Pressure building on Safe Schools founder Roz Ward
The Australian, 22 November 2016
Safe Schools founder Roz Ward is under mounting pressure to step down from running the anti-bullying program in Victoria after she was photographed harassing a bystander at a protest.
The Victorian government appeared to withdraw its unwavering support for the LGBTI rights campaigner following the latest scandal, insisting the multi-million-dollar taxpayer-funded program was “bigger than any one person”.
“People have a right to peacefully protest; however, violence is never acceptable,” a government spokeswoman said in a statement yesterday, after Education Minister James Merlino refused to be personally drawn on the incident.
“We stand by our commitment to Safe Schools. It saves lives.”
The spokeswoman, however, declined to comment on Ms Ward’s ongoing role managing the program, saying it was “a matter for La Trobe (university)”, which manages the program on behalf of the state.
La Trobe briefly suspended the Marxist academic this year over a Facebook post decrying the Australian flag as racist before legal threats from the union forced the university to back down.
Ms Ward’s conduct at a November 12 anti-Donald Trump rally in Melbourne attracted widespread condemnation yesterday, with many questioning the apparent hypocrisy of an anti-bullying campaigner physically interfering with a person because of their politics.
The images show her trying to remove a cap from a man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Trump 2016”. She is seen smirking while the man tries to shield himself from her.
Ms Ward declined a request to explain her actions.
Victorian shadow parliamentary secretary Tim Smith led calls for Ms Ward’s resignation, describing her position as untenable. “Roz Ward receives taxpayer money to get on her pedestal preaching about tolerance … yet she’s been caught basically being very intolerant and threatening towards someone because she didn’t like his hat,” he said. “She’s got to go.”
South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who has criticised the Safe Schools program for pushing a “homosexual agenda” on to young children, described Ms Ward as a “hypocrite”.
Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton called on the government to cease providing taxpayers’ money to “teach children their gender is fluid, under the pretence of anti-bullying programs”.
“(Ms) Ward has always said Safe Schools was more about overturning notions of ‘heteronormativity’, including those protected in the Marriage Act, than about anti-bullying messages,” he said. “Her actions in bullying an innocent bystander prove this.”
The National Tertiary Education Union’s Colin Long defended Ms Ward. “It looked like a bit of fun and games to me,” he said. “I don’t imagine any threat to her employment, but we’d defend her to the hilt if there was.”
La Trobe University declined to comment.