The Queensland Department of Education and Training has kept a list of schools signed up to the Safe Schools Coalition secret from the fringe Australian Christian Lobby group due to fears that the release of the list could compromise safety for students and staff.
The Safe Schools Coalition is a program funded by state and federal governments to provide resources to schools to reduce homophobia, transphobia and intersex prejudice in schools. For now the program is voluntary, and more than 500 schools across the country have signed up. The Australian Christian Lobby ran a campaign for more than 18 months against the material in the booklets, and after some help from The Australian forced the government to gut the program and announce it would not re-fund the program when federal funding ran out next year.
Not satisfied with this outcome, the ACL has been attempting to find out which schools have implemented the program. Most states have released lists of schools participating in the program, but Queensland has not. The Australian Christian Lobby’s Queensland spokesperson, failed Family First candidate Wendy Francis, filed a Right to Know request with the Queensland Department of Education and Training for a list of the 31 Queensland schools participating in the program. Late last month, the lobby group was informed that its request had been rejected.
Francis claimed the government was “thumbing its nose” at “community concerns” about the program in rejecting the request. A spokesperson for department, however, has told Crikey that it decided to reject the request specifically due to concerns for safety:
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“The Queensland school names were not released under the Right to Information request due to concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of students and staff at the schools that choose to access the Safe Schools Coalition support and materials”
Their concerns are not unfounded. At Mt Lawley Senior High School in Western Australia in March, students were harassed by anti-Safe Schools protesters on their way into the school.
In Victoria, the Safe Schools program will continue to run unchanged (costing the state an extra $300,000), and will be mandatory in state schools by the end of 2018. Federal Labor has not yet announced whether it will continue funding for the program if it wins the July 2 election.