- REBECCA URBAN
- THE AUSTRALIAN
Safe Schools operatives have been coaching educators to dismiss parental concerns over the contentious sex and gender-diversity program, asserting that parents are powerless to shut it down.
A Safe Schools national symposium was told by the program’s Victorian co-ordinator, Roz Ward, that schools could ignore concerns raised about the agenda.
“When people do complain then school leadership can very calmly and graciously say, ‘You know what? We’re doing it anyway, tough luck’!” she told more than 300 attendees.
Leaked video footage from the event, which emerged at the weekend, also appears to confirm what critics of the program have long suspected: that it was more about promoting radical political ideas around sexuality and gender than preventing schoolyard bullying.
“(It’s) not about celebrating diversity; not about stopping bullying,” Ms Ward said.
“(It’s) about gender and sexual diversity. About same-sex attractive, about being transgender, about being lesbian, gay, bisexual — say the words — transgender, intersex. Not just, ‘Be nice to everyone; everyone’s great’.”
Safe Schools project manager Joel Radcliffe, a fellow academic at La Trobe University, which spawned the program, told the audience that the issue of parental concern came up a lot when schools were considering whether to join the program.
“Parents … seem to have a lot of power (in) schools,” he said. “Parents don’t have the power to shut this down.”
The emergence of the video, which was shot in Melbourne in June 2014, follows the federal government’s decision on Friday to overhaul the taxpayer-funded program in light of an independent review.
Elements of the program, including homosexual role-play and asking students to consider gender as a fluid concept unaligned with sex at birth, have alarmed some parents.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has ordered organisers to curb their classroom campaign or lose their remaining $2 million in funding.
“Just as proselytising is not part of the school chaplaincy program, advocacy must not be part of the Safe Schools program,” Senator Birmingham said last week.
The Victorian government, which is pushing for the compulsory roll out of the program over the next few years, has said it will pick up the bill if the funding is cut, arguing that the program “saves lives”.
Launched in 2010, the program claims to be dedicated to creating “safe and inclusive” learning spaces for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender- diverse students.
It was created off the back of a campaign by the La Trobe University to elevate the interests of same-sex attracted youth in schools.
FamilyVoice Australia national research officer Ros Phillips said the video showed that the program was about pushing “rainbow ideology” not stopping bullying.
Ms Phillips said the organisation had received feedback from a significant number of parents who had been rebuffed when raising their concerns with principals.
A spokeswoman for the Safe Schools Coalition said the program aimed to reduce homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in schools.