PRO-Safe Schools advocates are urging Queenslanders to sign a petition set to be tabled in state parliament that calls on MPs to ensure funding for the program as it trails behind an opposing petition.

The “for” petition is on Queensland Parliament’s official website and citizens have until April 18 to show their support for the Safe Schools program in Queensland.

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 The petition also urges the state government to continue funding the program should the federal government cease funding from 2017 onwards.

At the time of print, the petition opposing it was ahead by around 1800 signatures and was being shared widely by the Australian Christian Lobby.

“It is easy for a vocal organised minority like the Australian Christian Lobby to organise the people in their network to sign their petition on the Queensland Parliament website,”said Kat Henderson, the co-convenor of Equal Love Brisbane.

“What we want is the people who see no problem with Safe Schools program to take a minute or two out of their day to sign the petition.

“This sends a clear message to the Queensland government that the majority of people do support this program and have no problem with anti-bullying. The public debate has already been skewed enough.”

Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) state president Kevin Bates spoke at Brisbane’s Safe Schools rally last Saturday, which was one of many that took place around the country this month.

He said he felt the important thing is that Safe Schools provided teaching professionals and principals with training with how to deal with and appropriately manage students with same-sex attraction or gender diverse orientation within the school context.

“From our perspective these students are in schools and they have a right to get proper high quality education,” Bates said.

“What we know from the widely canvassed evidence is sadly a high proportion of same-sex attracted or gender diverse orientation students suffer bullying in school.

“They have a much higher rate of mental health issues and self-harm and if teachers are better prepared, then they’re in a better place to provide support for these students.”

Schools have to opt in to the program and then go through a community consultation process to join the program. Approximately 100 schools are part of the program in Queensland.

Other speakers at last Saturday’s rally made it clear the benefit was evident through their personal journeys.

“I’ve been a part of the professional development on offer at Safe Schools and completed the one day program,” Bates said.

“Teachers across the spectrum from new teachers right through to those teaching for 35 years have said to me, ‘I feel much better prepared having the basic knowledge I need to understand the challenges for these students therefore better to cater to their needs’.”

Labor’s candidate for the federal seat of Brisbane Pat O’Neill, who also happens to be openly-gay, also spoke at the rally.

“When Coalition MPs talk about protecting students from brainwashing and social engineering, they are not talking about the Safe School program they are talking about LGBTI shy Australians,” he said.

“They speak to people throughout Australia, young people who may be having issues with their sexuality see these members of Parliament on television basically saying LGBTI youth are second class citizens and do not deserve the same respect as everyone else.

“I also feel it is important people share their stories and experiences in schools and what Safe Schools would have meant to them,” O’Neill said.

“People should be standing up and speaking out about the cuts and about Safe Schools and we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion if it wasn’t for Malcolm Turnbull not standing up to the right-wing bigots in his party.”

To sign the petition, click here

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