Showing leadership in supporting diversity

Interschool Conference on Sexual and Gender Diversity

As part of its continuing commitment to student equality, Melbourne Grammar School hosted an interschool conference on sexual and gender diversity in August 2022.

Sixteen schools from across Melbourne came together to exchange ideas. Delegates included 100 students and 20 staff from all sectors of secondary education, including government and independent, co-ed and single sex, religious and secular.

The conference was officially opened by the Hon. Harriet Shing, Victorian Minister for Equality, who spoke warmly to the delegates about the importance of equal opportunities and support structures for all students.

Keynote speaker, sexual diversity advocate Daniel Witthaus, emphasised the essential role of friends and family in providing a network of support and encouragement for students negotiating the sometimes complex pathways of identity during teenage years.

The centrepiece of the conference was a series of workshops presented by students on issues that matter to them. These included how to negotiate the dynamic landscape of pronouns, understanding the process of gender transitioning at a single-sex school, and how to be a friend and ally. There was a palpable sense of excitement amongst the students, as they shared ideas and experiences, and learned from how other schools how they approached issues of diversity.

Melbourne Grammar students took leadership roles throughout the conference. The Co-Chairs of the student-led Gay–Straight Alliance committee, Theo Herbst (Year 12) and Daniel Cash (Year 11), played a major role in planning the conference, giving presentations and managing the plenary sessions, together with the teacher mentor for the committee and conference organiser, Dr Martin Ball.

Other member of the GSA committee helped moderate the workshops, with Year 11 student, Shakram Rakhmatullaev, delivering a highly appreciated session on Intersectionality, where people can face overlapping discrimination on multiple levels such as race, sexuality, religion and other attributes.

A parallel workshop for school principals and leaders on policy and protocol was conducted by Natalie Charles, Principal of Mentone Girls’ Grammar and Simon Carver, a Leader of Learning at Carey Baptist Grammar School. All participants spoke of the benefit of collegial discussion on how schools should respond to issues of diversity and equality, and affirmed their desire to participate in future meetings.

Speaking at the conclusion to the conference, Melbourne Grammar Headmaster Philip Grutzner said: “Melbourne Grammar is pleased to host this important event. It is crucial that we foster sexual and gender diversity in appropriate and caring ways in our schools. I congratulate all the students for your contributions, and I encourage you to take new ideas learned from each other today back to your own schools.”