This was a project for our queer teens create Ally Awards, modelled on Scout badges and community awards, to be given out to teachers who they deemed safe adults. The program empowers teens to decide what an ‘ally’ is, help make allies more visible and encourage students to seek out positive, safe figures and celebrate wins. Also for other queer teens to be able to identify those safe adults.
This idea came out from the awful experience of one of our 15-year-old non-binary teens being subjected to homophobic bullying in their classroom and had a teacher respond, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”.
In a meeting with the school, this teen, their mother, and Fleur (Creative Producer for Riverland Youth Theatre, present at the teen’s request), the teen spoke of the confusion and exhaustion of not knowing which teachers were ‘safe’ or would step in to support them.
This is an experience echoed by all the gender queer young people we work with: they are stressed and tired of trying to guess if a teacher will defend them or if they are ‘alone’ in the class.
And thus, the Ally Awards were born.
SO, WHY ALLY AWARDS?
Here’s some words from our queer teens, who are most impacted by this:
“It will make it easier for queer students to come forward and talk about some of their problems or questions without having to deal with the anxieties of trying to guess if the teacher is a safe person to talk to.” — R, 15-years-old
“I would feel a lot more comfortable about that teacher and I would go to that teacher if I felt like I needed help with my gender and how to represent it at school.” – C, 12-years-old
“It is really difficult to be queer in the Riverland because you don’t always feel safe or accepted. RYT is like a safe haven. I can go somewhere I know I’ll be accepted.” L, 14-years-old
THE CRAFTING SESSIONS
Our first workshop for this project was hosted by Sage and guest artist, Calamity Tash spent three days with our teens to craft some truly amazing awards — a collection of pipe-cleaners crowns, friendship bracelets, broaches, badges, and medallions.
THE BIG PLANNING WEEKEND
Our friends, Shaylee Leach and Yoz Mensch, made a visit to the Riverland to set some gears in motion over a weekend.
- How do they want it to run?
- Who’s announcing each award?
- Who will get awards?
- What will they say about the teachers?
- What will they say about what ally-ship means and what they want to see moving forward?
So much planning and brainstorming!
ALTERNATIVE PROM: AWARDS NIGHT
As part of the Alternative Prom, we announced the winners of the Ally Awards and presented them with our beautifully crafted badges of honour.
A huge congratulations to our winners.
- Actively Learning Ally – Tracy Pontt
- Protector of the Closet – Sam Owens
- Spirit of Allyship – Alicia Thackray
- Pronoun Proficient – Kirby Kingham
- Transcendency Ally Award – Mrs Milburn
- Protector of the Gays (The Big One) – Fleur Kilpatrick
Huge thank you to Shay, Yoz, Sage, Tash and all our teens for holding this space.
SO, WHAT'S NEXT?
We have one more session planned with Shay and Yoz in 2024 to think about ways this project can be threaded into the school system and potentially become an annual ceremony that will encourage our allies to make themselves known.
Updates to come!
Big thanks to FRRR for funding the Ally Awards!
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