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Wear It Purple Day

08 September 2011

I draw the attention of the House to the tens of thousands of constituents who participated in Wear It Purple Day on Friday 2 September. It is an important day to recognise the need for us as a community to stand up against discrimination of all types, including homophobia.

On 22 September last year a young 18-year-old, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide. He did so after being subjected to homophobic bullying by being unwillingly outed via social media. It was just one of a number of tragic deaths of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex youth that had been reported by media worldwide as a result of homophobia. The death of any person as a result of suicide can only be described as a tragedy. When it is the direct result of bullying or discrimination of any form to me it is completely unacceptable.

In my inaugural speech to Parliament I informed the House that I wanted to be part of a government that led the nation in the area of suicide prevention. In a recent conversation with my colleague the Hon. Trevor Khan about this issue I told him that I wished to focus on providing more resources to mental health so that we could have an impact on this problem. The Hon. Trevor Khan correctly drew my attention to the fact that whilst the issue of mental illness was an important factor, various forms of homophobia have played a part in many young lives coming to an end far too soon.

Two campaigns started as a result of the continually increasing number of suicides as a result of homophobic bullying. One was the It Gets Better campaign started by newspaper columnist Dan Savage, which involved thousands of people recording their own videos to support young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people wherever possible. The other was Wear It Purple, which is a campaign that encourages people to wear items of purple clothing to highlight the increase in homophobic bulling and youth suicide in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. I am doing my bit today by wearing a purple shirt to support the cause.

Started by two of Sydney's own residents, Katherine Hudson and Scott Williams, Wear It Purple was established to create public awareness of this important issue. The campaign has since gone international, and many mainstream youth mental health services such as Headspace and ReachOut.com publicly support the initiative. The message of the annual day of awareness is a simple one: You have the right to be proud of who you are. The figures associated with mental health issues for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] community are damning: homosexuals are six times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts and the number is higher for intersex and transgendered people. As many as one in two LGBTI people aged between 12 and 25 will experience some kind of homophobic abuse, with almost three-quarters of that abuse being inflicted in an educational environment.

The adolescent phase of a person's life is difficult enough as it is. These figures recognise just how much tougher it is for those who are LGBTI. The risk of compromised mental health and wellbeing is very much higher, and we must take a stand wherever possible not only to prevent such homophobia but to support those unfortunate enough to experience such intolerance. I am proud to publicly support Wear it Purple Day and any campaign that is aimed at reducing the devastatingly high rate of suicide in our community. With LGBTI people recently having been deemed a high-risk group by the Federal Government, the need for mental health services and suicide prevention campaigns to reach out to unwilling victims of homophobia has never been greater.

No person should ever have to doubt their own value to our society and no person should ever be in a position in which such unnecessary abuse is inflicted on them, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. I take this opportunity to congratulate Katherine and Scott for providing the platform for such an important issue to be raised. The need for discussion and reform on mental health and suicide prevention is one of our greatest challenges. I am determined to play my part in finding a solution.