Safe Schools activist Anne Mitchell out to ‘shape agenda’
The Australian, June 23, 2016
The research doyenne behind the controversial Safe Schools curriculum has spoken of “shaping an agenda” in order to attract support for the purported anti-bullying program — a bold admission likely to fuel concerns about a hidden ideological bent.
Emeritus professor Anne Mitchell, whose work with LGBTI communities helped spawn the program, has also revealed how early research into young people attracted to those of the same sex was purposely tied to a disease or public health issue to attract funding; initially HIV and later suicide.
“The early work I did in schools was all funded by youth suicide money,” Professor Mitchell told a Safe Schools Coalition event last month.
“People loved that — not gay people, but other people loved it. This was a great reason to spend money.”
According to audio leaked from the event, Professor Mitchell also said one of her team’s biggest successes was shifting the issue from the moral arena — given some religious schools would have been unlikely to sign on to a program that gave the appearance of supporting homosexuality — to a safety one.
“And schools were grateful of that; it made them feel safe,” she said. “It was a very successful way of shaping an agenda that could go forward at that time.”
Her comments, however, are likely to inflame debate about the Safe Schools program.
They have come to light after highly regarded school curriculum expert Ken Wiltshire entered the fray, voicing concerns about the outsourcing of controversial school subjects, such as religious studies and sex education, to “ideological interest groups’’.
“Governments should never outsource the development of curriculum content to interest groups, particularly those with an ideological purpose or agenda,” Emeritus Professor Wiltshire told The Australian. “We don’t want material creeping into the curriculum without it being quality assured.”
Not only has La Trobe University, through its Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society, steered much of the research behind Safe Schools, it has lobbied for policies to support LGBTI communities, including more inclusive sexuality education.
It now administers the taxpayer-funded Safe Schools Coalition Victoria program on the Victorian government’s behalf, with controversial Marxist activist Roz Ward at the helm.
Ms Ward, who was recently suspended for alleged misconduct, only to be reinstated a few days later, has publicly admitted that Safe Schools was not an anti-bullying program but rather a tool to promote gender and sexual diversity. Professor Mitchell, a founding member of the Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society, has previously said “we are still a way off schools actively celebrating the sexual diversity of their students”.
The Victorian opposition has pledged to replace the Safe Schools program, which is set to become compulsory in all government schools, with a comprehensive anti-bullying program.
Professor Mitchell declined to comment.