A program designed to help LGBTI students or a veiled case of propaganda?
That’s the fiery debate that has resulted in the Greens tomorrow moving for a Senate inquiry into homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordering a review of the $8m Safe Schools education program.
Coalition backbenchers have fiercely criticised the program, with ringleader Senator Cory Bernardi saying it would conversely lead to children being bullied and intimidated into complying with a radical program.
“It beggars belief that we’re asking 11-year-olds to identify themselves or imagine themselves as having no genitals,” Mr Bernardi told the Senate.
“Schools should be places of learning, not propaganda.”
Greens Senator Robert Simms countered by saying the program was not trying to encourage any particular sexuality or gender identity.
“Newsflash: some people are gay and some people are transgender and, despite Senator Bernardi’s efforts at social engineering and efforts to deny that reality exists within our school yard, there are gay and lesbian kids at school,” he said.
Mr Simms also targeted Mr Turnbull, saying he was simply caving into the conservative forces on his backbench.
“Opposition to the Safe Schools Coalition seems to be based on the absurd idea that simply by talking about differences in sexuality or gender identity you’re going to recruit people.
“Anyone with the most basic understanding of human sexuality knows how ridiculous that is.”
Mr Simms said the Senate Inquiry initiated tomorrow would look at the impacts of transphobic and homophobic bullying and identify ways that young people can be supported.
The Safe Schools review is expected to provide advice to Education Minister Simon Birmingham on the future of the controversial program by next month.