THE star of Channel 10 drama Puberty Blues, Brenna Harding, has criticised the political reaction to LGBTI parenting documentary Gayby Baby by labelling the decision to restrict the film in NSW schools as “incredibly damaging” to rainbow families.
Harding, who was raised by same-sex parents, spoke to the Star Observer at an event in Sydney’s Hyde Park today to mark Wear It Purple day, a youth-led initiative that aims to celebrate and support young LGBTI people.
[showads ad=MREC]Meanwhile, the NSW education department has insisted that the documentary, which follows four Australian children raised by same-sex couples, has not been banned from schools – although it concedes there are limitations around its screening.
Soon to star in the third series of Australian period drama, A Place to Call Home, Harding said the commotion surrounding Gayby Baby directly impacted rainbow families.
“It’s incredibly damaging because when politicians are talking about the children of same-sex parents they’re talking about us as hypotheticals; when they say we shouldn’t see these families in schools they’re saying we shouldn’t see them at all,” she said.
“This was a really good opportunity to say you can have a family, you can be happy [and] you can be represented and they’ve successfully removed all of those positive things by banning this film from schools.”
Harding, who first became involved in anti-homophobia initiatives when at school in south Sydney, said the message of Wear It Purple — of support to young LGBTI people and kids with same-sex parents — was in danger of being drowned out.
“I’ve had that struggle but there are still so many gayby babies all around Australia and they’re going to have to deal with the repercussions of having these homophobic commentaries aired so publicly,” she said.
Kate Jenkins, who is in a same-sex relationship, is the mum of a 13-year-old who attends Burwood Girls High School – where the planned screening of Gayby Baby kicked off a furore earlier this week and led Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to say the film could only be shown outside of teaching hours.
Jenkins told the Star Observer the controversy had particularly affected her daughter.
“She was upset and I was worried she would feel ‘oh gee, it must be wrong’, but instead she said the students have been really outspoken,” she said.
“They’ve been surprised this has happened because it’s part of their school life that they celebrate diversity.”
Around 2500 people have signed an online petition urging the school to show the film.
Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, who has taken his family to a screening of Gayby Baby, criticised the NSW Government’s reaction to the film in a Facebook post that went viral.
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Both Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill made similar comments, as well as NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley.
NSW’s upper house Labor MP Penny Sharpe and upper house Liberal MP Shayne Mallard — both of whom are openly-gay — have also made speeches in support of Gayby Baby in NSW Parliament.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education insisted the film had not been banned.
“It can be screened outside of school hours if all departmental procedures and policies are adhered to,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Screening the documentary may be considered during class time if it is an integral part of the planned curriculum for an age appropriate year group.”
Today’s events in Hyde Park — which were supported by NSW Police, LGBTI health body ACON, LGBTI youth group Twenty10 and the City of Sydney council — was one of many Wear it Purple celebrations held in schools and workplace across the country.
At the event, Newtown state Greens MP Jenny Leong said she was disappointed at the debate over Gayby Baby: “In a week when we are usually coming together to celebrate the diversity in our schools, to have this really dark and offensive tone across Wear It Purple day is a shame but the purple we’re seeing across the city shows Sydney is a loud and proud.”
In Sydney’s Darling Harbour, 300 purple-clad Commonwealth Bank employees gathered for a giant selfie to raise money for the organisation, while Wear It Purple founder Katherine Hudson and Gayby Baby director Maya Newell spoke at an event at Burwood Girls High School, which both formerly studied at, that was attended by more than a thousand students.
Hudson told the Star Observer that while the students had found the last few days “really full-on” they were still “incredibly positive” about LGBTI inclusion.
Detective Superintendent Tony Crandell, NSW Police’s spokesperson on LGBTI issues, said 150 police officers would be wearing special purple-hued shirts today across the state.
Asked if the force had received any negative reactions by supporting Wear It Purple, Crandell said: “There’s always voice in the dark that says it’s a waste of resources but I say to those people, if I have influence over one LGBTI youth who says I might just go and talk to a police officer instead of doing something silly that’s worth whatever it costs to get 150 purple police shirts”.
Gayby Baby is in limited release at cinemas nationwide from September 3.[showads ad=FOOT]