Australia's Northern Territory planning to discourage gendered language in schools to boost inclusion

The proposed changes would encourage teachers to avoid gendered language and gendered sporting teams.
The proposed changes would encourage teachers to avoid gendered language and gendered sporting teams. Photo credit: Getty Images

Progressive new guidelines set to be introduced across the school system in Australia's Northern Territory will encourage teachers to scrap gendered language when referring to students, in a bid to boost inclusionary behaviours, according to reports.

The key changes were outlined in a leaked draft of the Northern Territory (NT) Education Department's Diverse Sex, Sexuality and Gender Identity in Schools guidelines, which was obtained and published by Sky News on Tuesday. 

The draft document contained recommendations for staff to avoid using language that categorised students by gender, such as "boys and girls" and "ladies and gentlemen" - noting that these terms can be "alienating" for gender-diverse children or those who are questioning their gender identity. 

The draft instead suggested the use of inclusive and non-gendered vocabulary in the classroom, such as 'students', 'class', 'crew', 'everyone', 'people', or 'Year [X]'.

Under the proposed guidelines, teaching staff would also be urged not to separate children based on their gender for school sports or physical education, instead opting for non-gendered teams and activities. 

"Many transgender and gender-diverse children often withdraw from taking part in sport and physical activities because they feel highly uncomfortable or are forced into teams that do not match with their gender identity," the draft stated. 

"Swimming and aquatic activities or any other sport where tight-fitting clothing is worn can be unsettling for children who identify as a gender different from their physical attributes."

Ahead of school trips or camps, teachers would be urged to consult with LGBTQI+ students and their parents or caregivers to confirm their "preferences'' regarding sleeping arrangements and facilities, such as bathrooms and showers. In this instance, a separate room may need to be provided at the accommodation, or the student may prefer to shower and wash privately to ensure they feel safe and comfortable.

The document also noted that educating students and their parents about the harm caused by discriminationatory behaviour, such as bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation, is a "good first step" to prioristing students' safety at school.

According to, it's understood that several of the recommendations in the draft have been amended since its publication.

Speaking to Sky News, NT Education Minister Lauren Moss said the guidelines are still subject to review. 

"I think it's really important that we are creating welcoming and inclusive environments for all students and that includes our students who are LGBTQI," she told the outlet.

"We know that often these students are young people and children who experience greater levels of harm or greater levels of isolation or greater levels of bullying and we need to make sure that we are working together as a school community to support all of our students and make sure that they all feel welcome." 

However, not everyone is a fan of the proposed changes. Country Liberal Party Senate candidate Jacinta Price claimed to Sky News that the guidelines are an attempt to apply "Marxist ideology" to the schooling system. 

"It goes to show that the Northern Territory government's priorities are all mixed up," she said.

Sign up to receive news updates

By entering your email address, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Newshub and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates/news, ads, and offers. To withdraw your consent or learn more about your rights, see the Privacy Policy.