16 March 2022 – LGBTIQ+ equality, health and parents’ groups have joined the NSW Teachers Federation in welcoming the NSW government’s outright rejection of One Nation’s anti-LGBTIQ+ Education Bill.
“Every child deserves a quality education in a school where they have a place and feel valued,” said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director of Equality Australia.
“The LGBTIQ+ community in New South Wales will breathe a little easier today, as the NSW Government has stood up to One Nation’s bullying of trans and gender diverse kids, affirming their right to connect, succeed and thrive at school.”
The government’s position is contained in its response to Parliamentary Education Committee’s report into the Bill, opposed at the time by committee members Anthony D’Adam (Labor) and David Shoebridge (Greens).
The committee – chaired by the Bill’s author, One Nation’s Mark Latham – recommended policy changes that would have prohibited students from confidentially coming out as transgender to their teachers or school counsellors, banned trans students from participating in high school sports teams that align with their gender, required trans students to undergo full medical transition to be able to use toilets that align with the gender, and required parental consent for any discussion of matters concerning gender or sexuality.
The government’s response not only rejects One Nation’s Bill in full, but also rejects these recommendations, concluding that they would contradict existing legal obligations and policies, impinge on the rights of students, and states that existing policies deal sufficiently with relevant issues on a case-by-case basis.
Teddy Cook, the sole trans person invited to give evidence at the committee hearings, and acting Director, Community Health and Wellbeing at ACON, said:
“All children flourish and succeed when they are affirmed and supported for who they are.
“It’s fantastic to see the NSW government today stand by trans kids and their families, who already face so many barriers, and experience disproportionate levels of bullying and harassment.
“Trans kids already experience extremely concerning negative mental health impacts, as we see in research findings all over the world. One Nation’s Bill would only have made schools less safe for trans students, and placed lives at risk.”
Parents for Transgender Youth Equity’s Carlie Henderson, who appeared before the parliamentary inquiry said:
“Our trans daughter is a happy and healthy student who works hard, does well at school and puts her hand up to give back to her community. None of this would be possible if she wasn’t able to be herself, surrounded by a supportive school community.
“One Nation’s ‘Ignorance in Education Bill’ could have compromised this affirming school environment, so I’m relieved the government has rejected it. Now the school can continue working with my daughter and her peers to ensure that every child can achieve their best, educationally, and emotionally.”
NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said:
“Teachers and parents should be partners in providing the best educational opportunities to students. One Nation’s Bill would instead pit parents against schools and teachers, and fail to put students first.
“The education that parents expect from the school system is one that prepares young people to be active citizens of the world. We’re pleased the government has rejecting One Nation’s bill which sought to stop teachers from exploring contemporary topics and for students to be able to critically analyse and evaluate information available to them in order to develop an informed opinion on a topic.”
A recent landmark national study conducted by Associate Professor Jacqueline Ullman and Associate Professor Tania Ferfolja from Western Sydney University’s School of Education found that 82 per cent of Australian parents support the teaching of gender and sexuality diversity in schools.
“The findings of our research demonstrate that the premise behind One Nation’s bill is completely flawed. Australian parents want their children to be taught more, not less, about relationships and sexuality education reflecting the full spectrum of human sexuality and gender,” said Associate Professor Ullman.
“Rather than trying to silence teachers speaking about contemporary issues, our research shows that teachers could be supported by education departments and curriculum developers to speak about these issues in an age-appropriate way that is empowering and supportive for all students,” said Associate Professor Ferfolja.
Equality Australia commended the NSW Government for standing up against One Nation’s attack on trans and gender diverse students but said that the state has fallen behind on LGBTIQ+ rights.
“NSW has a special place in the history of LGBTIQ+ equality, but it is now falling behind other Australian states and territories in progressing full equality for our communities” said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director of Equality Australia.
“We now call on NSW Parliament to act swiftly to strengthen rights and protections for LGBTIQ+ people under law, including by ending so-called conversion ‘therapy’ and similar harmful practices, making it easier for trans people to access accurate identity documents and removing outdated carve-outs that allow private schools and religious organisations to sack, expel or deny service to LGBTQ+ people.”
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