Last year the federal government announced that they would no longer be funding the Safe Schools Coalition – an anti-bullying program that combats homophobia and transphobia.
In response to these cuts protests were organised in a number of cities around Australia. People demanded that the vital program continue to be funded. While the federal government dug in its heals, the protests forced some state governments, like in Victoria, to pledge to fill the funding gap.
Despite widespread support for the program, the Liberal-led New South Wales government announced that they would not fill the funding gap. This decision will leave many LGBTIQ+ students who depend on this program out in the cold. Bullying in all forms must be opposed and students must be provided with the tools and information to prevent discrimination. Safe Schools was immensely helpful in this regard.
Socialists support the Safe Schools program and argue that it should be extended to all schools in all states. At the same time, we demand other reforms that would help cut across the discrimination LGBTIQ+ people face such as marriage equality, more housing for LGBTIQ+ youth, equality in the workplace, and free access to medications such as hormone replacement therapy and PrEP.
None of these things will be handed to us, they will need to be fought for. It is possible to get the federal funding for Safe Schools reinstated but it will require a determined campaign. It was protest action that successfully defended Safe Schools in Victoria, this approach will need to be replicated all over the country.
A campaign that involved teachers’ unions and student groups, and reached out to the millions of ordinary people who oppose homophobia and transphobia could have a big impact. It would also compliment other LGBTIQ+ campaigns like the one for marriage equality.
By Kai Perry