At SSI, we talk a lot about providing support. But what does it actually mean to support someone? Sometimes it means offering assistance. Sometimes it just means being there to listen. Sometimes it means acknowledging someone’s challenges and showing that you accept them for who they are.
For young people who identify as LGBTIQ+, support can be the difference between life and death. Research on LGBTIQ+ young people shows that having at least one accepting adult in their lives can reduce the chance of a suicide attempt by 40 per cent.
Take a moment to think about that in the context of your own life. For me, I can name a number of people who know me — truly know all parts of me — and accept and support me for who I am.
When I was a little girl, growing up in Bankstown our neighbours were an Anglo-Celtic family named the Salisburys. The Salisburys always made me feel so special about my Greek background. They always called me by my Greek name, Violetta. They were curious about our customs and traditions, and participated in as much as possible. They made our differences special and important. Their support and acceptance made me, as a little girl, feel a sense of belonging.
But it doesn’t take a whole family to ensure someone feels seen and accepted. Every individual can make a difference.
This Friday is your chance to show your support for LGBTIQ+ youth by wearing purple. Wear it Purple Day was founded in 2010 in response to a wave of teenagers taking their lives following bullying and harassment due to a lack of acceptance of their sexuality or gender identity.
When our federal parliament voted for marriage equality it sent a strong message of acceptance, support and inclusion for all people who identify as LGBTIQ+. But the figures show we still have a long way to go. The majority of rainbow youth (61%) experience verbal abuse, while almost one in five (18%) experience physical abuse. LGBTQI young people are 12 times more likely to experience depression and up to five times more likely to experience anxiety.
At SSI, we’re hosting morning teas in seven offices across Sydney and regional NSW. Marking this important day is part of a journey we’re undertaking to make our workplaces more inclusive.
That journey began two years ago, when we came to the realisation that, just because our workforce was diverse, didn’t mean it was inclusive. Since then, we’ve been working to ensure inclusion is the norm — that everyone who works at SSI can bring their whole self to work and receive respect, acceptance and support.
We’ve created a gender and sexual diversity working group, developed a gender and sexual diversity inclusive practice training, created a Champion support network across the organisation, and joined Pride in Diversity — an NFP peak body supporting organisations to lift LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion. We’ve supported staff to attend the Living and Loving in Diversity Conference and the Better Together Conferences. We made sure that when we hosted our own conference, the International Metropolis Conference, we had sessions on the intersectionality of LGBTIQ+ and cultural diversity.
Underpinning this action is our firm belief in dignity, equality and mutual respect — principles that underpin our human rights and that are shared across cultures, religions and philosophies.
This Friday, I’ll proudly wear purple alongside my colleagues to show that I’m there to listen, to accept, to acknowledge and to support. I hope you’ll do the same.