A new Life Ready program is set to replace sexual and gender diversity course Crossroads in New South Wales public schools next year.
Life Ready, which will be taught for 25 hours over years 11 and 12, will move away from teaching about diverse sexual identities and genders and focus instead on issues of independence, bills, savings, and stress.
“The challenges facing kids in the 21st century are very different from those in the early 1990s, when Crossroads was introduced” he told the Star Observer.
“This is why the Life Ready program places specific emphasis on financial literacy in the digital age, civic engagement, online safety, and mental health.
“As is appropriate, sexuality and sexual health are also a core part of the Life Ready program, acknowledging the centrality of these issues to young adults.”
Stokes added that given the program’s 25-hour length, it could only cover “modern problems that universally affect all young adults” rather than placing focus on sexual or gender diversity.
“Time is a student’s most precious resource,” he said. “The purpose of Life Ready is to equip students with the tools needed to confront the challenges they will face upon leaving school, so that they can engage in society as independent adults.”
Crossroads came under fire last year after concerns were raised about the content in the program, which included education around trans and non-binary identities, as well as same-sex attraction.
Advocates have raised concerns that the new program will further erase queer identities from the classroom.
Co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Lauren Foy, said they were disappointed in the government’s decision to remove much of the LGBTI content that had existed in Crossroads.
“It was a space that was available for young people to have a meaningful discussion in school,” they told the Star Observer.
“By taking steps to remove any reference to [queer] sexuality across the board, it makes the curricula heteronormative and not applicable to LGBTI students.
“When we’re talking about modern Australia and functioning in modern Australia, students need to be aware of what that landscape is, and it includes diverse genders and sexualities.”
While Stokes has said gender and sexuality will be covered in the latter stages of the PDHPE syllabus, Foy believes the course still makes little reference to LGBTI people and their unique issues.
“The content is not up to date, and it also makes little reference to HIV and STIs,” they said.
“Schools need to be able to provide relevant content around protection and safe sex for LGBTI people as well.”
“If you can’t create space for these things, how are you going to learn?”