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12 March 1991 - Current

Safe Schools program
Page 5937
09 November 2016

Dr CARLING-JENKINS (Western Metropolitan) — I appreciate the opportunity to exercise my right of reply to the motion listed as order of the day 3 standing in my name.

Firstly, I would like to thank Ms Shing for the disarmingly honest and intimate, but lengthy, contribution she made last sitting week. Disappointingly its length prevented other members from contributing. They were expecting to speak on the day in accordance with negotiated timeslots. This debate would have been all the poorer if it had not been for the coalition, the Greens and the members of the crossbenches making extra time for it to be resumed today, and for this I note that I am deeply grateful.

Unfortunately Ms Shing very clearly misrepresented my arguments. Listening to her contribution alone one could have thought that my motion was an attack on LGBTI people. Such an interpretation of my motion is not accurate, and I invite the house to re-read my motion for clarification. I have stated many times during my time here in the house that every human life has equal dignity and value regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or ability. This motion is in keeping with that, and at no point does it suggest that LGBTI young people should not be treated with respect.

Where I disagree with Ms Shing is that I believe that the Safe Schools program is not the way to help children who are struggling with their gender identity. Ms Shing spoke often of it being okay for them to be who they are, and I simply question the ability of the Safe Schools program to do this. There are some aspects of the program that pose significant dangers to the health and wellbeing of children, and this is what lies at the heart of my motion. It is not a position based on ideological or religious belief; it simply does not need to be. The fact is that these dangers, which I drew attention to in my opening remarks and which other members have spoken about as well, are widely recognised by experts across the fields of paediatrics, education and child protection. And if this program is for, as Ms Shing emphasised, secondary schools, I would like to know why the government is allowing it and promoting it in our primary schools, why it is funding the Safe Schools Coalition to enter primary schools to promote the transitioning of 10-year-olds and why it is allowing materials designed for year 8 students to be taught openly to year 3 students.

There have been claims made during this debate that Safe Schools is not about Roz Ward and not about cultural Marxism. If that were true, I would certainly find Safe Schools less objectionable — in fact I doubt there would be much public controversy, if any — but in reality that is not the case. Gender ideology is clearly at the heart of Safe Schools, and this is clear to many, if not most, of us. This has been expressed by parents and it has been expressed in the media and by the general public who recognise the vein of radical indoctrination.

I am absolutely all for an anti-bullying program that teaches emotional intelligence, mutual respect and understanding for all students who are 'othered'. This would achieve true equality, without the indoctrination element of the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria. The RULER program out of Yale University does this successfully. It is proven — and I emphasise 'proven' — to drastically reduce bullying, help students to understand themselves better and create a more effective and compassionate society, all without being driven by gender or any other ideology. And guess what? It is focused not on furthering the political agendas of LGBTI groups, but on developing the emotional intelligence of our future generations. The money put into Safe Schools would be better channelled into a program like the RULER program, and the fact that the government refuses to do this is testament to the reality that political ideology is at stake.

Mrs Peulich spoke in favour of my motion in the last sitting week, and I thank her for her support. As a former schoolteacher of 15 years and as a mother, Mrs Peulich is one of many who understand the concerns about Safe Schools and how it has little to do with bullying and a lot to do with the ideological indoctrination of children during their formative years. As she said in her contribution, the program is not appropriate and it is not right. That sentiment is shared by concerned parents all over Victoria.

I also want to thank all members who contributed to the debate today, and I will address each very briefly. In response to Ms Patten, who started off today, I just want to say that at no point did I say in any part of my contribution that being gay is an ideology. That is a complete misrepresentation of what I presented. Ms Patten quoted contested stats. As an academic I will not even dignify that with a reply, but I simply refer Ms Patten to my initial contribution for clarification.

Ms Pennicuik presented the Greens position of supporting the Safe Schools program and as part of her contribution she cited a review. I am familiar with the so-called national review of the Safe Schools Coalition by Professor Bill Louden, and I think it is very important to note some facts about this review. Firstly, it was meant to be completed by two professors — Bill Louden and Donna Cross. Professor Cross, a former Western Australian of the Year and distinguished expert on bullying, however, took no part in the review. Secondly, Professor Louden was only given two weeks to report, and as such his report did not entail a proper review of the experiences of teachers, students and parents when elements of the program were utilised in their schools, nor could it reasonably have been expected to be a full review of the resources of this program. Lastly, the review process did not involve a call for submissions. Surely any commonsense approach would recognise that this review hardly carries legitimate weight. I call on this government to conduct a legitimate review.

Mr Finn in his contribution expanded the debate by pointing out that many children are bullied for a variety of reasons and that the Safe Schools program is not the answer. He also spoke passionately on the point that parents should have more control over what is taught to their children, and quite simply I agree.

I thank Mr Eideh for his contribution. However, I encourage him to read the program to find the facts of what it teaches.

Mr Ramsay covered each point in detail and I appreciated his contribution. In the end he called quite simply for the program to be put in the bin and to be redone because of a lack of confidence in its ability to promote anti-bullying, and I agree.

Ms Pulford said that the government cannot support this motion. I want to say that I agree with the ideals that she set out around children being safe and protected, and I would also note that I have never been called post-truth or Trumpian — so I thought that was quite amusing.

Ms Pulford interjected.

Dr CARLING-JENKINS — Thank you, Ms Pulford, for clearing that up. I just thought it was quite amusing. Apparently it was not directed at me — perhaps at other people in this chamber.

Mr Finn interjected.

Dr CARLING-JENKINS — Mr Finn is owning that one. However, Ms Pulford simply did not have her facts straight and she has been misled, I believe, which is unfortunate.

Mr Ondarchie clearly set out the need from personal experience — and I thank him for sharing his personal experience — for a genuine anti-bullying program which is safe, inclusive and age appropriate. He also drew on the words of his constituents, and I appreciated that and agree with his comments.

Ms Lovell also highlighted the role of parents and the deceptive name of the program, which I thought was a good point. The name 'Safe Schools' is used to mask what is an extreme agenda. She also read out an email that she had received from a principal of 40 years standing, which I thought was a valuable contribution to this debate, and I agree with her position.

Ms Bath made just a very brief contribution in which she emphasised respect for all experiences and she spoke to the point of protecting children. I really admire the way Ms Bath will go out and seek an expert opinion, and this is what she did. She does this consistently when speaking on bills and she did it for this motion. She sought out an expert opinion on anti-bullying and respect for diversity, and found that what came back was that there is no need for overburdening within our classrooms. I thought that was a really interesting and very valuable point. I thank her for that contribution and agree with her.

In conclusion, our children deserve the very best educational programs we can give them. Safe Schools is ideological and less about bullying than furthering the political and social agendas of the LGBTI movement to which it is intimately connected. Instead of being indoctrinated with such theories and agendas our children deserve a program that builds their emotional intelligence and eradicates all forms of bullying, without controversy, without confusion, without causing concern to parents and without ideologically based for bias. To this end, Safe Schools should be immediately withdrawn to prevent further damage, and it must be largely overhauled if it is to ever continue as a program worthy of the children of our state. I commend this motion to the house.