The University of Wollongong celebrated IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) on May 17 to support the LGBTQIA+ community on campus.

IDAHOBIT is organised by Minus 18, an organisation dedicated to social inclusivity, education, advocacy and youth empowerment.

UOW Pulse Wellness Coordinator, Jaimee Evans said that hosting days such as IDAHOBIT, gives both the UOW community and the wider Wollongong community the opportunity to foster a safe and respectful environment on campus.

“Showing our support tells the whole community that we are here and we support all diverse groups on campus,” Ms Evans said.

“We want to provide a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all UOW students and this is one of Wellness by Pulse’s main objectives.

“Standing against discrimination is essential in fostering a respectful community.”

Minus 18 also encourage businesses and organisations to “go rainbow” to stand against LGBTQIA+ discrimination and exclusion.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2022, 63 per cent of the general population 15-24 were currently studying at secondary or tertiary institutions. A report by La Trobe University shows that 5.4% of the population aged 18-24 identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, making 3.5% of the total population. This means universities have a wide reach to the young LGBTQIA+ community.

La Trobe University research has highlighted the impact that a lack of support can have on mental health within the young queer community. In a 2021 survey, it was found that 25.6% of participants aged 16-17 had attempted suicide in their lifetime, which appears at five times the rate of the general population aged 16-17. Generally, the rate of suicide attempts is higher among the LGBTQIA+ community.

UOW Pulse has worked with the broader Wollongong community such as Headspace, Wollongong Youth Services and Caddyshack to celebrate IDAHOBIT and bring the vision for a safe and respectful community to life.

They hosted a range of activities to support the queer community at the University of Wollongong, including face painting and free food. Staff and students were able to purchase University of Wollongong pride hoodies to mark the event and promote the cause. Ms Evans said that this was part of Pulse’s efforts on campus is to make the University of Wollongong welcoming to all.

La Trobe University research indicates that LGBTQIA+ research participants report that universities have the most inclusive and supportive education regarding LGBTQIA+ people out of all the types of educational institutions.

Ms Evans reported that IDAHOBIT participation levels had doubled since 2022, saying that organisations she spoke with were amazed at the engagement level of 18-24 year olds.

“We saw more students, staff and community members come along to the event this year. Having community organisations on board with a large LGBTQIA+ community following has played a part,” Ms Evans said.

“Continuing to host awareness days, hearing first hand from our LGBTQIA+ community on how better we can meet their needs and improve campus will only help with our goal of improving peoples overall mental health and wellbeing.

“I believe this is a great step forward in reducing stigma on campus, a main driver in mental health among the LGBTQIA+ community.”

However, young LGBTQIA+ people are not the only demographic affected by exclusion and discrimination. A report by LGBTIQ+ Health Australia stated that 32.5% of LGBTQIA+ aged 45-59 years reported being diagnosed or treated for a mental disorder in the past three years.

UOW was only one of many institutions across Australia, and indeed the world, to include rainbow visibility and education on May 17. South Australia Department of Human Services also held a range of events and activities to mark the day.

Senior Programs Officer in Social Inclusion, Matthew Morris said that their department had been preparing for IDAHOBIT with an ‘’Everyone is Welcome Here’ banner for email signoffs, among other things.

“Days like IDAHOBIT are an opportunity for us to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion through a range of actions,” Mr Morris said.

“We funded the South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance to develop and launch Rainbow Realities II which is a video about South Australian LGBTIQA+ experiences of discrimination and how organisations and individuals can support LGBTIQA+ inclusion.

“We screened the video at two internal staff events, had discussions about it, and encouraged other departments to do the same through social media posts and a staff newsletter.”

Mr Morris said inclusion initiatives like IDAHOBIT promotes acceptance both within the workplace and to the public.

Based on national data just above 60 per cent of LGBTQIA+ people felt accepted in their workplace, while just over 50 per cent felt accepted at educational institutions and within their families.

Minus 18 will hold a range of other events like Queer Formal and For You Pride Party throughout Pride Month in June to further support and improve the mental wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ youth.