–The school that backed the yes vote

November 15, 2017

Indigo Rule wore a veil to school, hoping to witness an historic moment.

As class broke for recess on Wednesday, Woodleigh students raced outside and gathered under the gum trees, where two large speakers spluttered out the results of the same-sex marriage survey.

Same-sex marriage: Melbourne celebrates

Thousands erupt with joy at The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne as the ABS announces a 61.6 per cent ‘yes’ vote for same-sex marriage.

The 17-year-old held her friends’ hands, tears streaming down her face, as the ‘yes’ verdict was delivered.

“I’ve waited years for this,” she said, her voice quivering.

“It means my auntie can get married. It means my best friends can get married. It means that all my derby team can get married and it means that one day I can get married. It means a lot to me.”

There was a huge turnout of first-time and younger voters, with 80 per cent of 18 and 19-year-olds taking part in the survey.

Indigo was too young to vote, so focussed her efforts on getting others to tick yes.

It wasn’t easy. She was devastated when her grandmother voted no.

“It’s a little crushing to have your family members deny your own identity,” she said.

But she had success with her “very Christian” grandfather, a former missionary.

“I spoke with him a lot and worked with him. I know he actually voted yes which was a shock initially to me but it shows that if you really do put in that effort, you change things.”

She arrived at the independent school in Langwarrin South in Year 9 after leaving her previous school where she was bullied for being gay.

“People called me a dyke and threw things at me,” she said.

The teenager found Woodleigh much more accepting.

As part of its campaign, Woodleigh purchased an official pride flag, which proudly fluttered from a classroom roof on Wednesday.

Students have spoken about their support for marriage equality in a “Woodleigh votes yes” video and the school has printed badges with its gum tree logo in rainbow colours.

In July, it held an assembly where students spoke about gender and sexuality, and some even came out.

They also performed The Laramie Project, a play about hate crimes which centres on the 1998 murder of a gay University of Wyoming student.

“As a community we are moving from tolerance to acceptance to celebration. The ultimate form of celebration is marriage,” deputy principal David Burton said.

“We have parents, student and teachers who are LGBT and we need to support and celebrate that group.”

Sam Davis, a Year 11 student who identifies as bisexual, said the survey results signified a “massive attitude change” in Australian culture.

“Australia has this massive stereotype of being homophobic and racist and now we have patched up one of those issues,” he said.

“It’s a symbol of change, we can work towards a better future.”

While few other schools advocated as strongly as Woodleigh, many schools are offering counselling services to affected students.

In August, Victorian Education Minister James Merlino​ wrote to every state school requesting that they prepare to connect students impacted by “hurtful campaign material” to welfare staff and school nurses. 

Relief spread over Pearl Baillieu’s face as the year 11 Woodleigh student listened to the results. 

“It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, you are still human, and everyone deserves the option of marriage,” she said. – #1 News in a FLASH

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