RAINBOW FAMILIES is a 100% volunteer organisation that provides a network of support to children and families within the NSW LGBTIQ community. Our mission is to build a community which fosters resiliency by connecting, supporting and empowering LGBTIQ families, and to address discrimination and other social disadvantages faced by LGBTIQ member families.
We are very disappointed by the decisions made by the Federal Government in relation to the Safe Schools program.
All children have the right to feel safe and supported in schools, and to be free from harassment and bullying. Safe Schools is an important and valuable program, providing much needed support and resources designed to create safe and inclusive school environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students.
Statistics show that in 2008 up to 10% of young people identified as being attracted to the same sex, and of this 10%, 75% have experienced some form of homophobic bullying and harassment, much of this occurring in schools. A recent Australian qualitative study of the experiences of young people from sexual minorities indicated that poor educational outcomes and high rates of dropout were a common consequence of bullying. A US study found that more than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people who were bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity have attempted suicide.
The Safe Schools Coalition was created as a result of school principals seeking advice and resources to support their students. All teachers, principals and carers should have access to appropriate evidence based resources to provide the necessary support and guidance to students of need. Any changes to the content or the consent process to this resource reduces the integrity and accessibility of the program, and subsequently its effectiveness in reducing bullying of LGBTQI students.
The Government’s own review found the lesson plans were ‘consistent with the aims of the programme and the Australian Curriculum, suitable, educationally sound and age-appropriate’. Therefore, we fail to understand the drastic changes, and are disappointed that such an important program will be watered-down, and ultimately defunded.
It is highly distressing to the LGBTIQ community that the welfare of vulnerable children is being compromised as a result of the concerns of a small number of conservative politicians. We are also concerned that the media attention around this issue has negatively impacted LGBTIQ students. This is an abandonment by the Australian Government of their obligations to same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.
We urgently call on the Federal Government to continue with the Safe Schools program in its current form, and commit to continued funding beyond 2017.
Justine Maguire-Scarvelli Scott Brunelle