inclusive flag waiving youth

Gender and Sexuality Diversity at School e-Conference

Advocacy in action
A one-day online conference focusing on how gender and sexuality diversity are important to acknowledge and cater for in school, and other educational spaces.

8 March 2024 

This conference will bring together leading Australian and international researchers to work with teacher practitioners and school staff. We welcome all levels of knowledge and comfort with the topic and invite anyone who is passionate about inclusion in education to attend.

Topics will cover the ways in which enhanced inclusion in schools can enrich the lives of students, teachers and parents. Participants will explore ways to actively build inclusion and wellbeing in their own classrooms and effect change in school culture to be inclusive of all students. 

The conference is suitable for primary and secondary teachers, school counsellors and other school staff, drawing on research and case studies across all ages and stages.

Topics and presenters

Fostering affirming school cultures for gender and sexuality diverse young individuals is critical work, especially in light of the pervasive disparities in school wellbeing and connectedness they often experience. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative research findings, this session will explore three overarching themes that gender-diverse young people have reported made a positive difference to their schooling: 'significant people,' 'relationships and dialogue,' and 'groups and materials'. Through reviewing the role of schoolwide initiatives, including inclusive uniforms, written resources, and safe spaces facilitated by student groups, this presentation advocates for proactive strategies and curricular inclusions that embrace diversity, challenging prevailing gender norms and fostering a sense of belonging for all students. By amplifying positive experiences and advocating for affirming practices, this presentation will equip attendees with the knowledge and tools to promote inclusivity, respect, and support for gender and sexuality diverse young people, ultimately enhancing their academic, social, and emotional wellbeing in the face of unequal school experiences.

Dr Victoria Rawlings

Victoria RawlingsSenior Lecturer, ARC DECRA Fellow, Sydney School of Education and Social Work, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney

Vic's research focuses on the intersections between gender, sexuality, youth, and social structures. Her PhD investigated the connections between gender, social structures, and 'bullying' in two high schools in NSW. Following this work, Vic worked as a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University (UK) for two years, conducting a national study on LGBTQ young people, self-harm, and suicide. In 2021, Vic was awarded an Australian Research Council DECRA fellowship to conduct research in partnership with school communities around cultures of gender and sexuality. This research aims to understand how schools can positively and proactively include all students.

This session will explore a whole-of-school framework for supporting gender and sexuality diversity in primary and secondary schools. This model is informed by the World Health Organisation’s Health Promoting Schools Model and is based on feedback from previous professional development workshops. Working with this tool and drawing on participants' personal experience and expertise, partipants will strategise how to reimagine their individual schools' support of gender and sexuality diverse students and families.

Dr Kellie Burns

Kellie Burns, Senior Lecturer, Sydney School of Education and Social Work, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney

Kellie is a Canadian-trained teacher of secondary science, and health and physical education, with experience in primary and secondary schools across the Catholic, public, and independent education sectors. She holds a master's degree in Gender Studies from Trinity College, Dublin, and a PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Kellie has worked in teacher education in Australia since 2004. Her research explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, and health in the context of young people’s schooling.

How has the experience of living through the pandemic lockdown shaped young people’s understandings of their gender and sexual identities? This presentation draws on a storytelling project with two Toronto high schools conducted during May 2021. The project considered how COVID and the social, emotional, material, and pedagogical effects of the pandemic created contexts for gender and sexual experimentation. In the absence of face-to-face schooling, in the midst of pandemic losses, and isolated in their homes with their families, young people explored their sexual and gendered identities in new ways. What do I want? Who do I want to be? How can I feel at home in this body? These questions found new space to breathe for some young people living under lockdown. This presentation will include excerpts from young people’s stories and offer insights into how we might make schools more welcoming places for the questions young people are posing about gender and sexuality.

Dr Jen Gilbert

Jen Gilbert, Professor and Chair of the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada

Jen is author of Sexuality in School: The Limits of Education (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) and collaborator on The Beyond Bullying Project, an LGBTQ+ storytelling and research study in high schools. Her research focuses on LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and families; sex education; and youth studies.

Despite the existence of the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework, the NSW Values in Schools document, and other policy documents and guidance that mandate inclusion of diversity as a fundamental building block for student wellbeing and educational success, only some aspects of diversity are actively incorporated in most schools. Teachers have a duty of care to all students and are expected to be supportive and inclusive of all aspects of difference in their pedagogy and practices. However, many teachers do not feel comfortable including gender and sexuality diversity as a topic for learning, and there are few professional-development resources or opportunities for educators looking to better understand the school experience of gender and sexuality diverse (GSD) youth, their parents, and families.

This session will discuss a multiyear Australian Research Council-funded project that investigated parents’ perceptions of gender and sexuality diversity-inclusive curriculum in public schools across Australia. A major facet of this research was gaining an understanding of the experiences of parents of GSD children attending K–12 public schools across the nation and parents’ perspectives of their children’s wellbeing at school.

Findings from this work have been used to create a package of innovative professional-development resources for schools to run in-house training to enhance teachers’ understandings of gender and sexuality diversity. In this session, these resources will be explored, familiarising participants with the package’s content. This content includes a film and its associated script, a facilitator booklet, which provides step-by-step guidance on how to potentially run an internal professional-development training session for school staff, and a participant booklet, which can be given to workshop participants for post-training referral. Part 2 of the film outlines parents’ experiences of negotiating the schooling system with and for their child. The presenters will collaborate with workshop participants to complete group activities that result in a solid sense of the package. Ways forward for what is possible for schools’ professional learning in this space will also be discussed. The session will include time for questions and group discussion.

Dr Jacqueline Ullman

Jacqueline Ullman, Associate Professor in Adolescent Development, Behaviour, Well-Being & Pedagogical Studies, Secondary Education, Western Sydney University

Jacqueline's research focuses on gender and sexuality diversity inclusivity in schooling, including investigations of school climate, curriculum, policy and pedagogies. She is a Chief Investigator on two Australian Research Council grants, one investigating parents’ attitudes towards gender and sexuality diversity-inclusive curriculum and another exploring ‘everyday sexisms’ in higher education. Jacqueline began her career as a secondary English teacher, teaching in high-poverty public schools on the lower-eastside of Manhattan. Her research training includes a master’s degree from Columbia University (Teachers College) and a PhD from The University of Sydney. She uses a social-justice oriented approach to her university teaching of preservice teachers in the fields of classroom diversity and research methods/design for teachers. Jacqueline has worked closely with in-service teachers and school leaders to ensure support and inclusivity of their gender and sexuality diverse students and has also served as an ‘academic mentor’ for teachers through Project EPIC, offering action research training to this cohort.

Dr Tania Ferfolja

Tania FerfoljaAssociate Professor, Primary Education, Western Sydney University

Tania's research centres on equity in education with a focus on gender and sexuality diversities in curricula, policy, pedagogy, schooling and employment practices in Australia and internationally. She is currently lead researcher on an ARC Discovery grant examining parent perceptions of gender and sexuality diversity inclusion in the school curriculum. Her latest book, with Jacqueline Ullman, published by Routledge, is titled Gender and Sexuality Diversity in a Culture of Limitation; Student and Teacher Experiences in Schools. Tania is working on her next book, with Jacqueline, entitled Understanding Parents’ Perceptions of Gender and Sexuality Diversity in the Classroom. Allied, Opposed or Unsure (Routledge, London), which is due for publication in 2024. She is a former teacher and education consultant and has been involved in initial teacher education, in various capacities, for two decades. She is passionate about social justice and about educating pre/in-service teachers for the diversity in Australian schools. Over the years, her teaching has been publicly recognised with no fewer than six national and university-based teaching awards.

Abstract TBA

Cristyn Davies

Cristyn Davies, Research Fellow, Speciality of Child and Adolescent Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney University Clinical School, Children's Hospital at Westmead

Cristyn's research program includes gender and sexuality diversity in children and young people with a focus on health, wellbeing, and educational outcomes. She also researches health education and sexual health and relationships education both at school and in clinical/other environments for children and young people.

More details about presentations will be made available shortly. Please check back for updates.


The cost of the conference is $330 per person including GST.  The fee includes full day e-conference registration and and electronic-resources bundle.


Register to attend the conference

Attendance at the conference will provide five hours of Teacher Professional Development, addressing Proficient Teacher Standard Descriptors from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Academic convenors

Dr Victoria Rawlings

Kellie Burns


Rachel Payne

Project coordinator

Professional learning calendar

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