Dawn says that creating rainbow@witt was a direct response to student feedback.
“Last year we ran a korero and kai session and invited students to come along and chat with us about what we do well and what we don’t. Our rainbow students and staff expressed a need to see more inclusivity at WITT,” she said.
The Rainbow Room, as well as a Multi-Faith Prayer Room, are currently under construction on campus and will be opened to students just before Easter.
“The Rainbow Room is about creating a safe space where all students feel welcome and can learn more about this community. Rainbow education is very informal and creating somewhere where they don’t have to explain themselves is the first step in the right direction,” she said.
The space will also be available to external partners like Rainbow Youth or Out and Proud to come in and meet with students.
“This responsibility to create an inclusive environment is not one group or one team. It is everyone’s responsibility to make our ākonga and kaimahi feel safe and included.”
“As educators, we have a much bigger responsibility. We are in a unique position to help teach and raise awareness. It is not about changing your entire lifestyle to be more accommodating but challenging yourself to make one small change at a time.”
The majority of our courses prepare students for the workforce. This is one area, as an organisation, that we can model what is appropriate in the real world in our teachings and help people to realise that small changes like knowing where the gender-neutral bathrooms and using the term ‘partner’ rather than girlfriend and boyfriend can make to make people feel more comfortable and included.
“It is highly likely that at one point in our life’s we will work with someone that is from the rainbow community. We want our ākonga to graduate and take these teachings with them so they know how to act professionally and respectfully around them.”
She encourages everyone to be open to growing their awareness of the rainbow community.
“I think everyone can make a difference you don’t need to be part of this community to make these students and staff feel welcome just the same as you don’t need to be Māori to be involved in Māori success,” she said.
“In any social change it’s the allies that are just as important as the advocates. We already have a diverse workplace and study space here at Te Kura Matatini o Taranaki we are just creating a more inclusive environment.”
She says it’s important to remember we’re not going to get it right all the time, we all make mistakes and likens it to learning te reo Māori.
“We are going to get the pronunciation wrong. We don’t have to be perfect just committed.”
“My challenge to everyone would be challenge your own thinking, what can you change or do in your life to support this. Ask yourself what small step I can take this year to be a better ally.”