Labor pledges to expand Safe Schools Coalition
Victorian Labor has pledged to expand a program of teacher training and resources supporting same-sex attracted and gender diverse students to all government secondary schools.
Announcing the plan at this month's Pride March, Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews announced Labor’s plan to expand the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV) program statewide.
“Every Victorian student is entitled to feel safe in the schoolyard – they have a right to be who they are and they have a right to belong,” Andrews said.
“The SSCV program uses the power of education and information to create a supportive, respectful and safe environment for all young people.”
Having commenced in 2010 the SSCV provides training and resources to create safe and supportive school environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse youth.
The program received renewed funding from the current Victorian government.
Shadow Minister assisting the Leader on Equality, Martin Foley said that in three years the SSCV trained over 4,000 staff and supported over 20,000 students.
“Expanding SSCV to all government secondary schools will help to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for SSAGD students across Victoria.”
With voluntary membership, the number of participating schools approaches 120 but Labor's plan would make it compulsory for all government high schools and private and independent schools will be encouraged to participate.
SSCV coordinator Roz Ward welcomed the announcement but told MCV that current religious exemptions could exempt faith-based schools from participation.
Ward said that what would be looked at is what elements could be deemed compulsory and what would remain a voluntary commitment from schools.
“The situation is currently that if you are a government school there are, what you could call, 'compulsory responsibilities' under the equal opportunities act, under the current Department of Education policy guidelines, to do proactive work to support gender and sexual diversity.
“So in some ways it already is compulsory. So my sense as to what that means is to have some additional funding to increase our capacity to make sure we can support schools in doing the things they should be doing.
Ward added that the SSCV program would also be implemented nationwide following a funding allocation by the federal Labor government shortly before last year's election.
“They funded the Foundation for Young Australians to roll out a national program.
“It hasn't officially launched yet but the work is happening and the Victorian program is going to be the model for a national program.”