIQ children and young people. Building child safe capacity is a challenging and continuous journey but one that undoubtedly starts with acknowledging our learning edges and committing to making things better.
Child Wise is an organisation which supports public, private and not-for-profit organisations to build child safe cultures and environments. Visit us at www.childwise.org.au for information on how we may be able to help.
Child Wise also encourages organisations to get in touch with the following services for information on building safe and inclusive environments for LGBTIQ communities, and how to measure your inclusion journey: