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Safe Schools program gutted: Resources to become part of govt-controlled Safe Schools hub
Mar18

Safe Schools program gutted: Resources to become part of govt-controlled Safe Schools hub

LAST UPDATED // Saturday, 19 March 2016 17:04 Written by // Cec Busby

Education minister Senator Simon Birmingham has released the government’s response to the Safe Schools review and says the government has first and foremost considered the needs of children in making its decision on the program.

The review into the controversial LGBTI anti-bullying program was triggered by Senator Cory Bernardi presenting the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a petition with over 9000 signatures calling for the funding to the program to be axed.

 

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Birmingham said the paramount purpose of the review was to protect the children.

"Children have every right to feel safe in our schools to be safe from bullying and homophobia. They also have every right to be safe from inappropriate material – because of  their age or the nature of the material,” said Birmingham.

“It’s because of those needs to balance all of those rights that the government has had a review undertaken by professor Bill Louden into the Safe Schools program.”

Birmingham said the first objective of the review was to prevent homophobia and transphobia in schools to ensure the school environs are inclusive envirnments and secondly to support LGBTIQ students.

“It’s critical that we consider the resources are designed for school children and that they must be age appropriate in alignment with curriculum.”

He said the review had found some lessons are not necessarily appropriate for all children. He also stressed that some concerns had been raised regarding content contained on linkages supplied.

“E-safety is critical,” Birmingham said.

“We want to make sure our children are as safe as possible,” he said.

Birmingham said a number of actions would need to be undertaken to ensure the Safe Schools material was safe.

“We will be requiring lesson areas where there is content not suitable to children that the content is removed,” Birmingham said.

“Program resources need to be fit for delivery in secondary school environment only. Branding and links to other websites will be removed unless they are to a Commonwealth or state-funded health service.”

Birmingham said the materials will now be removed from the Safe Schools Coalition website and be moved to the Safe Schools Hub – and mainstreamed alongside other anti-bullying programs.
 
“This will give people the confidence resources will be housed in a safe environment and no other materials can be accessed,” he said.

Birmingham said he also expected that a standard resource – “a fact sheet - if you like, will be developed so they can understand what is in the safe schools program so they can make a decision as to whether their child should access the program.

Birmingham said:

“In the end our teachers and schools will be able to use their judgment on how they use these resources.”

The government will seek to address these findings and reasonable concerns via a number of immediate actions.

Queensland Federal MP and Labor's Child Safety spokesperson Terri Butler said Malcolm Turnbull had "caved in to the right wing extreme of the Liberal National Coalition".
 
“The report by Professor Bill Louden found that the Safe Schools resources are 'consistent with the aims of the programme and the Australian Curriculum, suitable, educationally sound and age-appropriate'," Butler said.
 
“Yet Malcolm Turnbull is allowing people like George Christensen and Cory Bernardi, instead of experts, teachers and parents, to decide what’s best for students.
 
“I am concerned that this could see the Safe Schools anti-bullying program banned in some schools. That would be a great shame, particularly given suicide rates amongst LGBTI kids."

Safe Schools Coalition Australia said in a statement:
 
"Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) welcomed the review and the opportunity to demonstrate the value of the national program.
 
"The review by Emeritus Professor William Louden has found that the official resources are consistent with the intent and objectives of the program and are appropriate for use in schools. We acknowledge Professor Louden for his expertise in the delivery of this review.
 
"Senator Birmingham has announced the Federal Government’s recommendations following the review and we welcome the government’s support for the continued delivery of the program. We will work through the proposed changes with the Department and the Minister.
 
"SSCA is a national coalition of expert and highly qualified partners delivering training, resources and support for teachers and schools across the country to ensure students can access education in safe and inclusive learning environments.
 
"SSCA is committed to ensuring the continued positive impact of this work for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, school staff, and families.
 
"We thank the Australian community for their support."

Actions the government intends to take in regards to Safe Schools material include:

  • Fix the content of the programme resources by amending Minus 18's All Of Us resources that are unsuitable for some students
  • Remove unsuitable and age inapppropriate material
  • Align content with the curriculum and supply amended resources for peer review
  • Address concerns about third party links, advocacy and materials in resources
  • Restrict the use and distribution of the OMG I'm Queer, OMG My Friend's Queer and Stand Out resources, which were not developed as classroom resources, to one-on-one discussions between students and key qualified staff.

Birmingham suggested once the FYA's contract ran out funding for the program was unlikely to continue.

“There was never an intention the program be funded beyond the current contract period,” he said. “The intention was what the program has done and is doing, developing resources for schools and teachers to use in accordance with their policies and following consultation with their parents and those resources will of course live on, on the Safe School hub website.”

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Cec Busby

Cec Busby

Cec Busby is the news editor of SX and online editor of GayNewsNetwork.com.au

Comments (14)

  • Barrie

    24 March 2016 at 12:36 |
    I finished high school in 1976. Trust me, some of the bullies back then were the teachers themselves. On occasions when homosexuality was discussed in class (and it did!) heads would turn to me. There'd be smirks and sneers... "This is about YOU."

    So how is 'Safe Schools' supposed to work? Sounds like just another situation where a majority of classmates can turn to some individuals because "This is about YOU!"

    The program could be perpetuating the very thing it's meant to remedy.

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    • Julia

      24 March 2016 at 15:29 |
      You're raising a point of conjecture, without evidence. As far as I understand it the materials are to be used at teacher discretion. Teachers generally know what they're cohorts are like and therefore would be able to make reasonable judgements about how to give the lessons. Unless there is evidence that the situation you're describing becomes a major problem identified by schools and teachers then it's merely it point of conjecture and cannot be used to invalidate the program.

      reply

  • Francoise

    24 March 2016 at 09:40 |
    I'm heterosexual and I have homosexual friends. We do not agree with this Safe Schools program as kinder children should not have to be exposed to pornography and the rest of rot being attempted to be introduced. It is up to each parent to educate their children on sexuality, not some poor teacher ! I would never want that imposed on them.

    reply

    • Julia

      24 March 2016 at 15:23 |
      1. Safe schools has NOTHING TO DO WITH PORNOGRAPHY. That is a lie and shows haven't looked at any of the materials. The program is about sexuality and gender identity.

      2. Why shouldn't schools discuss pornography. It's an essential part of decent sex education. If you think teenagers aren't already looking at Pornography you're incredibly naive. Thanks to the internet you can get an eyeful of anything these days, hence it's necessary for proper sex education to address some of the misconceptions that Pornography can create. Nobody is advocating it's use or would ever demonstrate material within a school however.

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    • Belle

      24 March 2016 at 11:27 |
      OH yes, Francoise, the old "I'm heterosexual...... but I have gay friends" again. Works every time. Maybe you should talk to them and ask how a program like this would have made their childhood better.

      Stop making up lies and rumors. Safe schools doesn't expose children to porn.

      Take gender diverse and intersex children into consideration as well!!!!

      reply

    • Liam

      24 March 2016 at 11:27 |
      1. "I have gay friends, which I believe prevents me from ever being homophobic!"
      2. The program is not designed for children in kindergarten.
      3. The program does not contain pornography.
      4. In an ideal world, each parent would indeed teach their children everything they needed to know about sexuality, but this is not an ideal world. Kids who are gay, bi, or trans don't understand the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing and feel terrified. Straight kids who don't know what it means to be gay, bi, or trans see kids like this and often react with hostility. This program aims to fill the gap that many parents leave in their children's sex education. I know my parents never explained to me what "gay" meant, leaving me to be very scared and confused for years - not helped by the incorrect information circulating in the school playground from students and teachers alike! This age-appropriate, not-at-all-pornographic resource would have helped me enormously.

      reply

  • Rhoderick Gates

    21 March 2016 at 22:44 |
    Well education, outside of universities, is a state's power. The states don't have to comply. Victoria and ACT announced they will continue the SafeSchools programme in it's original form. VIC will cover any financial costs dropped by the feds.

    reply

  • Steve

    20 March 2016 at 12:20 |
    I'm straight, I'm not a homophobe and I don't want to see any kid bullied - for any reason. That said, the SS programme was aimed at challenging gender and orientation norms when the evidence that heterosexuality is normal is overwhelming. It was always going to be problematic for that reason. I think that SS was an overreach that went well beyond the anti-bullying objective.

    reply

    • Nin

      20 March 2016 at 12:59 |
      so because heterosexuality is the *dominant* norm, all references to those who are *not* part of that demographic should be removed? Oh, THAT explains why references to Indigenous culture in Australia is being systematically removed, and why women are marginalised- because we're also not part of the majority- gosh, the world view of white, middle class male culture gets to dominate the landscape once again. How lovely for white, middle class males- and how detrimental to everyone else, but then, why should the *dominant* cultures give a crap about anyone else?

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      • Liz

        20 March 2016 at 21:22 |
        Exactly. It's not like their trying to say LGBTQ+ kids are equal in number to heterosexual cisgendered kids. Just that they are equal in value as human beings. Some people just don't get that.

        reply

  • Tony Andrews

    19 March 2016 at 14:43 |
    It is a real shame that this government is controlled by the right wing bigot's, This program which was set up to help prevent bulling and help people to come if they want to. Only this government is bulling young LGBTIQ students in the worst way possible.These LGBTIQ students and young people who are struggling with their sexuality should not have to deal with this BS. This crap and lie's is only going to make coming out harder for some, I can only hope that the LGBTIQ community will step up and do what it can to help, from my experience it will. We will win this battle and now we know a bit of what we are going to face with getting the right to Marry.

    reply

  • Grant

    19 March 2016 at 08:59 |
    The way the current Liberal/National government has handled this makes me fear what these same politicians would say and do regarding the Same-sex marriage plebiscite. All I have heard from the like of George Christensen Cory Bernardi is hatred and ignorance.

    reply

  • Tom

    18 March 2016 at 19:28 |
    Political interference in a program that was doing a good job is disgusting. PM Turnbull and Minister Birmingham should hang their heads in shame. All they have done is make life harder, once again, for LGBTI youth. They should have stood by their guns and protected our young people. Shame!

    reply

  • Julia

    18 March 2016 at 16:02 |
    Okay. Well at least the programs survived, though I have a horrible feeling it's been ripped of a great deal of it's meaning. GBTQIA youth are still going suffer from bullying and daily microaggressions if the school continues to reflect heteronormative ideas and systemic biases.

    I really don't see why they had problems with the OMG I'm Queer document. All it did was provide stories and advice from LGBT youth about coming out and other issues relating to sexuality. This seems like an effort to erase the visibility of LGBTQIA youth in schools, which is problematic because lack of visibility just makes it easier for homophobes to vilify and discriminate against us and will make Queer youth feel isolated and vulnerable.

    Most concerning is that it seems to have given George Christensen what he wanted - He says he's happy with the program. Either this means he's finally decided to stop being a prick or it means the programs been gutted of anything meaningful. These conservatives should not have been indulged as few of their concerns were actually valid from the start and most of it was hyperbolic brow beating and outright lies. Conservatism is shameful.

    reply

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