Malcolm Turnbull Just Caved To Conservatives And “Gutted” Safe Schools
Happy National Day of Action Against Bullying, everyone.
Just days after an independent review of the Safe Schools anti-bullying initiative found no major problems with the program’s content or teaching, the government has caved to conservative backbenchers and enacted restrictions on the program that could compromise the privacy and mental wellbeing of LGBTI students.
In a statement to media this afternoon, Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced that the government would be substantially rolling back the program by removing some of its content and all links to non-government funded external organisations, restricting its teaching to secondary schools and increasing agreement and consent requirements from parent bodies for schools to participate.
Big changes to Safe Schools. Press release: pic.twitter.com/jlILoAbdCW
— David Crowe (@CroweDM) March 18, 2016
The measure comes as something of a surprise, given that Birmingham himself is on the record as a supporter of Safe Schools. Conservative government backbencher George Christensen, who has likened aspects of Safe Schools to “grooming” practices by child molesters and organised a backbench petition against the program, told reporters he was happy with the outcome, saying that “the program has been gutted”.
“I am very surprised that [Education Minister Birmingham’s] gone as far as he’s gone. It is better than an inquiry. Effectively, gutting the program of all of the concerning content is what I wanted at the end of the day – or the program shut down,” Christensen said.
Critics have been quick to point out that some of the new requirements, such as requiring parental permission for students to participate in the program, could severely undermine the wellbeing and potential safety of children in families that don’t support the idea of their kids being LGBTI.
Ironically, the move comes on the National Day of Action Against Bullying.
Parental permission? What about kids who are struggling to come out to their parents, who would have otherwise been helped by #SafeSchools?
— Mitch Feltscheer (@mitchfel) March 18, 2016
Yeah, okay, so let’s let parents decide whether their kids, who may be afraid of coming out to them, can participate in #SafeSchools. Jesus.
— Benjamin Riley (@bencriley) March 18, 2016
Hey – to young queers who just had their #SafeSchools program edited to make old white men comfortable, we love you and I’m sorry. Xx
— Brendan Maclean (@macleanbrendan) March 18, 2016