THE director of acclaimed documentary Gayby Baby, Maya Newell, has told the Star Observer she is disappointed by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s decision to ban schools from showing the film during class times and that children of same-sex parents have a right to have their voices heard.
Meanwhile, the father of one of the children featured said he stands behind his family’s participation in the film which is due to be shown in up to 30 schools as part of Friday’s Wear It Purple Day, which celebrates young LGBTI people and encourages inclusiveness in the face of alarming rates of self-harm and suicide.
The film opens nationwide on limited release on Thursday, September 3.
While touching on marriage equality and the potential for school yard bullying because of their parent’s sexuality, the documentary is primarily focused on the day-to-day lives of the participants including whether 12-year-old Ebony will pass an audition to get into her favoured high school and 11-year-old Graham’s struggle to read and write.
Last night, a special screening at NSW Parliament House was met with rapturous applause by MPs from across NSW and the political spectrum.
However, this morning, the Daily Telegraph said “parents are angry” after Burwood Girls High School – in inner-west Sydney – decided to show all students the documentary this Friday and encouraged those attending to wear purple.
Speaking on Sydney radio station 2GB this morning, Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman said the film was a tool in the marriage equality campaign.
“Directing the whole school body to watch a pro-homosexual film, a pro-homosexual marriage documentary made by a former student, herself a product of a homosexual partnership, is an absolute travesty,” he said.
The state education minister subsequently told 2GB that while NSW was a diverse state, no student should be compelled to see the film and the documentary could not be shown during class time as it was not part of the curriculum.
“Schools are not places for political issues to be aired,” Piccoli said.
“We’re not in the business of banning movies but we’ve made a direction to the department that this film is not be screened during school hours.”
Newell, who was raised by same-sex parents and attended Burwood Girls High, told the Star Observer that depictions of families like her own didn’t exist when she was growing up.
“I think Australians are ready to talk about what modern families look like,” she said.
She said Gayby Baby was “completely appropriate”, had been rated PG and identified as a family film.
“It’s very disappointing what the education minister said because it says the stories of these families are not worth hearing,” Newell said.
She dismissed suggestions the film was part of the marriage equality campaign, pointing out production began five years ago when the current political debate could not have been predicted.
“It’s actually a film about growing up… and these kids have the right to have their voices heard,” Newell said.
Matt Young – who is the adopted father of Graham in the film – told the Star Observer he fully supported Gayby Baby.
“I stand behind the film makers and am proud of our child’s involvement in the film,” he said.
“His story is beautifully told.”
Paul Bastian, who sends his daughter to Burwood High, told News.com.au he backed the school’s decision to show the film.
“The school, in our view, is just a really good school,” he said.
“It’s really diverse; they do such an excellent job of teaching tolerance of each other.”
Wear It Purple operations officer Naomi Graham said schools across Australia were scheduled to show Gayby Baby this Friday: “This year’s theme is about addressing presumptions and Gayby Baby does a really good job of shedding light on the perspective of a different group of young people”
On Friday everyone, including high school students, is being encouraged to wear purple to show their support for young LGBTI people.
A recent study by the Australian-based Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre showed 16 per cent of young people who identified as LGBTI have attempted suicide while 33 per cent have harmed themselves as a result of homophobic or transphobic harassment.
“Wear It Purple goes to the idea of young people being proud of who they are as a protective ensure stopping them getting to the point where they feel they can’t handle certain things,” Graham said.
On the day, the City of Sydney, NSW Police Force, LGBTI youth group Twenty10, LGBTI health body ACON and others will host a special Wear It Purple day event in Hyde Park. Similar events are also being planned by other local councils and organisations nationwide.