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Christchurch campus hangs a rainbow flag

Tuesday 19 February 2019 4:23pm

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The new rainbow flag - signifying the Christchurch campus' support of students, staff and patients who are members of the rainbow community - was unfurled in a ceremony last week.

The University of Otago, Christchurch, has hung a rainbow flag in its foyer in a ceremony involving staff, students and members of the Canterbury rainbow community.

The flag was created in the foyer by Dr Lynley Cook, the wife of the Christchurch Dean, during the introductory fortnight for fourth-year medical students. Christchurch staff and students were encouraged and assisted by Dr Cook in taking a turn on the sewing machine to be a part of the initiative.

University of Otago, Christchurch Dean Professor David Murdoch says creating and hanging the flag in a prominent place recognises the campus’ commitment as an ally to students, staff and patients who are members of the rainbow community.

“In doing so we recognise our role in training future health professionals to be culturally competent and socially accountable. This is a place where members of the rainbow community can feel welcome, safe, and respected.”

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Dr Lynley Cook works on the flag in the foyer of the main Christchurch campus building.

Professor Murdoch says the idea to sew the flag originated from a discussion between his wife Dr Cook, a public health physician, and Jen Desrosiers, a Department of Population Health staff member on a flight to Dunedin. They decided sewing the flag in the foyer while medical students were being welcomed to the Christchurch campus would add significance.

The flag now hangs above a walkway into the main Christchurch campus building, which is also a thoroughfare for many Canterbury DHB staff and patients.

Pro-Vice Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences, Professor Paul Brunton described the Christchurch initiative as "wonderful".

“You should be very proud of your efforts and the message it conveys,” Professor Brunton said in a statement read out at the flag unfurling ceremony. “The flag you have crafted is a clear and vibrant representation of the inclusive nature of the Division of Health Sciences. It’s a visible sign to our staff, our students, and everyone else who passes through this area, that we advocate for, and support, the rainbow community.”

Sophie Allen, a Christchurch-based medical student and member of the rainbow community says hanging a flag in the campus’ foyer signifies it embraces LGBT+ staff and students, and hopes this action will help facilitate an inclusive, accepting culture that translates into the work environment and interactions with LGBT+ colleagues and patients.

The new flag for the Christchurch campus follows the University of Otago formally becoming a Rainbow Tick employer; a process initiated by employees and a visible sign of the University’s strong desire to be a place where every employee feels valued and respected no matter how they identify.