As the nation prepares to debate same-sex marriage ahead of a postal vote a Bendigo youth worker is urging young people in the LBTIQ community to stay connected with their support networks amid concern about the tone the coming debate could take.
Yesterday a plebiscite bill failed in the senate, with the government now pursuing a postal vote.
Headspace healthy equal youth worker Millee Rice was not sure that a safe and respectful debate could be possible because same-sex marriage could be such an emotional topic.
“I think at an individual and a group level there are positive ways of having the discussion, like in supportive environments where people are on the same page,” she said.
“It’s quite difficult to have those discussions with people who don’t have the same opinion.”
Millee feared hostile debate could impact on people’s mental health and well-being.
“If they are feeling like they are being ‘othered’ or that their identity is invalid, things like that definitely impact on their mood. They might feel more anxious and isolated,” she said.
Millee said there were a number of things people could do if they found themselves struggling as debate took place around them.
“The main thing is about staying connected with their friends and networks and having those conversations among themselves,” she said.
“That’s going to give them an opportunity to express feelings. It’s important those conversations are in a supportive environment.”
It was also important people kept doing the activities they cared about.
“It just helps keep people distracted, to stay positive,” Millee said.
On Monday prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters he believed the nation was capable of having a respectful debate on same-sex marriage.
“I mean, do we think so little of our fellow Australians and our ability to debate important matters of public interest that we say: ‘You're not able to have a respectful discussion about the definition of marriage’, which is a very significant, important, fundamental element in our law and in our culture?” he asked journalists.
“Australians are able and have demonstrated that they can have a respectful discussion. I am committed to that.”
Millee urged those aged 12 to 25 to get in touch with Headspace’s LGBTIQ groups if they needed extra support.
Those over 25 could contact Switchboard, a phone and web-based counselling service or the Victorian AIDS Council.