On Monday 2nd March 2015, UNSW staff and students and members of the community came together at the main flagpole by the Chancellery to witness UNSW’s first rainbow flag-raising ceremony, in celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) pride. The event was hosted by the Kirby Institute in partnership with the ALLY@UNSW.
Professor Andrew Grulich from the Kirby Institute opened the ceremony, commenting on the long standing partnership between the Institute and the community. “Working with the LGBTQI community has always been central to our cause. In 2014, we moved for the first time to the main UNSW campus, so it is a real honour to be able to acknowledge and celebrate our roots in the gay community by participating in this flag raising today,” said Professor Grulich.
UNSW President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, attended the celebration and remarked on the significance of the event. “UNSW stands for equality of rights for all,” said the Vice Chancellor. “I’m delighted to be here today and to mark my second month as President and Vice Chancellor of UNSW with such an important occasion.”
The Honourable Michael Kirby AC, former High Court Justice and the Patron of the Kirby Institute addressed the crowd, reflecting on the importance of celebrating diversity at Australian universities. “In all issues, the human mind must keep open, and universities above all must be rational places that keep open their minds for new ideas. Ideas of freedom and liberty will not be put down,” said Kirby.
Dr Bridget Haire, post-doctoral research fellow at the Kirby Institute and Vice President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations said, “Homophobia in educational institutes is something that causes untold harm and violence and stops people from flourishing and from really reaching their best.” Dr Haire introduced members of the ALLY@UNSW group – a network of trained staff and students, which aims to ensure the university is a safe, welcoming place for all who identify as LGBTIQ.
The ALLY network was represented by founding member Claire Ellis, and Anna Charlotte Amelia, who spoke on behalf of LGBTIQ students about the significance of the event. “As a queer student, having the rainbow flag fly at the university means quite a lot,” said Anna. “It means the university stands with its queer students and staff against all forms of queer phobia. In my experience, UNSW is a place which allows students to explore who they are and have the support of the staff and fellow students. However, there is still more work to be done.”
Although damage to the flagpole caused by weekend storms delayed the flag rising by several hours, rainbow colours flew over campus by the end of the day.