THE Safe Schools Coalition has welcomed an investigation into its program announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today after he caved into pressure from conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi.
Coalition backbenchers led by South Australian Senator Bernardi have been calling for the program to be scrapped, saying it is “inappropriate” to raise sexual issues with children and adolescents.
He started an online petition calling for the government to remove funding to the program which he believed “goes beyond education and compels students into advocacy of a social engineering agenda“.
— Cory Bernardi (@corybernardi) February 15, 2016
Safe Schools Coalition Australia national director Sally Richardson said an investigation would allow the group to prove the positive effective of its program.
“Safe Schools Coalition Australia welcomes all opportunities to demonstrate the positive impact of this important program and provide the facts and evidence behind it,” she said in a statement.
“This program was developed in response to requests from Australian teachers and principals looking for advice and resources to better support the diversity and well-being of their students and create safe learning environments.
“All students, staff and families deserve to feel safe, included and valued at school. Ensuring the well-being of all students and their equal access to education is what this program is all about.”
However, some parents such as Jo Foster — the mother of an 18-year-old trans man — believe the investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition program is disgusting.
“It’s fear that drives Cory Bernardi,” she said.
“There’s nothing to be gained from stopping a program from teaching people not to be afraid of something that’s different.”
Almost 500 schools around Australia have so far opted in to the program, with over 15,000 teachers choosing to utilise the training and tools offered to feel better equipped to support sexuality and gender diverse students, their families and peers.
News of the investigation also prompted openly gay South Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms to call for a Senate enquiry into transphobia and homophobia in schools.
“Rather than targeting a program designed to help LGBTI young people and their families, the government should be focusing its efforts on the broader issue of combating bullying and transphobia in schools,” he said.
“Once again we see Malcolm Turnbull caving into the conservative forces on his backbench. This comes just hours after Senator Cory Bernardi’s rant late last night on this (Safe Schools Coalition) program.
“Opposition to the Safe Schools Coalition seems to be based on the absurd idea that simply by talking about differences in sexuality or gender identity you’re going to recruit people. Anyone with the most basic understanding of human sexuality knows how ridiculous that is.”