Audrey Marsh is an Executive Member of Rainbow Labor NSW
There are many things you can say about Safe Schools, the shorthand name for a Federally-funded program that operated between 2014 and 2017.
Safe Schools was a teacher training program that was voluntarily entered into by some public, independent and faith-based schools.
Safe Schools provided teachers with resources they could use to better teach and support LGBTIQ students, some of the most vulnerable in the education system.
Safe Schools was developed by experts and included materials backed by national and international research.
There are many things Safe Schools was not.
Safe Schools was not about teaching students radical gender theory.
Safe Schools didn’t teach students gay or lesbian sexual techniques, show them how to bind their chests or encourage boys to wear dresses.
Safe Schools is not now mandatory because marriage equality is law.
These are the arguments of Coalition for Marriage, Australian Christian Lobby, Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott. For conservative groups opposed to equality for LGBTIQ Australians, hysteria around Safe Schools is the new incarnation of long-standing homophobia. What’s more, it’s about positioning conservatives as the champions of families and children while they slash the government programs that families rely on.
We cannot let them get away with it.
If Labor distances itself from Safe Schools because of opinions published in the conservative media we become complicit in the work of the Hard Right.
Labor must prise the concept of “protecting kids” from the hands of the Hard Right and place it back in the domain of the progressive movement.
When the Hard Right pay lip service to stopping bullying, strengthening families or protecting kids we let them define a cultural narrative unchallenged.
It’s time for an agenda for families and children which defends all families and all children. Labor should not buy into the false choice of fighting for families or standing up for the LGBTIQ community. We can, and must, do both.
Safe Schools has been a political football. It is time for us to stop playing the game and lead. When Linda Burney, Jason Clare and Tony Burke voted yes for marriage equality they showed us how. Now it’s time for NSW Labor to do the same.
Labor must back a comprehensive teacher training program which focuses on the unique experiences of LGBTIQ students and families. This is a program that will change the lives of LGBTIQ students. It would have changed mine.