By Dr Tinashe Dune:
Imagine the worst thing you have ever done, something you would never tell anyone because you have heard and seen how others with the same secret have been treated, excluded or discriminated against. Think of the way telling some else about that secret would make you feel. Now think about what would happen if people found out. What is your emotional response? What is your physical response?
“This is what it feels like for people who identify as sexually or gender diverse when deciding to tell others about themselves” we were told when I attended Ally training delivered by Equity and Diversity. The half day training, which will again be run this October, was aimed at educating and empowering University staff and students in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex or queer/questioning (LGBTIQ) people within our community. The Ally Network is a crucial University group as it not only celebrates but also demonstrates the importance of institutionalising the acceptance of diversity.
Starting with Diversity Fest on September 1st the Ally Network has a series of events aimed at highlighting the University’s commitment to diversity. First students and staff will notice a strong Ally presence throughout Diversity Fest in stalls and around the University. During Mental Health & Wellbeing Week in October Allies will be hosting events to promote holistic health and the Allies availability to support any one who is in need. The Ally Network will also be running a half day training session on October 7th with lunch and refreshments provided for any staff or student interested in learning more about LGBTIQ inclusion and/or becoming an Ally. And becoming an Ally is easy! You just need an open mind, an ability to listen without judgement and attend the training in October. Increasing the Ally population is integral to realising core University beliefs especially; 1) The primacy of the student experience; 2) Contributing to our region’s strength and future and; 3) A vibrant and inclusive intellectual community.
In order to live up to these beliefs the Ally Network, in collaboration with the Queer Collective, ran the first University float which appeared in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade earlier this year.
The University’s presence at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is an action-based acknowledgement of the role institutions play in the social, political and cultural acceptance of sexual diversity and has a far reaching effect nationally and globally.
The inaugural float in 2015, which included staff and students from across the University, was a great success. Following the Parade the University float received an avalanche of positive feedback on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Yammer. In addition to over 655 likes on Facebook many students expressed their pride in the University float on Facebook. For instance, one student exclaimed:
I was in the crowd and so pleased to see my University, where I study and work, represented in the parade. It was a very proud moment and so good to feel accepted in my workplace. Well done UWS Mardi Gras team!
Following this accomplishment the Ally Network will again prepare a float for Mardi Gras in March 2016. Towards this goal the Ally Network will be running a series of fundraising events at various campuses and is seeking to sign up marchers and assistance in developing the float.
If you are interested in supporting and/or participating in any of these events please contact Dr Tinashe Dune, co-Convenor of the Ally Network, via email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information and to sign-up. We are always looking for more Allies and Mardi Gras marchers. Your participation and support will make the University’s capacity to support diversity #unlimited.