In conjunction with the launch of the Gender Affirmation Procedure in October 2018, the Leave and Public Holiday Procedure was also updated to include a provision for up to 10 days paid leave to support staff affirming their gender. The new leave provision was developed in response to concerns around the use of sick leave that implied gender affirmation as an illness, and/or special leave, awarded at the discretion of the Vice-Chancellor, that required a detailed application to first be considered by the Executive Director of Human Resources.
The provision of gender affirmation leave for staff:
- provides flexibility and confidentiality, reducing stress and anxiety for staff affirming their gender;
- recognises that people undergoing gender affirmation are not sick or ill;
- reduces the need for multiple people to be informed; and
- sends an important message of support and inclusion to staff in the workplace seeking to affirm their gender.
Implementation and updates
Six months after the gender affirmation procedure and leave were introduced, an interim evaluation was conducted which highlighted a need for gender affirmation awareness training for staff involved in implementing gender affirmation plans and leave. As a result, 36 staff across Student Services and the Human Resources Division undertook tailored training in 2019.
Since initial implementation, there have been two updates to the Gender Affirmation Procedure. The first update occurred in early 2020 to reflect a change in language from gender transition to gender affirmation.
The second update, in mid-2021, included more substantial changes that were developed in response to feedback from staff in the Student Services Network regarding confusion about the different supports and advice available for students and staff. As a result, two new resources were developed: a dedicated Student Gender Affirmation Guide hosted on the University’s external website and an internal Staff Gender Affirmation Guide hosted on the staff SharePoint page. A formal Inclusion Officer Network was also established in mid-2021 to provide ongoing training for key staff from the Student Services Network and Human Resources Division.
The updated version of the Gender Affirmation Procedure clearly articulates how Deakin can support students and staff who are affirming, seeking to affirm or have affirmed their gender. It also explains how to contact trained Inclusion Officers who can assist students and staff with:
- legal and preferred name changes;
- updating title and pronoun details;
- changing the way gender is recorded in University systems; and
- advice regarding the requirements for personal details to match with external Government records.
Deakin was the first university in Australia to introduce gender affirmation leave and, over the past few years, has collaborated closely with other organisations within the higher education and research sector to share details and resources.
The introduction of the Gender Affirmation Procedure and associated gender affirmation leave is helping to foster a genuinely inclusive environment at Deakin which affords all students and staff the opportunity to belong and succeed regardless of their gender.
Survey data collected by Diversity, Equity and Inclusion since 2018 reveals the proportion of both staff and students indicating they are either gender diverse, transgender or non-binary has increased over time. This may suggest that staff and students now feel more comfortable to reveal aspects of their true identity than they may have previously. Results from the Inclusion and Wellbeing Student Survey 2022 suggest Deakin’s efforts to build an inclusive environment have had a positive impact on students, with a greater proportion of gender diverse students reporting feeling accepted, satisfied and included in 2022 compared to 2019.
Due to the small sample size, uptake of leave is kept confidential. However, since implementation in 2018, more students and staff have accessed gender affirmation support than expected. Feedback from those affirming their gender has been positive with regard to both the support offered, and the opportunity to access specific leave.
It is reasonable to conclude that four years after introducing the Gender Affirmation Procedure for staff and students at Deakin, the initiative has achieved its intent by supporting individuals in their significant life-changing decision to affirm their gender. What is also invaluable is the message to the wider staff and student cohort about inclusion, and the importance Deakin places on the opportunity for trans and gender diverse members of the University community to be respected, have a sense of belonging and thrive in their work and study.