Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward quits Vic government role over post
The Australian, May 28, 2016
Safe Schools Coalition co-ordinator Roz Ward was forced yesterday to quit her advisory role with the Victorian government and faces a university investigation over a Facebook post where she labelled the Australian flag “racist” and called for it to be replaced with a socialist red ensign.
Ms Ward, who was advising the government on LGBTI issues, posted the incendiary statement after Premier Daniel Andrews apologised in the parliament on Monday for past gay discrimination.
The government hoisted a gay-pride rainbow flag on Victoria’s Parliament House as part of the historic event.
Ms Ward posted a photo of the rainbow flag on top of Parliament House on Facebook with the comment: “Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done.”
The Weekend Australian discovered the message during the week and on Thursday night asked the government and Ms Ward for comment.
In response, Ms Ward’s resignation and an apology was distributed to the media yesterday and the post removed yesterday morning from her Facebook page.
Ms Ward’s biggest allies, La Trobe University and the Victorian government, yesterday strongly criticised her post.
The government’s Gender and Equality Commissioner, Rowena Allen, said it was inappropriate.
“Ms Ward has acknowledged that the post was inappropriate and may have caused offence, even if meant in jest, and posted in private,” Ms Allen said.
“The Safe Schools program is not about any one person, it’s about providing safe and inclusive environments for all LGBTI kids at school. The Victorian government remains proud in its support of the Safe Schools program, and this will in no way affect the running of the program.”
Ms Ward remains employed as the Victorian co-ordinator of Safe Schools through La Trobe University, but a university spokesman said her post was being investigated.
“While the university respects academic freedom and the importance of free speech, we are concerned about the impact these comments could have on the good standing of our researchers in this field and the university takes this very seriously,’’ the spokesman said. “We will commence an investigation and consider all our available options.”
Ms Ward yesterday expressed regret. “I apologise for any offence that comments, posted on my private Facebook page, may have caused the government and members of the LGBTI community,’’ she said.
“These were private comments that were never intended for the public domain.’’
A government spokeswoman said: “Ms Ward’s view on the Australian flag is inappropriate and does not in any way represent the Victorian government’s view.”
The move may cause a headache for Mr Andrews, who has decided to fund Safe Schools in its current form, despite the federal government deciding its curriculum should change.
The program, which was ostensibly designed to prevent bullying of gay and transgender students, will be compulsory in Victorian state secondary schools by 2018.
The federal government pulled its funding from Safe Schools in March and gutted the curriculum after concerns from conservatives that it promoted a leftist ideological agenda.
Ms Ward has come under fire previously for linking the program with political causes. Railing against a “push to fit people into gender constructs that promote heterosexuality’’ at a Marxist conference last year, she alluded that Safe Schools was part of a broader strategy to change society.