Friday 18 March 2016

The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the independent review of the Safe Schools program, but has some concerns about the Government’s proposed changes to the program.

The Commission welcomed reasonable adjustments to the program as recommended by the independent educational expert to enhance its efficacy.

“We would support measures to improve and enhance the resources, and to ensure the age-appropriateness of materials for children and young people,” said National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell.

“However, there does need to be careful consideration of the impact of the Government’s proposed parental consent measures on children struggling with sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

“While we recognise the rights of parents to be informed and engaged in their child’s education, it is important to ensure children who have not yet ‘come out’ to their family can still access the program and its resources.”

The Commission particularly welcomed Professor William Louden’s finding that the All of Us resources is ‘consistent with the aims of the program, is suitable, robust, age-appropriate, educationally sound and aligned with the Australian Curriculum’.

Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs said all schools have a responsibility to provide safe and inclusive learning environments for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students who are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harassment.

“Australia has made binding commitments to children and young people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including that all children, irrespective of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, have the right to a safe and healthy childhood free from discrimination,” Professor Triggs said.

“The Safe Schools Coalition is helping Australia to meet its obligations, by reducing homophobic and transphobic behaviour, and increasing support for children and young people who identify as LGBTI.

“The Review of the Appropriateness and Efficacy of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia Program Resources has validated this work, finding that all of the official resources are consistent with the intent and objectives of the program.

“Schools should enable teachers, students and parents to access appropriate resources, and offer staff professional development opportunities to support LGBTI students.”

The Commission is concerned about the language used in the current debate and cautions against any unhelpful statements that could be harmful to children and young people.

“As we consider the review of the program, I strongly caution against any unhelpful statements in the media that could negatively impact upon an already vulnerable group of children and young people,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

Media contact: Angela Dorizas for Commissioner Mitchell on 0430 366 529. Sarah Bamford for President Triggs on 0417 957 525.