Student Wellbeing website may still contain link to Minus 18
The Australian, 20 October 2016
A government-run website promoting student wellbeing, which includes some Safe Schools material, may still contain a link to a video that references gay and transsexual youth group Minus 18 despite Coalition changes earlier this year.
Nationals Senator John “Wacca’’ Williams today raised concerns in Senate Estimates in Canberra about the rebadged Student Wellbeing website which replaced the Safe Schools Hub website.
In March Malcolm Turnbull quelled a backbench revolt by conservative MPs by ordering the Safe Schools Coalition to curb its classroom program, giving parents the right to block their children accessing the material and banning the group from referring students to third-party websites such as Minus 18.
But in Senate estimates today, Senator Williams said: “Why then do we find on the commonwealth site studentwellbeinghub.edu.au links to videos that contain branding and reference to one such third party organisation, namely Minus 18.’’
Minus 18 describes itself as “Australia’s largest youth-led network for gay, bi, lesbian and trans teens” and promotes links to sex shops and gay nightclubs.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham immediately asked for more details. “I would be interested to know what the information is and what it relates to, but the student wellbeing hub contains a bunch of resources that are not necessarily Safe School resources.’’
Education Department associate secretary for schools and youth Tony Cook said he had been assured in relation to Safe School all external links had been removed.
He said the wellbeing hub had about 400 resources on it, and about six related to Safe Schools.
“So if there is a particular instance we would be very interested in knowing that because we are not aware of that from a commonwealth perspective,’’ Mr Cook said.
Estimates also heard Senator Birmingham say that extreme comments on both sides of the heated Safe Schools debate – including those by the program’s creator Marxist advocate Roz Ward – have been unhelpful.
Senator Williams said Ms Ward, who founded the program, had previously acknowledged that Safe Schools “is not about anti-bullying, it’s about promoting sexual and gender diversity’’.
Senator Birmingham said he would “reflect, as I’ve done publicly previously, that some of the comments at both extremes of this debate have been most unhelpful including comments, the nature of which you just referenced that ascribe other motives to what should be a program and resources that are focused on ensuring inclusion in schools and support for all students that need it’’.
Greens Senator Janet Rice also asked Senator Birmingham if he agreed with Coalition Senator George Christensen “who likened the Safe Schools program to pedophile grooming’’.
Senator Birmingham said no.
He told estimates all the recommendations from the Louden Review into Safe Schools earlier this year had been implemented, aside from developing an extra resource for parents who were grappling with sexual or gender identity issues.
“All other changes as I understand it have been made, obviously some jurisdictions have taken objection to that and chosen to chart their own course,’’ Senator Birmingham said.
He confirmed Victoria was no longer receiving federal funding for the state’s Safe Schools program after it refused to adopt the changes to the program and decided to go it alone. The same will also happen in the ACT which is refusing to alter the program.
The annual $2 million funding for Safe Schools, struck under Labor in 2013, will not be renewed by the Coalition and runs out next year.
Senator Rice argued it was unfair to cut federal funding from next year for the Safe Schools program, saying she had heard from a mother of a transgender student in Melbourne that it had “turned her depressed son into a happy daughter’’.
“This was in Melbourne, so luckily for her the program is going to be continued,’’ she said.