Safe Schools

Question

A) The Safe Schools Coalition, which is present in many ACT schools, teaches controversial queer gender theory, which includes teaching children that gender exists outside the male and female binary, and that gender is fluid and changes over time. It was initially promoted as an anti-bullying program until one of its founders declared it was not about anti-bullying, but instead was about promoting gender and sexual diversity. Will your party commit to removing this highly controversial and sexualised program from ACT schools?

B) If your party is not prepared to remove the Safe Schools Coalition from the ACT, will your Party commit to implementing the full recommendations directed by the Federal Education Minister which includes amongst other things: requiring parental consent, limiting the use of materials to those on the Safe Schools Hub and restricting availability to high schools?

Answer
Party Answer

ACT Greens

The ACT Greens believe that the Safe Schools program delivers a very valuable service to help make our schools happier, healthier places for all students. We are committed to ACT public schools providing positive and engaging environments where young people feel safe and respected, and where they can achieve success and fully engage in their education.

The Safe Schools Program has the full support of the ACT Greens. Safe Schools Coalition Australia does critical work with school communities to raise awareness and empathy, respond to bullying and discrimination, and create learning environments that foster the positive values of respect and inclusion. Currently 23 of the 87 ACT public schools are members of the Safe Schools Coalition. There has been positive feedback about the Safe Schools Coalition from ACT public schools, and the advice provided by the Safe Schools Coalition to schools and staff is highly valued.

The ACT Government has previously written to the Federal Minister for Education reinforcing the ACT’s positive experience with the program, and seeking to ensure that the review was designed to strengthen the Safe Schools Coalition rather than unpick this important program. Subsequent to this review, the changes proposed by the Federal Government made it clear that new contractual conditions would reduce the effectiveness of the program. The ACT Government and I, as Greens Minister for Education, have committed to funding the existing program ourselves.

ACT Labor

ACT Labor has already committed to fund the Safe Schools Coalition independent of the Commonwealth, and ensure students experiencing challenges around sexuality and gender can learn in safe, supportive and understanding environments. Every child in Canberra has the right to feel safe at their school, regardless of their gender or sexuality. The Safe Schools program supports young people, saves lives and makes a positive difference. The conditions now imposed on the program by the Commonwealth are so onerous and restrictive as to render the safe schools program completely unworkable and that is why we have committed to funding the program as it stands.

Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals have actively sought to eliminate bullying in schools and other places of learning, as well as in the workplace. Bullying in all forms is abhorrent and damaging to children of all groups.  

The Canberra Liberals support a high level of self determination in schools, and generally support the decisions made by school boards in consultation with their communities. In addition, parents, governments and the community share responsibility to help eliminate bullying, harassment and exclusion of our young people.

As part of this the Canberra Liberals think that anti-bullying programs have an important place in addressing bullying of children and fostering understanding. However where such programs refer students to information resources with sexualised content, we think it's very important materials are age appropriate.

To help young people going through challenging and emotional times, we think standardised programs need to be supplemented by personalised support from school counsellors, psychologists and other professionals.

We have said we will implement the Commonwealth’s review of the Safe Schools program.

Liberal Democrats

The ACT Liberal Democrats consider that the ACL’s characterisation of the Safe Schools Program is essentially on the mark. The designers of the program do appear to have intentionally set out to position it as an anti-bullying mechanism, seeking to unfairly conflate criticism of the program as somehow pro- bullying.

The ACT Liberal Democrats believe that parents are the key stakeholders in the design of school curricula. The Safe Schools Program fails on this measure alone. There is considerable concern within the community about the agenda of this program, and the lack of consultation has led many to feel let down by government.

We believe that the education system can be reformed by enhancing choice and flexibility and promoting school autonomy. For more information on our Education policy, please refer to: http://act-ldp.org.au/Policy_Education.html

Sustainable Australia

No policy. We would fully examine all the relevant issues and consult with all community stakeholders prior to policy formation, if elected.