A video introduction to ‘Who is Daniel Witthaus?’ was recently put together by award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Duffy and uploaded to YouTube. In Jono’s own words:
“Gay rights advocate and education activist Daniel Witthaus is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary mission to eliminate homophobia in Australia. This passionate Victorian from Geelong embarked on an incredible 38 week journey in 2010, all around rural Australia, taking his anti-homophobia training, called Beyond That’s So Gay’, to schools, organizations and individuals. This video entitled “Who is Daniel Witthaus?” is the first in a serious about influential GLBTIQ people who are helping to make the world a better place.”
To view ‘Who is Daniel Witthaus?’ click here: Who is Daniel Witthaus?
IN THIS SECTION:
2. Outlink Revisited: Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’
3. About Daniel Witthaus
In 1999 the Australian Human Rights Commission initiated Outlink, a national network of support and advocacy services for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people living in rural Australia. The project was formed out of concern for the extreme isolation often experienced by young LGBTs living in rural Australia, as well as the discrimination, violence, and a lack of support they face.
Co-funded by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the then-Australian Youth Foundation (now Foundation for Young Australians), Outlink was established by Rodney Croome, Australia’s leading gay activist (pictured below).
Outlink found that despite the overwhelming need and gaps in support options for young LGBT people in RRR Australia, there were many groups already active in supporting these young people. Outlink discovered that young LGBT people have a more complex relationship with rural, regional and remote (RRR) communities than is commonly recognised. More young people were remaining in RRR communities and more of these communities were moving towards an acknowledgment of this trend.
Outlink discovered a wide range of innovative initiatives for young LGBT people across RRR Australia and how they responded to their different needs in a great variety of ways. Outlink built an extensive contact database and a website. Outlink produced a rural service providers’ anti-homophobia training manual, Not Round Here: Affirming Diversity, Challenging Homophobia, launched by the Human Rights Commissioner in Bendigo, Victoria.
The project ended in 2003 after ongoing funding could not be secured.
OUTLINK REVISITED: BEYOND ‘THAT’S SO GAY’
A decade after, original Outlink Committee of Management member, Daniel Witthaus repeated, and expanded upon, the work of Rodney Croome. Daniel, a challenging homophobia educator born and raised in regional Australia, undertook Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’ supported by Uniting Care – Cutting Edge (UCCE), a regional Victorian organisation headed by Rowena Allen, another original Outlink Committee member.
Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’ set out to answer questions such as:
1. Just what is modern day life like for everyday lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in rural, regional and remote Australia?
2. Is life outside metropolitan Australia really difficult, impossible and/or non-existant?
3. What are the good, bad and ugly stories of regional Australia for LGBT people?
4. What happens when you give teachers, health professionals and homophobia-curious others strategies and resources to challenge homophobia?
5. What do we need to do better to ensure that all Australians feel able to live safe and supported wherever they choose to call home?
In doing so, Daniel:
- Updated the Outlink dialogue, listening to the concerns of LGBT Australians, in particular young people;
- Collected and shared everyday stories from LGBT Australians for an international challenging homophobia campaign (see www.lgbt-education.info);
- Broke down the isolation of services and organisations which currently work with young rural LGBT Australian people, allowing them to share skills, knowledge and resources;
- Built capacity of local services to respond to local needs, including the sharing of recognised resources such as Not Round Here and Pride & Prejudice;
- Partnered with state and territory peak organisations to link, in particular young, LGBT Australians into local, relevant and appropriate support services;
- Explored indigenous and CALD communities’ experience of sexual and gender diversity.
ABOUT DANIEL WITTHAUS
Before even receiving a tertiary qualification in psychology, Daniel Witthaus had commenced supporting young gay and lesbian people in regional Australia. Heading up the first local government-funded project of its kind in Australia, Daniel worked with hundreds of young people questioning their sexual identity and/or experiencing homophobic harassment and abuse in Geelong, Victoria.
Ignoring popular belief and a conservative approach to dealing with sexual diversity, Daniel fought to commence working in local secondary schools to challenge the homophobia of the student population. Such was his success in engaging educators that, much to the surprise of most, the pilot school for the popular challenging homophobia program, ‘Pride & Prejudice’, was an all-boys Catholic school. This is believed by leaders in education to be an Australian first, if not a world-first. Clearly some rules needed to be broken.
Following the resounding success of the pilot of ‘Pride & Prejudice’, schools throughout Victoria eagerly sought to benefit from a program that seemingly changed student’s homophobic attitudes. After attracting VicHealth funding, Daniel developed the ‘Pride & Prejudice’ educational package allowing all secondary school teachers to challenge homophobia in their own classrooms. Through a partnership with Deakin University, ‘Pride & Prejudice’ became the only educational program in the world to pass rigorous psychological testing; in six weeks it improved student attitudes toward gay men and lesbians.
Since its launch in 2002, Daniel has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about ‘Pride & Prejudice’ through an enviable schedule of conference presentations and media engagements (i.e. print, radio and TV). His practical approach to seemingly complex issues has seen Daniel become a highly sought after trainer, with a range of teachers and health professionals attending various workshop and professional development sessions. To date over 800 ‘Pride & Prejudice’ educational packages have been sold, mainly via word of mouth.
‘Pride & Prejudice’ has attracted attention and rave reviews from teachers and health professionals across the country desperate to reduce homophobic harassment and violence. Subsequently Daniel is an essential regular at various reference and representative bodies at a local, state and national level. For example he is a key founding committee member of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s initiative ‘Outlink’, a national network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in rural, regional and remote areas.
To the surprise of many in 2006, the Tasmanian government announced after a stunningly successful pilot that ‘Pride & Prejudice’ would be implemented in every Tasmanian state school. Three Tasmanian schools have won Human Rights Week awards for their ‘Pride & Prejudice’ efforts. Only last decade homosexuality was a criminal offence there.
Through these efforts and a range of published journal articles and targeted chapters in edited compilations, Daniel’s work has attracted international attention. In 2005 Daniel was nominated, and short-listed, for the Reebok International Human Rights Award. In 2006 Daniel became a founding world board member for the Dutch-government funded human rights initiative, the Global Alliance for LGBT Education. This work has already seen him work across four continents.
Daniel also sits on the editorial board for the international Journal of LGBT Youth and was a regular sports writer for MCV, a Victorian LGBT community newspaper.
In addition to his LGBT work Daniel has also worked with: Kids Help Line (inc. training teachers and health professionals across regional Victoria and Tasmania); VicHealth Health Promotion Foundation (inc. training health professionals in mental health promotion); Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (inc. training workers and managers in equal opportunity law); No To Violence Victoria (inc. co-ordinating White Ribbon Day for Victoria: men taking responsibility for violence against women).
In February 2010, Hawker Brownlow Education launched Daniel’s first book, Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’: Challenging homophobia in Australian schools. Daniel also completed his 38-week national challenging tour of regional and rural Australia, Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’.