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“The Colour of Youth - Embracing Diversity” Conference

Another IELLEN brokered and led initiative

120 people packed into the Richmond Town Hall on February 21 for "The Colour of Youth: Embracing Diversity" Conference, led by the Inner Eastern Local Learning and Employment Network. The event was organised in partnership with the Australian Gay Multicultural Council (AGMC Inc), Vic Aids Council/Gay Men's Health Centre, Deakin University, Melbourne City Mission, City of Yarra, the Inner City Regional Youth Affairs Network (ICRYAN) and Bupa.

colour-of-youth-panel-discussion

Pictured above: Conference panel discussion on "Culture and Religion: a dialogue".

This group of stakeholders, the "Colour of Youth Partnership", was chaired by the IELLEN's Andrew Neophytou. "This conference exceeded expectations," he said. "It was booked out, attracting professionals and young people from various organisations and services, local government, and those representing same sex attracted and gender diverse (SSAGD) groups".

Andrew said that the conference was the "single largest event devoted to issues around SSAGD young people that has, to date, ever been initiated by any LLEN. More importantly, the presentations and workshops were engaging, and the feedback from delegates was positive."

For example, a follow-up survey of attendees showed these results:

  • 60% + said that the day built on their existing knowledge in all subject areas:- youth; CALD; SSAGD
  • 70% ticked 4 or 5 (5 the most positive) when asked to rate the day overall
  • 85% said "yes, somewhat" or "very much so", when asked if the conference met their expectations
  • 98% are encouraged "to attend future forums or workshops, or to do further reading on issues around SSAGD / CALD / young people."

IELLEN Strategic Plan:

The IELLEN has always maintained a focus on vulnerable young people, and the 2010 – 2014 Strategic Plan identifies strategies and the need to:

  • Continue to develop, promote and strengthen Community Partnership(s) and identify further opportunities and broker partnerships that will;
  • Identify and develop initiatives that enhance and encourage learning opportunities, cultural awareness and educational engagement of vulnerable young people10 -19 years".

In the current Strategic Plan the term 'Vulnerable Young People' specifically includes same sex attracted youth and young people of CALD backgrounds.

Issues highlighted:

In his opening welcome, the Conference MC Dean Arcuri spoke about his experiences growing up gay in an Italian family. Dean, like other speakers, acknowledged the significant progress made by and for SSAGD young people generally. However he also cited the continued high prevalence of youth suicide amongst this cohort, a sign that forums like this are still needed.

The IELLEN recognises the risks for disengagement from education and social disenfranchisement that is all too often the result of bullying and ongoing exclusion. Studies such as "Writing Themselves In 3", and "Growing Up Queer" continue to highlight mental health issues amongst young people. Bullying and harassment of non-heterosexual young Australians, especially at school, remains a real concern.

"We are not just talking about homophobia," said Andrew. "The intersection of culture, sexuality and religious belief can be fraught. There are unique issues for young people from multicultural backgrounds, including recently arrived refugees. Professional development, safer and supportive schools, more inclusive practice, are all good places to start. And we need a range of cross-sector responses."

Next steps:

Further work by the IELLEN is underway, including a second IELLEN-led partnership called the Youth Focused Inner South SSAGD Network.


 

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