Wodonga staff member behind idea to fly rainbow flag at all La Trobe University campuses

BOLD: Rainbow flags are now flying across all La Trobe University campuses as a symbol of support to the LGBTIQ community, an idea put to management by Wodonga staff member Kelly Bick. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
BOLD: Rainbow flags are now flying across all La Trobe University campuses as a symbol of support to the LGBTIQ community, an idea put to management by Wodonga staff member Kelly Bick. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

La Trobe University is flying a rainbow flag at each of its six major campuses – an idea that came from Wodonga.

The thought came to Kelly Bick, an administrator at the Border campus, as a way to promote inclusiveness and respect during the same sex marriage postal survey.

Mrs Bick said she put the suggestion to Vice Chancellor John Dewar on a whim and was surprised when an all-staff email was sent announcing the flags would fly.

“With the marriage equality debate that’s occurring, La Trobe have been active in promoting that we need to care for all of our staff, whatever sexual persuasion they may be,” she said.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be really nice to be able to visually display that, and the Vice Chancellor and his senior staff said it was a wonderful idea to show we care and support all of our community.”

In the email sent to staff this week, Mr Dewar acknowledged Mrs Bick personally and said the flags were a reminder “of the importance of ensuring that debates about marriage equality are undertaken across the university community in a measured, informed and respectful way”.

“This should not be taken as an indication that the university as a whole supports marriage equality,” he said.

“Our university is a place of lively debate where views on marriage equality are likely to be varied.

“I know that there are some in the La Trobe community who do not support marriage equality, and we must respect that.

“Many people have asked me for my own views on marriage equality … my personal view is that marriage equality is long overdue.

“Many of you will have different reasons for supporting marriage equality, or do not support it at all.

“We are each free to resolve this for ourselves. The important thing is that we do so respectfully.”

Asked if Charles Sturt University might follow in La Trobe’s footsteps, Dean of Students Julia Coyle said the university was “exploring a range of avenues to express support for the LGBTIQ community”.

“At this time, I can’t say that we are or aren’t going to do that (fly a rainbow flag), but we are exploring a range of things and our particular focus is on ensuring the well-being of our staff and students is supported,” she said.

“We’re also focusing on really encouraging all staff and all students to ensure that their voices are heard in the Australian marriage law postal survey.

“We’ve been running campaigns to encourage people to have a say and exercise their democratic right, and as well as that, ensuring we have appropriate support available.”