12 March 1991 - Current
Dr CARLING-JENKINS (Western Metropolitan) — I move:
That this house —
(1) notes that —
(a) the bullying of any child, for any reason, is undesirable and unacceptable;
(b) the Safe Schools program has been found to be an ideologically driven indoctrination program, designed to promote a contested and controversial form of gender theory, rather than being the anti-bullying program it has been promoted as;
(c) Victorian parents have not been consulted prior to the rollout of the Safe Schools program within schools;
(d) Victorian parents are concerned about the age-appropriateness of the content being presented by the Safe Schools program to their children;
(e) Victorian parents of children with disabilities feel the Safe Schools program does not take their children's needs into account;
(f) there is widespread public awareness that the Safe Schools coalition Victoria has social re-engineering as one of its higher purposes;
(g) government schools should be free of any form of radical indoctrination; and
(2) calls on the government to —
(a) withdraw the program immediately from all schools; and
(b) conduct a review, which takes into account the views of parents into the incidence and prevention of bullying in schools.
This motion addresses the issue of the Safe Schools program, which is a program that I have been suspicious of since before entering this place. In fact I first started asking questions about the program in May last year during the budget estimates as a member of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. I am very pleased that in June this year the coalition came to a firm position against this program as well. I am pleased with their commitment to scrap this program when they gain government. However, this is at least two years away, and I am sure the government hopes it is longer, and two or more years of this program is far too long. I am therefore calling on the government today to withdraw the program immediately from all schools and to review the program and the issue of bullying thoroughly.
According to the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria website
there are 276 member schools, including
43 P–12 schools and 39 primary schools. I find the number of primary schools that have signed up to this program particularly disturbing. I will now move to the points within my motion.
The first point I make is that this house notes that the bullying of any child for any reason is undesirable and unacceptable. This is undeniable. No-one in this place supports the bullying of children for any reason. All bullying is undesirable and unacceptable. It can result in irreparable damage for the child. This is why it is so important to get anti-bullying programs right. So why have we introduced an unproven program? Why have we inflicted a program not based on scientific fact? And why have we decided to put in place a program that has never been trialled, never been tested and never been proven prior to inflicting it on vulnerable children?
It is undeniable that children who feel same-sex attraction or who are experiencing gender or identity confusion should be supported. However, the Safe Schools program is a flawed program. I do not believe it will achieve its aim. In fact I would be as bold as to say that history will vindicate me here, and in the decades to come the generation of children exposed to the safe schools program will be more confused, struggle more with their identity and question ultimately why the state insisted they be taught such things. Perhaps another government apology will be in order.
I will also point out that children with disabilities, children from different ethnic backgrounds and children with obesity, to name a few, are also subjected to bullying often. However, no specific program is designed for them, no specific program takes their needs into account and no specific program helps them to celebrate their difference and diversity. In 2014 the Annual Review of Psychology published an article by Jaana Juvonen and Sandra Graham called 'Bullying in Schools — The Power of Bullies and the Plight of Victims'. The article provides a critique of the main intervention approaches designed to reduce school bullying and its harmful effects and makes recommendations for future directions. It draws upon the research of over 150 articles, and nowhere in this extensive review does it suggest that anti-bullying programs should be based upon gender ideology in the way that the Safe Schools program is.
The second point of my motion calls on the house to note that the Safe Schools program is ideologically driven and that is not actually the anti-bullying program that it is being promoted as. Patrick Parkinson from the University of Sydney recently published a paper on Safe Schools entitled 'The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program — Finding the Sensible Centre'. He pointed out that a rational discussion is badly needed about the Safe Schools program based upon evidence. He advocated for a sensible centre between those who are advocates of the retention of the program and those who would like to see its abolition. I would agree with that.
This program has become a political football between the ALP, the Greens, the coalition and the DLP. I think it is our duty to find a sensible centre because our children are the ones who will suffer if we continue to use them as pawns in such a game. A sensible discussion should be had, and this is a discussion that should occur now not in two years time as part of an election campaign.
I will note that in an attempt to justify this program the authors of the program have made false claims, which I expect may be repeated in this house today. Parkinson brings attention to this fact. He says that in the teaching resource All Of Us on page 8 the claim is made that 10 per cent of people are same-sex attracted. This statistic is presented as fact by the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria. However, this figure is not reconcilable with any body of research. It has no basis in fact. I encourage everyone to read Parkinson's paper and if incorrect figures are quoted during this debate, I am happy to speak to this point further in my summation.
Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.