Students, staff and special guests, including ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, celebrated this years’ IDAHOBIT at UNSW Canberra today, sharing lived experiences and discussing the importance of being an effective ally.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia celebrates LGBTQIA+ people globally and raises awareness for the work that still needs to be done to combat discrimination.

May 17, 2021 marks 31 years since the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

Mr Barr explained that while the Canberra has made great strides in becoming a welcoming and inclusive city, many people still need support to be safe and feel visible, valued and respected.

He said young people have a right to live their lives free from discrimination and we as a community need to protect and affirm that right.

“Events like this one encourage important conversations that need to be had to ensure students and young people are supported in education settings and in the community,” Mr Barr said.

“Supporting young people through their school and university years is critical to enabling them to express their identity and experience belonging and connection to the world they live in.”

UNSW Canberra student and ADFA Midshipman Hugh Hutchinson is a transman who spends his time advocating for LGBTQIA+ Defence personnel by conducting awareness briefs across the ADF.

He spoke about his own experience with internalised transphobia.

“Internalised transphobia takes hold when people unconsciously absorb messages that shame, criticise and dehumanise trans people,” Midshipman Hutchinson said.

“Internalised transphobia isn’t something that’s innate in trans or gender nonconforming individuals, it’s fuelled by our society.

It's important to note that people who don't identify as trans or gender nonconforming also experienced internalised transphobia because of our culture’s rigid gender norms, and it may be holding you back in your own personal development and relationships.”

UNSW Canberra’s manager of equity, diversity and inclusion Daniel O’Neill highlighted his own experiences with discrimination and explained why a workplace thrives when it is inclusive.

“Good employees will not stay where they are not respected, where they are not valued, and where they do not feel safe and empowered to be themselves,” Mr O’Neill said.  

“Now, people are much more confident, and demanding, in their expectations of workplaces. And it is often seen as the sole responsibility of leadership to nurture the culture, to actively articulate who we are, and who we aspire to be; and to ensure that every employee feels safe, supported, and valued.

“But it is not only up to leadership. It is a shared responsibility. We are all active agents of cultural change, and we create our culture with every interaction, every day.”

Acting Rector of UNSW Canberra Professor Harvi Sidhu encouraged staff and students to challenge themselves as allies.

“At UNSW Canberra, we strive to educate future leaders,” Professor Sidhu said.

“Your leadership begins as a student, supporting and sharing your own challenges with your peers, and it continues into your career as you learn the importance of being a visible ally that will follow through with tangible actions. 

“I want you to consider how you, how we, can each be more visible allies to one another, as leaders in equity, diversity and inclusion. Because when leaders are more visible allies, this creates safety, and the opportunity for others to follow.”