Increased incidents of transphobia on campus, including slurs in ANU campus bathrooms, have led ANUSA, the ANU Queer* Department and Queer Unionists in Tertiary Education to distribute hundreds of stickers across campus in support of trans students.
The ANUSA departments also released a joint statement against transphobia on the ANU campus. ANUSA claims they will “… continue to hold the ANU accountable to response [CASS] and prevention of this disgusting behaviour.”
Australian research on the university experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) students found it to be generally “exclusionary” and “unsafe;” LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to experience physical and verbal violence, and report higher levels of discrimination at university.
Discrimination can result from college environments fostering a hostile and heteronormative “campus climate,” as well as the exposure of transgender, female and non-binary students to increased levels of sexual assault and harassment. Further, Australian LGBTQIA+ students experience a lack of affirming language, misgendering, and incorrect use of pronouns.
Some universities are acting to address LGBTQIA+ student experiences via accreditation from independent organisations such as the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI). Currently, the University of NSW, the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland are all ranked as Gold employers while RMIT University has a Platinum Award.
The ANU is currently unranked, meaning the ANU decided not to survey staff nor send the results to AWEI. One-hundred and seventy two other organisations, including Ernst & Young, AGL, Coles, Woolworths and even the Australian Tax Office, submitted survey responses.
The ANU equal opportunity policy states that the ANU is “committed to equal opportunity in education and employment for students and staff of all backgrounds and identities.” A spokesperson for the ANU commented:
“We celebrate diversity and there is no place for discrimination or abuse at ANU. The University is committed to making sure that our community is safe, friendly and enriching for everyone…If anyone in our community is affected by abusive comments or behaviour, support services are available.”
The ANU spokesperson also advised, “ANU has an LGBQTIA+ Ally Network, which provides training and support to all ANU students and staff.” The ANU Code of Conduct for both students and staff makes a clear distinction that “discrimination and abuse are not tolerated at ANU and do not align with our values.”
While the ANU defines consistent misgendering as discrimination, it does not have a mandated pronoun policy. Instead it has a guide to help staff and students understand pronouns. For years, ANUSA has campaigned for such a policy, with little movement.
According to the Diversity Council Australia, pronoun policies within institutions are vital in normalising sharing pronouns, not assuming gender and, signalling safety and respect to the LGBTQIA+ community.
A pronoun guide educates individuals as to respectful behaviour, but does not enforce it. This may be inadequate in combating the high levels of discrimination that the LGBTQIA+ community can experience.
However, an ANU Spokesperson did not answer Woroni’s question about the kind of training, if any, staff receive on using a student’s correct pronouns.
The LGBQTIA+ Ally Network has run two training sessions this year: one on May 10, and another on September 8, while their October 13 session is booked out. These training sessions are voluntary, suggesting that only staff and students open to creating an inclusive environment will attend. Transphobic people are unlikely to volunteer.
Understanding issues facing transgender and gender diverse students at the ANU is an ongoing issue. A 2017 ANU Counselling survey found that students wanted to raise awareness surrounding these issues and in particular, increase the understanding that “a person’s gender identity does not always align with the sex they were assigned at birth.” This suggests students do not feel that members of the ANU community accept or understand their gender identity.
The ANU has acted to implement some of these recommendations.
A comment by the ANUSA Queer* department states, “We as the ANU Queer* department vehemently condemn any acts of transphobia. We stand against any act of discrimination, hatred or bigotry.”
The department continued, “We want to remind all trans students and staff that the Queer* Department is a space to honour and celebrate your identity and that every department is standing with us. You are always welcome to reach out to find community and support, especially in these times. We stand stronger together.”
Resources supplied by ANUSA
The ANU Queer* Department is a great place to find a welcoming and inclusive autonomous community of LGBTQIA+ students at the ANU. You can find out about the full range of resources and events on offer here.
You can also contact Remi Prica, the ANUSA Queer* Officer, at email@example.com.
The Queer* Department also provides a number of gender-affirming items that students can order.
If you would like assistance with a name or gender change at the ANU and legally in the ACT or NSW, then please contact the ANUSA Student Assistance Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6125 2444. More details can be found here: https://anusa.com.au/services/legal/changenamegender/
The ANUSA Student Assistance Team can also connect you with a range of services across the ANU and Canberra, so if you’re ever unsure where to get help, don’t hesitate to reach out and ANUSA’s trained and experienced Student Assistance Team will be able to direct you.
(02) 6125 2442
1800 737 732
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
ANU Women’s Department
ANU Queer* Department
ANU Respectful Relationships Unit
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