Singer and songwriter Jimmy Barnes has criticised the federal defunding of the Safe Schools program and advocated for LGBTI-inclusive education, during this week’s Q&A.
Midway through Monday night’s program a question was directed at Liberal MP Nicolle Flint by Newtown resident Jack Atherton.
“Hey, Nicolle Flint. I grew up in your electorate and I used to dream of moving away, and then I did,” he said.
“And growing up, I experienced some pretty hectic homophobia, which was entrenched in a lot of the kids and adults in the community. I’m sure I’m not some rare queer kid from Adelaide who contemplated suicide.
“What are your plans… to protect queer kids and encourage us to stay in Adelaide instead of moving interstate?”
Flint began to respond by citing Adelaide’s apparent “great history of tolerance and welcoming people”, before host Tony Jones and Barnes interjected to remind her of the 1972 murder of 41-year-old Dr George Duncan, whose body was found near a well-known gay beat.
His murder went on to spark public outrage and a trigger for law reform that led to South Australia becoming the first Australian state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1975.
Flint conceded that that instance was “appalling”, before talking briefly about Adelaide’s “very early” days.
“South Australia, in our very early days, was a place that people came for freedom, like religious freedom, freedom of belief, freedom of expression,” she said.
“And if there’s one take-out for me from the election, it’s just I’m going to do everything I can over this term of parliament to encourage more respect and debate that is… not kinder, but more civilised, I suppose.
“You know, let’s all treat one another with more respect.”
Atherton, the original question asker, then responded by saying that homophobia was intense in schools, and that an investment was needed in stamping out discrimination in the classroom.
Barnes responded by saying that the Safe Schools program was “a really good start to that”.
“I couldn’t understand why that was being cut, [while] there were so many young kids struggling with their sexuality, and just their position in life in general,” he said.
“To cut funding to that seemed like an odd choice to me. I think that’s one of those points where we really have to, you know, get together and say… where our kids can learn from the ground up about not only how to feel safe in themselves, but how to be respectful for other people at the same time.
“You know, I don’t understand why that was cut.”
Barnes then asked Flint whether she thought Safe Schools was a good project, again voicing his support for the program.
“I think, as I said, it needs to be across the board that we need to…,” Flint managed before her fellow panellists started laughing.
In 2016, the federal government announced that Safe Schools wouldn’t be funded beyond 2017.
In Victoria, where the state government has continued to support the program, almost 98 per cent of secondary schools have reportedly participated in it.