Safe Schools program hijacked, says gay activist
THE AUSTRALIAN, JUNE 2, 2016
La Trobe University yesterday suspended Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward, as a former member of Victoria’s gay and transgender advisory committee warned the program was untenable because it had been hijacked by radical gender theory.
The Australian revealed last week that Ms Ward had called for the “racist Australian flag” at state parliament to be replaced with a “red one”, prompting her to quit her advisory role with the Victorian government and sparking a university investigation.
That investigation resulted in the Marxist Ms Ward’s suspension yesterday for “undermining” public confidence in the program because she continued to push ideologies that were “unrelated”.
A spokesman for La Trobe University said: “We are following our normal HR procures and we will not make any further comment.”
The National Tertiary Education Union said La Trobe had charged Ms Ward with “serious misconduct over media commentary on her private Facebook post”.
NTEU Victorian secretary Colin Long accused the university of giving in to a “media campaign”, invoking the spectre of the Soviet Union that once incubated the world view Ms Ward has since adopted.
“That La Trobe University has apparently allowed itself to be cowed into participating in this anti-intellectual, anti-democratic attack reflects the dismal state of intellectual capacity at the senior management level in some Australian universities,” Dr Long said. “We are very concerned that La Trobe University management seem to think that political views should be a criterion for employment, as was the case in the Soviet Union.”
The NTEU said it “considers that this is discrimination on the basis of political opinion and will be considering all legal avenues of redress”.
Gay rights activist Rob Mitchell — who was sacked from his Victorian government advisory role in 2014, arguing that he lost his job because he was too publicly critical of the former Napthine government for its inaction on tackling homophobia in schools — now believes Safe Schools has gone too far.
“They are completely out of control,’’ he told The Australian.
The Ballarat farmer was frustrated while on the government advisory committee with the slow rollout of Safe Schools and other anti-homophobia programs and was pushing for more resources and government initiatives. He said he threatened to make a bumper sticker saying that his boss — then ministerial advisory committee chairwoman Ruth McNair — was undermining the health of young people.
“The tragedy in all this is: when I was agitating for money to be put in anti-homophobia programs, the Safe Schools Coalition was what I would call a vanilla anti-homophobia program,’’ he said. “It seems to have been transformed into this queer theory sort of academic-driven lot of bullshit. As part of that process, they have lost their core constituency, which is parents of school kids. It has been completely hijacked, been derailed.”
He said the program needed to be replaced and that La Trobe University was too influential in gay and transgender research.
Mr Mitchell was instrumental in the AFL Players’ Association’s anti-homophobia campaign in 2010. “Safe Schools is now busted. The brand that is Safe Schools is now indelibly linked to this sort of out-there radical queer theory narrative,” he said. “It’s really out there academic theory about how people construct their gender identity. This is all just academic. We didn’t sign up for this.”
He said Safe Schools was meant to be about teaching children some people were gay, some were straight, some were bisexual, and they shouldn’t be abused. “Parents will get behind that and say, ‘I don’t want my kid abused at school for any basis’,” he said. “If they stuck to the basics and rolled that out, they might have got a bit of resistance (from right-wing radicals) but that resistance would not have got any traction.”
The Safe Schools Coalition, which is to be compulsory in Victorian secondary state schools by 2018, has been widely criticised by conservatives, particularly for its teachings on gender. Its material tells teachers not to refer to students as “boys and girls”, as the terms are “heterosexist”, and pupils as young as 11 are encouraged to role-play as gay teenagers. The program teaches that gender is not a binary male-female stereotype but about “how you feel inside” and “may change over time”.