Students asked about their sexuality for scholarships
The Australian, August 1, 2016.
A leading education scholarship provider backed by some of Australia’s biggest businesses has begun quizzing high school students on their sexuality as part of its application process, sparking fresh concerns about the creeping influence of LGBTI rights activism on schools.
The Australian Business and Community Network Scholarship Foundation is inviting applications for its 2016 grants program and, for the first time, is offering a grant targeted at Year 10 students who “identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex”.
As a result, the application form inquires as to whether the candidate is male, female or transgender and whether they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. In past years, candidates were simply asked whether they were male or female.
The move means the program, chaired by prominent businessman Michael Hawker and financially backed by corporate heavyweights Microsoft, Optus and PricewaterhouseCoopers, strays from its original purpose of helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds with education-related costs.
The scholarships, each valued at $7000 over three years, are open to Year 10 students, who are typically 15 or 16.
The shift comes as the LGBTI lobby has become increasingly influential, including within schools, where programs such as the government-funded Safe Schools Coalition has sparked fears about young people being exposed to politically motivated ideologies around gender and sexuality.
Many of the ABCN’s board and council members head up organisations that have publicly backed the marriage equality push, such as Paul O’Sullivan of Optus, Microsoft boss Pip Marlow and Luke Sayers, who runs PwC in Australia.
PwC, which proudly declares itself as “one of the first private sector organisations to sign a letter of support for marriage equality in Australia”, courted controversy earlier this year when it released a report claiming that the cost of the planned plebiscite on same-sex marriage would exceed $500 million.
Damian Wyld, national policy officer for Family Voice Australia, criticised the awarding of education scholarships based on sexuality as another example of ideological activism making its way into schools.
“Why should children, especially in a school setting, be asked to declare their sexuality or gender identity?” Mr Wyld said yesterday.
“Many 15-year-olds are still working through issues around sexuality. Offering a financial incentive to identify as ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex’ is completely inappropriate.”
According to the latest National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health, released in 2014 and billed as the most comprehensive insight into the sexual behaviour and attitudes of young people, 23 per cent of Year 10 students reported engaging in sexual intercourse. “Surely merit or financial disadvantage are more appropriate criteria for scholarships,” Mr Wyld said.
According to the ABCN’s latest annual report, 15 scholarships were awarded last year, with $52,000 paid out to students. The foundation received more than $300,000 in donations last year, and more than $330,000 in 2014.
Launched in 2013, scholarships have traditionally been targeted at high-potential students from disadvantaged schools who were experiencing “significant economic, family or social challenges” that could impact on their education, particularly their ability to complete secondary school and graduate on to tertiary education. Grants must be spent on items that assist the student complete Years 11 and 12, such as books, stationary, computer equipment, tuition costs, uniform and transport.
For the first time, this year all applications are required to be submitted by school principals on behalf of applicants.
The scholarship foundation’s application guide says the group is offering a “targeted scholarship” for a student identifying as LGBTI “in addition” to its regular scholarships. It stresses that the grant recipient would not be identified without their consent.
The foundation, Microsoft, Optus and PwC did not respond to requests for comment.