Tenterfield High School hosted its first Wear It Purple Day on Friday, August 31.
Held on the last Friday of each August, Wear It Purple is an awareness day for LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and/or Intersex) young people, showing them that the community and emergency services support them and their identities, and taking steps to prevent youth suicide.
Tenterfield Police’s LGBTI liaison officer Senior Constable Jarryd De Castro joined forces with fellow officer Senior Constable Lorraine Dutton, community volunteer Megan Rivett and school staff to put on a barbecue lunch followed by a brief presentation to senior students.
After being involved in major Wear It Purple Day gatherings at Hyde Park in Sydney over the past five years, Snr Cst De Castro said he approached the school with some hesitation to see if the day could be observed here, but was relieved to receive an enthusiastic response from principal Sandra Rosner.
It was his first event at a country high school and the first event of its kind at Tenterfield High, but he said the target audience is young people so the high school is the obvious demographic.
“Actually having it at a school is more effective,” he said.
“If you can get the message out even to one or two kids, you’ve done your job.”
A number of students adopted the purple theme with socks, jackets, hair ties and the like and Snr Cst De Castro is very pleased with how the day went. He spoke to senior students about what the day stands for, how to recognise someone struggling with their sexual identity and how to offer some friendly support.
“It’s hard, but it’s good to be able to rely on your mates,” he told them.
High school years can be stressful enough as children hit puberty, face exams and struggle to find their own identity. Add sexual identity on top of that and Snr Cst De Castro said it results in a cocktail of emotions.
Having been through high school himself identifying as gay he can speak from a background of experience rather than theory.
“It might help for a cop to come in and be able to say, ‘I’ve been through it too’.”
There were a few snarky remarks but Snr Cst De Castro said he happily turned them around, saying ‘reject us or accept us, but we’re here to stay and we’re part of the school community’.
“My policy is to kill it with kindness.”
He impressed on the students that although some may have different sexual identities, in many other aspects there are no differences at all.
He looks forward to local police having a greater presence in the school as a community resource.
“Now the kids know me and Lorraine they can also come up to us in the street or come along to the cop shop and have a chat.”
He considered this a trial year for Wear It Purple Day but, given its success, is already planning to gather more resources for a bigger event next year.
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