HEY series: Swan Hill Sexuality and Gender Alliance

We are the SAGA group from Swan Hill College and we’d like to take some time to share our group with you, which is something we are incredibly proud to have established!

The SAGA group stands for the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, and was established at Swan Hill College towards the end of 2018. This group was developed as a need was identified that involved forming a safe space that would promote acceptance and provide a sense of belonging for any individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and also include individuals wishing to be allies. This is particularly important given that Swan Hill is a regional country town with limited access to resources and support compared to metropolitan areas.

SAGA is held once a week and is open to all students and staff in attendance at Swan Hill College. We are also lucky to have external services such as YouthInc visit the group to offer support and resources.

Currently, the group has around 25 members, which includes students from Years 7-12 who attend regularly. This has been a positive for our group, as it means that we can include and listen to the voices of students across all year levels.

The vibe at SAGA group meetings is very laid back, but we do follow some kind of structure. We usually meet at 1pm and spend 10 minutes introducing ourselves. We start by saying our names, pronouns and something cool that has happened in the past week. Next, we discuss our decided topic for the session. This might include discussing what our next event will be (for example Wear It Purple Day) and then making plans about what we need to do to make that a success. Lastly, we play a quick game to ensure that our connection remains strong.

Starting

It took a while for us to create this space. When it first started it was a space where people could come and hang, however people were still on edge and not fully comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

A setback we have worked through is ensuring that every student has a voice and feels heard. This is particularly relevant for the junior students, where we must acknowledge that they are the future of our group and need to feel empowered. To ensure we do this, we dedicate specific time to each and every student so they can share any thoughts or concerns they may have. We never judge or dismiss the insights of our group members and members of SAGA know their input is valued. This means we are constantly working to develop the confidence and self-esteem of each and every member of our group. We validate concerns and offer support to one another, not just within SAGA but in the broader school community.

Additionally, like any new group, the school community did take a while to adjust to what this group means and the purpose of it. We were able to combat or address any of these uncertainties (which were mainly due to misinformation) by educating our school community about the need to create a safe, inclusive space where everyone can be accepted and respected for being their authentic self.

Best moments

Some of the best moments have been when students have felt safe enough to be themselves and have talked about some of their own personal struggles. It has been absolutely heart warming to see a group that consists of students from all different ages, personal backgrounds, personalities and walks of life band together as one, and offer one another support. This has resulted in some students feeling safe enough to use the space to announce that they belong to the LGBTIQ+ community. For some students, this was the first place they said these words out loud and, by all accounts, it has been powerful to do this for both these students, and for their peers.

Achievements

SAGA aims to be a continully active group that works to identify any existing gaps and plans how to appropriately and successfully address them so that our school community is a safer and more accepting community.

Some of SAGA’s proudest achievements to date have been

  • Hosting a school wide event of IDAHOBIT Day whereby there were activities and a promotion of the day and what it stands for.
  • Organising a casual dress day where students and staff at the school wore a piece of purple to advocate for Wear It Purple Day.
  • Creating a presentation that was presented to every year level at the assemblies to work on educating students about the challenges that the LGBTQIA+ community face and how they can be an ally to create positive change.
  • Presenting at a staff meeting where some student members of SAGA provided education to staff – particularly around pronouns and preferred names.

Currently, SAGA are working at promoting a gender-neutral toilet with appropriate signage.

It is our hope that SAGA continues to keep growing. We are incredibly proud of all the hard work we have put in and know that, by creating and maintaining this group, we have made other students feel safer.

Thanks for reading our story!

The Swan Hill College SAGA Group

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