Dad wants Safe Schools after witnessing son's struggles
GAVIN Bendall wishes the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) program was running in his son's school when the teenager first began accepting his sexuality.
The Rockhampton man is the proud and outspoken father to a now 19-year-old gay son and wouldn't have it any other way.
But Gavin tells the story of the days when his son wasn't out and proud and struggled with other kids at a Rockhampton high school.
"My wife was the first one he came out to... but it would have been nice to have someone for him to talk to at school," he said.
"At school he did sort of cop a bit of bullying at first.
"(As a parent) you felt helpless and like you couldn't do anything."
Once his son came out, the bullying relented, but Gavin noticed his son had lost close relationships with a number of friends and teachers.
And after his son's graduation, Gavin learned just how much the education system omitted anyone who wasn't heterosexual.
"I know (my son) Dylan had to do a lot of Googling to find anything out," he said "There is no sex education for gay and lesbian people at school.
"Sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS are more prevalent in the gay and lesbian world so it seems a bit strange that we have Sex Ed but it's only for heterosexuals.
"They can get all the wrong information from Google. It would be a lot better if there was someone they can turn to."
Gavin is now a passionate LGBTI supporter and has been following the SSCA since schools were given the opportunity to opt-in in 2014.
He said he was frustrated with the more conservative LNP MP's opposition to the anti-bullying education program and felt like the current set-up doesn't go far enough.
Gavin wants to see the opt-in program made compulsory across the board and doesn't want the lesson to stop at school.
The proud dad wants the government to stand up for LGBTI issues as well, so he can one day see his son walk down the aisle.
"Safe Schools is a great move to be implemented across the board but it is sending the wrong message, if as a country, we don't do it as well," he said.
"My son had a lot of friends that suffered with depression because they couldn't be themselves.
"(My wife) Raelene and I will march at every opportunity we get to support (my son) Dylan and support the other members of society. It just seems wrong and completely out of balance."
Gavin, who is also a grandfather to an infant girl, said he hoped to see a day where she could go to school in a world that was equal for all.