It was devastating to hear of the Federal Government’s decision to gut the Safe Schools programme. After Malcolm Turnbull caved to the demands from far-right religious conservatives for an inquiry, the results were clear: Safe Schools is increasing tolerance and creating a safe space for LGBTIQ kids at school. Despite this, federal government pandered to the homophobic requests by a small number of MPs, and gutted the programme.
The City of Sydney has supported my notice of motion to fight this injustice. It will sign the Pledge to support the Safe Schools Coalition, and to write to schools in the LGA and encourage them to partake in the programme.
The Safe Schools Coalition was created at the behest of teachers and schools, as an effort to combat the bullying that was observed upon LGBTIQ students. It was a request for information, an education campaign to increase understanding of what these kids face. This is a highly vulnerable group that is known to disengage with school due to high rates of verbal and physical abuse. Safe Schools aims to challenge this as a programme of information, challenging students’ preconceptions of how we think about “normal” gender and sexuality, and the effects that this has on students who do not fit in this narrow model. We have seen almost 500 schools sign up nation-wide.
Now, not only has the material been watered down significantly, students must also get permission from their parents to partake in classes. This defeats the purpose of teaching a new generation to have empathy or knowledge for anything other than the normative subjects that schools typically teach.
If we are looking at “social agendas”, as the conservatives like to push, perhaps we can turn our attention to the federal government-funded chaplaincy programme. Compared to the $8 million that Safe Schools has received, the National School Chaplaincy Programme has been funded $243.8 million. This has not been subject to an inquiry, and has been justified as a worthy expense despite our supposed separation of church and state.
It is clear where government’s priorities are, and clear that the small faction of ultra conservatives dominate the will of government. Any small win by a minority group is rounded up and kicked out as a perceived threat to our social boundaries.
But this is about introducing a voice that has been historically pushed to the sidelines, and increasing our very stringent model of acceptance. This is about welcoming others’ experiences, and keeping those people safe amidst the stampede of the majority.
We must stop pushing archaic religious-based morality lessons upon our youth and instead, encourage an empathetic understanding of the real world.