Opposition vows to dump Safe Schools program
Victoria’s controversial Safe Schools program will be axed if the Coalition wins the 2018 state election, with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy promising to replace it with a “genuine” anti-bullying program.
A Liberal policy document provided to Fairfax Media claims the program is “all about pushing one person’s radical-Marxist ideology onto other people’s children”.
“Victorian schools should provide genuine anti-bullying programs for students, which promote respect for all others irrespective of their circumstances,” the documents says. “These programs should not be a Trojan horse for politicising the Victorian education system.”
The Safe Schools program aims to promote acceptance of LGBTI students and was introduced six years ago by the Brumby Labor government. It continued to receive funding and support under the Baillieu-Napthine governments.
But the program has recently come under attack, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing a review amid claims it aims to indoctrinates children with a “gay agenda”.
The Coalition has promised to replace the “politicised” program with an initiative that sends “a strong message of mutual respect and anti-bullying”.
Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said the initiative needed to be scrapped because its brand was too damaged.
“We need to start all over again but this time without a fringe ideological agenda and a focus on a broader anti-bullying program that teaches kids to respect everyone and where parents are engaged,” Mr Wakeling said.
The unambiguous pledge to scrap the program presents a clear policy divide ahead of the 2018 state election. Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to expand the program to every government secondary school by 2018, and said he received his policy advice from experts “not from bigots”.
It follows a decision by La Trobe University this week to suspend Safe Schools Coalition co-founder Roz Ward after she called the Australian flag “racist” on her private Facebook page.
And last week, Ms Ward was forced to resign from her advisory role on the government’s LGBTI education committee due to the same Facebook post.
Committee chair and Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Rowena Allen confirmed on Friday that she asked Ms Roz to stand down from the advisory role.
“The constant attacks on Safe Schools are unjustified and my decision was in the hope that the community would go back to focusing on the important work of Safe Schools and the program is about more than just one person.”
An Andrews government spokeswoman said they spoke to Ms Allen about the Facebook post ahead of Ms Ward’s resignation.
“Given the conservative campaign against Safe Schools, the government spoke to Ms Allen about the impact the post would have on young people and the program,” she said.
Meanwhile, La Trobe University could face legal action over its treatment of Ms Ward.
Maurice Blackburn wrote to La Trobe University vice-chancellor John Dewar on Friday and demanded that he reinstate Ms Ward and withdraw his allegations of misconduct.
It will commence legal proceedings in the federal court if the university fails to meet these demands by 10am on Monday.
The law firm and the National Tertiary Education Union believe that Ms Ward’s suspension contravenes the university’s enterprise agreement, the Fair Work Act and Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act.
“Constraining Ms Ward’s right to express a political opinion because of the unreasonable and unfounded reaction of particular sections of the media, and the public to that opinion stifles public debate, gives in to fear and ignorance,” employment law expert Josh Bornstein wrote in the letter to La Trobe.
Professor Dewar said the university was following its disciplinary processes and no determination had been made about Ms Ward’s future at the university.
Liberty Victoria joined the chorus of condemnation against La Trobe University on Friday, saying Ms Ward’s comments were “open political dialogue in a free and democratic society”.
Liberty Victoria president George Georgiou SC said La Trobe University “will deserve the consequences” of legal action.
A petition calling for La Trobe to reinstate Ms Ward has received more than 10,400 signatures. A rally will be held at the university’s Bundoora campus on Thursday.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/opposition-vows-to-dump-safe-schools-program-20160603-gpb7le.html