The ignorance and disregard for young people demonstrated by members of the Australian Government in recent days has been disturbing and disgusting. The attacks on the Safe Schools program that is being implemented in over 500 Australian schools is typical of an administration that has thrived on creating and maintaining divisiveness within the Australian community. Cory Bernardi and his crackpot cronies need to stop it with their attacks on a program that, as far as I can tell from both those who delivering it and those who undertaken it, is doing a considerable amount of good. Given that few schools have any kind of genuine anti-bullying strategy in place, any program targeting such behaviours is a godsend and a program that specifically addresses one of the primary triggers of bullying in our schools – sexual orientation and identity – is long overdue.
Tolerance is critical in establishing safe environments for all students and, for so long, LGBT students have been subjected to behaviours and attitudes that are borne from ignorance and intolerance, attitudes that are subsequently endorsed by attacks on the Safe Schools program and other initiatives seeking better treatment for members of the LGBTI community, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Surely any program that helps schools develop strategies that helps both LGBTI students feel confident in their sexual identity whilst also educating others about the impact of ignorance and intolerance – which typically manifests as bullying – must be a good thing? Right? It is important that school communities enact strategies to eliminate any kind of bullying or harassment for all students, so the attitude of Bernardi and the like is mindboggling. Is he suggesting that LGBTI people should be subjected to bullying and mistreatment? Does he not think that everybody should have the same right to safety and security at school and in the broader community?
Bernardi’s suggestion that Safe Schools is ‘indoctrinating’ students is ludicrous in the extreme. You can’t make somebody gay, so what is he afraid of exactly? Providing information and trying to develop a greater understanding about other members of our community is not indoctrination, it is education. Furthermore, developing strategies that embrace diversity and encourage students to be confident in their own identity (such as eliminating gender-specific uniforms) is fantastic.
We have a long way to go before all LGBTI people, young or old, can live without fear of judgement or discrimination. If the Safe Schools program can provide LGBTI people with a sense of confidence about their place in the world and educate others about the impact of bullying, then it’s hard to see any reason why the program shouldn’t continue long into the future. Of course, the ideal scenario is that we become such a tolerant, enlightened and accepting nation that such programs are never needed.
To find out more about the Safe Schools program, click here.