Safe Schools’ anti-bully project to lose Tasmania funding
Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 18 April 2017
Tasmania will scrap support for the contentious Safe Schools program, opting to focus on a comprehensive anti-bullying scheme for the schoolyard.
Tasmania’s Education and Training Minister Jeremy Rockliff has confirmed that his government would not fund the program — which has so far been adopted by 22 Tasmanian schools — once federal funding stops mid-year.
“The Tasmanian government is committed to providing a safe and inclusive school environment to support student learning and wellbeing, which is why we have invested $3 million over four years as part of the Combating Bullying budget initiative,” Mr Rockliff said.
“It is up to each Tasmanian school to make their own decisions about the programs used in their school, and government schools are encouraged to use the Department of Education’s own program.
“Given the significant investment in our own anti-bullying initiative, the state government has no plans to take over funding for the federal program.”
Tasmania’s defection follows the weekend’s announcement from NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes that his government would introduce a broader anti-bullying scheme to replace Safe Schools, leaving support for the La Trobe University-developed program resting largely with the Labor-governed states.
Financial support for Safe Schools was a key part of West Australian Labor’s successful election campaign last month, while a spokeswoman for Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones said yesterday that there were no plans to ditch the program.
In South Australia, the government is weighing up whether to take over funding the program, in much the same way the Victorian Labor government has done.
“We see value in having a specific program to support schools to tackle bullying against LGBTI students,” said a spokeswoman for the SA Department of Education and Child Development. “We expect to make an announcement shortly about the future of the safe schools program.”
While Victoria has committed more than $2m to roll out the program to all state schools by the end of 2018, questions are being asked about the level of its commitment following the decision to sever ties with La Trobe and run Safe Schools directly from its own Education Department.
Previously vocal supporters of the program Premier Daniel Andrews and Education Minister James Merlino have lately left the job of defending it to departmental staff and media advisers. And following widespread criticism over Safe School’s promotion of contested gender ideology and sexual politics, the department has taken to describing the program as a “pledge” or a “policy” to create a safe and inclusive environment, with schools having discretion over how “this commitment is realised”.
Victoria’s opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said it was time for Mr Andrews to “admit he got it wrong on this discredited program”.
He said the Liberal Party would scrap the program if elected and replace it with a program “that teaches kids the importance of respecting people of all appearances, sexuality, gender, religion and ethnicity”.
“Daniel Andrews is very naive if he thinks school bullying is only confined to sexuality and doesn’t include appearance, religion, ethnicity or gender,” Mr Wakeling said.
A spokeswoman for Safe Schools Coalition Australia, which is convened by the Foundation for Young Australians, declined to comment on the NSW decision, other than to say the organisation remained committed to supporting LGBTI young people.
Additional reporting: Emily Ritchie, Jennine Khalik