Victorian Safe Schools program goes national

Victorian Safe Schools program goes national

LAST UPDATED // Friday, 13 June 2014 15:16 Written by // James Findlay

Over three hundred people from all Australian states and territories gathered in Melbourne for the launch of the national roll out of the Safe Schools Coalition.

The program, which was trialled in Victoria and initially funded by the State Government, recently got the go ahead to go national and will roll out in New South Wales and South Australia next.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Minister, Senator Scott Ryan, said every student had the right to feel safe at school.

“While a safe and supportive school environment leads to many positive impacts for students, this is not the only reason we strive for this – it is simply the right thing to do,” he said.

“When we reflect on how far social attitudes have evolved in just a few short decades, I think this should give us all an incredible sense of optimism that expectations around appropriate behaviour will lead to different attitudes over time.”

Labor Senator Penny Wong, who had just landed from China, was Finance Minister at the time when the funding was first approved and said the Safe Schools Coalition was about principle and what kind of nation we want.

“It’s about people; about the boy from regional Victoria who is struggling with his identity and too fearful to express it, the girl from the suburbs of Sydney who’s too frightened to tell anyone, and the many young people who are bullied, teased and harassed because of who they are.

“It’s important as a matter of principle that we do all we can to create safe environments at school.

“Many of you have experienced [harassment and bullying], and you’re here because you understand this” she told the arena full of school kids, teachers, parents and community leaders.”

Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, said that although no law can abolish bigotry, the program was the beginning of ensuring a culture of respect.

“Legislation is not enough,” he said. “There needs to be a culture of inclusion, and that’s where the Safe Schools coalition comes in.”

Jan Owen, the CEO of the Foundation of Young Australians – the organisation driving the program, admitted she is relentlessly optimistic about young people and was happy to have bipartisan support.

A handful of young people also shared their stories, including Caleb Nichols-Mansell from regional Tasmania telling the crowd about his harrowing tales of school bullying for being gay, which led him to drugs and alcohol.

Steve Konstantopoulos, a twenty-two year old transgender boy from Sydney who experiences learning and intellectual disabilities, also shared his inspirational story.

Jason Ball, Australia’s first openly gay Aussie Rules player and Beyond Blue Ambassador, became the Safe Schools Coalition’s first Ambassador.

After the official launch, the day was programmed with a range of workshops for students, teachers and community leaders.


James Findlay

James Findlay

James Findlay is a Melbourne-based journalist and broadcaster who has worked in community media for many years. He has won awards for his work on The Naughty Rude Show on SYN, and can be heard on JOY 94.9's breakfast program, Triple Threat, and Hide and Seek - exploring sex, sexuality and self. He is currently completing his Master of Public Health specialising in Sexual Health at Melbourne University, and a tutor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University.

Comments (8)

  • Peter

    02 November 2014 at 23:58 |
    "Harrowing tales of school bullying for being gay"... I don't think anyone should be bullied... What's your advice for me who gets harrowing experiences daily being against the gay lobby? I don't bully so called gay people. I just don't agree with gay marriage. That doesn't stop the abusive emails, tweets etc coming my way!


  • Bill

    02 November 2014 at 23:50 |
    Penny Wong pushing her own views on society again.

    Public schools getting caught up in politics again. Sad.

    My kids won't go to a public school because of this.


  • Ron

    23 July 2014 at 18:58 |
    A great advertisement for your cause Peter!


  • DearMe

    23 July 2014 at 15:40 |
    Really Peter, Grace isn't the troll, you are! She has a right to her opinion and dare I say most parents would agree with her, I'm a mother and I sure do!


  • Dearme

    23 July 2014 at 15:38 |
    This appalling! I have a son and would promptly take him out of any school that promoted this. So for the sake of the 1% 99% of the kids will feel out of place? Kids will pick on each other for lots of reasons, this is pushing political agenda on children who know better. As a girl if I had to change in front of a guy just because he's transgender I would have been mortified, so for his sake to feel included all the others have to feel excluded? Moronic policy and a waste of my tax dollars... as a mother this makes my cringe!!!!


  • Peter

    14 July 2014 at 14:48 |
    "Grace" fuck off and troll somewhere else!


  • Grace

    11 July 2014 at 22:53 |
    What hypocrisy!!! You think you are protecting children, saving children! You know what you are doing - you are creating a generation that will not know right from wrong, will have gender confusion unnecessarily. No child should be bullied for any reason and no one is denying that, but to have a program that actively promotes homosexuality and transsexualism ? Seriously do you remember being a teenager and changing your mind from week to week about what you liked and didn't like, this is already a turbulent time for many teenagers - they do not need the homosexual agenda of adults that politically want to push it down their consciousness from an early age and try to wipe out a strong future generation built on healthy and traditional family structure. This so calls. " safe schools program" Is the child abuse! At least many people reading this growing up had the chance to lean what's a normal gender identity and if they chose to stray from that, well at least they knew- but what you're creating in a generation that never even had a chance to know right from wrong. You've decided to change black to white just because this is now the popular notion. This is child abuse.


  • Bill

    13 June 2014 at 15:45 |
    It shame the program is being under minded by the catastrophic School Chaplians program, that makes membership of a church, a requirement for employment. The School Chaplains program is child abuse. Although there are, no doubt, some fantastic Chaplains, it can be a bit like putting the Klu Klux Klan in and asking them to treat everyone as equals. The Anglican Bishop of Gippsland, John McIntyre, who sadly passed away last week, was considered rare, as he opposed exemptions by churches to discriminate, and supported marriage equality laws. We now have an unfortunate situation where the intense hate of some church leaders, is allowed into our schools, making them unsafe places.

    I hope the Safe Schools program goes down well, but as we have seen in Ballarat recently, a school council was defiant of the program at their school, and took action to try and ban a same-sex couple attending a dance. It is not a garuntee a student will not suffer the anguish of being bullied by those with authority, but it is at least, a step in the right direction. It may even help a student who has been yelled at by the bigot on the bus, Goerge Brandis so keenly supports.

    It is time our community started to look at heterosexual supremacist schools, and linked funding to program's that protect students.


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