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Safe Schools review concludes programme will not be defunded, conservative Coalition MPs up in arms


Wednesday 16 March 2016

Coalition MPs have been briefed overnight on the outcomes of the Safe Schools review, which has reportedly concluded the programme should not be defunded.

Some Conservative Coalition MPs including, Eric Abetz, George Christensen and Cory Bernardi – all outspoken critics of the Safe Schools programme – have called the review “a joke” and suggested the review, which took just a few weeks, had narrow terms of reference and inadequate consultation.

Fairfax Media is reporting that MPs privy to the briefing have said the review concludes the Safe Schools materials are consistent with the goals of the national curriculum, but suggests various recommendations to allay concerns expressed by conservative groups about the appropriateness of the materials.

Recommendations include more guidance for teachers in conducting the suggested classroom exercises contained in the All Of Us teaching materials and restricting the dissemination of links to the Minus 18 website (a gay activist group which helped develop the Safe Schools materials) which houses, among other things, resources for students looking for information on transitioning gender. MPs told the media that the report recommends those resources should only be made available to students through counsellors.

Fairfax also reports an understanding that more information will be given to parents, including potentially an opt-out option for the programme.

There has been no information so far on the review’s findings concerning the teachings on gender fluidity which were particularly controversial among Christian groups. Eternity understands that parliamentary opposition to the Safe Schools material is based on concerns about the advocacy of a pro-transgender position.

Senator Eric Abetz told Eternity that he couldn’t comment on the contents of the review, saying the briefing was private and he needed to “respect the confidentiality of the briefing.” However, he did say that though there was no timeframe for the release of the review, it would be “better if this was dealt with quickly, and I’m sure the Minister [for Education] would respect that.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for the review in late February, with the Minister for Education Simon Birmingham choosing Professor Louden from the University of Western Australia to conduct the review, after controversy about the programme reached fever pitch. Professor Louden was asked to consider the appropriateness and effectiveness of the Safe Schools Coalition materials.

The Education Minister is yet to release the review. Eternity has also contacted Philip Ruddock MP for comment.

Further responses when the report becomes available.

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