The Daily Tele has been running hard on its latest public
scandal – books
with same sex content in preschools – which has provided, among other things, the excuse for
it to use the titillating term “gaycare”. But is the public buying it?
While the Tele is intent on fanning the flames, it looks like everyone else has been quick to throw a wet blanket on the beat-up.

It’s just good to have this subject “in the media” and being
discussed, says Vicki Harding, who co-wrote the books in question with
her daughter Brenna. And interestingly, she says, Tillman Park
Children’s Centre, the facility at the centre of the Tele-manufactured controversy, has received large amounts
of support in the wake of the paper’scampaign – much of it in the Tele‘s own feedback section – with a spike in same-sex
families asking to be put on the centre’s waiting list.

The paper first stirred the pot
on Saturday, revealing that the Tillman Centre in Tempe, which “receives council and government
funding”, has devised a gay-friendly curriculum for children aged six
months to six years. Or in the Tele‘s
words
, a “perverse crusade to promote the gay lifestyle to toddlers” that’s “virtual child abuse”.

Specifically, the paper objected to the use of books like The Rainbow Cubby House and Koalas at Play from the centre’s Learn to Include range. The books, funded to the tune of $33,000 by the NSW
Attorney-General’s Department in 2004 as part of the government’s
anti-homophobia strategy, depict same-sex parented
families in everyday situations.


But why is this suddenly an issue given that books from the Learn to Include
series have been used by schools and preschools since 2002? It would
appear that the catalyst was last Friday’s “That’s so Gay”
conference, hosted by the NSW Anti-Homophobia Interagency – a state
government initiative – which was about addressing homophobia in
education settings (not in media settings, clearly). One of the
teachers from Tillman
Park appeared on behalf of Marrickville Council to chat about how the
centre supported children from same-sex families.

The Daily Tele caught wind of this, says Marrickville
spokesman
Nick Murphie, and saw story potential, leading to what he calls a
“trail
of misrepresentation”. And yet on Monday, Premier Iemma, whose government
supports the books and a wider anti-homophobia strategy, appeared to
buy into the Tele‘s
hype commenting that daycare
centres “should not be turned into battlefields for gender politics”.
But if he’s looking to score political points, he could be on the wrong
side. If the public reaction is any indication, no-one’s buying anti-gay sensationalism any more. Maybe it’s time for the Tele to get a new circulation booster – how about gay pride?

Peter Fray

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