A new bilingual human rights course for community language schools will not teach students about discrimination against GLBTI people or that their rights to non-discrimination are protected by law.
Being Me: Knowing You, developed in partnership between the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Community Languages Australia, is an English-Arabic language course teaching children aged 11 to 15 about discrimination in Australia.
Although discrimination based on ethnicity and religion are the course’s primary themes, discrimination on the grounds of age, sex and disability are all also dealt with repeatedly.
In comparison, discrimination based on sexuality rates a one word mention in the teachers’ handbook and is totally absent from the resource leader handbook, parent guide, student work book and student homebook of the course.
None of the resources for students or parents state that discrimination based on sexuality is illegal.
AHRC Race Commissioner Graham Innes was on leave but told Southern Star in a statement, “Being Me: Knowing You … couldn’t cover every human rights issue.
“It was a project that was developed under the Community Partnerships for Human Rights Program and primarily had an ethno-religious focus.
“In writing the resource, the Commission was very mindful that there are other resources produced by the Commission that deal with issues relating to discrimination on the basis of sexuality.”
Innes did not respond to a question about whether sexuality discrimination could be included in future editions of the resource, which the Commission is encouraging other communities to translate into their own languages in its current form.
Victoria Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Dr Anthony Bendall told Southern Star the omission of sexual minorities in the resource material was “extremely disappointing”.
“While we acknowledge there is currently no anti-discrimination legislation in these areas at the federal level … the AHRC has a broader function to promote human rights in general terms,” he said.
“This is particularly disturbing, given Being Me: Knowing You is aimed at a school age audience.”
Bendall said recent Australian research shows same sex attracted young people are one of the most vulnerable groups of young people in Australia.
“While it is true that AHRC produces other resources which deal with sexuality discrimination, VGLRL is not aware that any of those resources are targeted at the specific audience for Being me: Knowing You. Future editions of the resource should remedy this deficiency,” he said.
The VGLRL said it was not aware of any research into whether Australians from migrant backgrounds were any more or less accepting of GLBTI people than multi-generational Australians.
A 2007 University of Queensland study found that people in Australia were five times more homophobic than they were racist, with only one in 20 not wanting a neighbour of a different race compared to one in four who would not want neighbours who were homosexual.