Things Must Change

Lego Grief by Matt Brown

The shock and anger at the suicide of a young aboriginal gay boy is fuelling change

There has been an enormous outpouring of shock, anger at grief at the loss Tyrone Unsworth. We must hope that it has opened many eyes to the danger in which we place our young people if we do not give them our love, care and support. It had given added impetus to the arguments for change, especially in schools, where they are most in danger.

I have collected a broad selection of the responses to Tyrone’s death below, as a kind of memorial. I have little of my own to add that has not already been said. Perhaps one day someone will write the full in-depth story of what happened to Tyrone. He deserves it.

And now?

A petition to get the Safe Schools program into Tyrone’s school, Aspley State High, started by local mother Joelene Roulstone, garnered 20,000 signatories in two days.

Australian Marriage Forum pushed back against the upwelling of support for Safe Schools.

  • suggested that Safe Schools was not the answer
  • a generic anti-bullying program that didn’t mention “gay” would be better and
  • used the occasion to try and flog more copies of Dr David Van Gend’s book.

Read their response in full below. For the record, an anti-bullying program that does not address attitudes to LGBTI people across the whole school will fail. A extract  from a UK study on the subject is also appended below.

The Australian Christian Lobby said nothing. Leader Lyle Shelton blocked at least one person on twitter for pressing him to respond.

So much for Christian compassion.

Family Planning Victoria pointed out the need for comprehensive sex and relationships education, as a means to make schools safer for kids.

Comprehensive RSE helps to empower all children and young people to develop a positive body image and manage important transitions such as puberty. It has also been shown to influence attitudes and values like respect, equality and diversity.

There is compelling evidence that comprehensive RSE programs influence behaviours and contribute to a decrease in homophobia and transphobia.

RIP Tyrone. We failed you. Now we must do better. Some people are complaining at the ‘politicisation’ of Tyrone’s death. Sally Rugg from Get Up has the most eloquent response which I couldn’t possibly improve on. Maintain the rage.

Sally Rugg

25 November at 16:15 · Sydney, NSW ·

Fuck every politician, journalist, individual and organisation who spent the year attacking Safe Schools.

Fuck every politician, journalist, individual and organisation who spent a year saying gay people should be grateful to have our rights put to a popular vote.

Fuck your leaflets. Fuck your cartoons. Fuck your jokes about “tr*nnies” on morning TV. Fuck your headlines. Fuck your rainbow noose. Fuck your school chaplains. Fuck your straight-washing of an anti-gay gun massacre. Fuck your photo-op at Mardi Gras. Fuck your use of parliamentary privilege to spew hatred and vilification.

Homophobic and transphobic bulling in our playgrounds is given license and instruction from those in our parliament and in our media. The acceptability of behaviour we perform, we walk by, or we suffer from is learned. Prejudice is learned. Violence is learned.

Fuck the Australia where queerphobia pours from the top down. Fuck the Australia that lazily accepts it.

A thirteen year old is dead. Don’t tell me not to make this political.

Australian Marriage Forum Inc.

The most terrible news story of recent days has been the suicide of young Tyrone Unsworth at Aspley High School in Brisbane, and everyone has been shaken by that event. His grieving mother reports that he was cruelly teased for being gay – although his school knew nothing about any teasing and therefore was unable to help avert this tragedy. Many, if not all, schools use proven programmes that address bullying for any cause, and it adds to the inconsolable sadness of such a situation that their programme was never initiated.

Many of us know families who have lost a young member to suicide, and there is nothing more devastating. The question arising from the article below is this: should the response to this particular tragedy be a petition for Aspley High School to implement Roz Ward’s “Safe Schools” programme?

For that response to be prudent and truly compassionate, it would have to be the case that:

  • The “Safe Schools” programme is really about preventing bullying (Ms Ward herself tells us it is not)
  • The “Safe Schools” programme would have to be more effective at preventing gay-based bullying than other general anti-bullying protocols (that has not been demonstrated)
  • The harm to many children exposed to the disturbing and indecent material of “Safe Schools” would have to be outweighed by the presumed benefit to the few children who are experiencing confusion over gender and sexuality (remembering that most such confusion is transient and is left behind in the late teens)

(Ward doesn’t say safe schools is not about bullying, she said that anti-bullying messages don’t result in reduced bullying the way that whole-school positive glbti material does. Which this UK study makes clear)

You Cant Stop Bullying If You Don’t Mention LGBTI

A whole school, integrated approach to HBT bullying

  • Evidence reviewed and our findings suggested that the prevention and/ or reduction of HBT bullying was seen as more successful when teaching about LGB and T people was incorporated into teaching throughout the curriculum in age-appropriate ways from an early age.
  • Successful prevention of HBT bullying was widely regarded to need a strategic, longterm approach in schools, including relevant equality and bullying policies that included sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Taking a ‘whole school’ approach to tackling prejudice against LGB and/ or T people across the whole curriculum was regarded as working better than only using standalone teaching on HBT bullying specifically.
  • The whole school approach was considered to ‘normalise’ or ‘usualise ’ LGB and T people as part of the everyday life making HBT-bullying less likely to occur.
  • Teachers and providers thought that teaching about LGB and T people, their families and relationships in age appropriate ways from an early age could be complemented by focusing specific teaching around HBT later.
  • Teachers and providers thought that the best age to teach specific HBT bullying work was the last years of primary school. This was when children were considered to be sufficiently mature to understand the issues but before prejudices may set in.

Other links


Sex Ed

Indigenous Erasure

Sally Rugg

Daily Telegraph

Nic Holas


Minus 18

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)