Are Victorian school children being taught Safe Schools?

In a televised debate on Sky News, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews was asked a question about the Safe Schools program. My interest doesn’t relate to the forthcoming election, but as a parent with 3 children, I am interested in what they are (or aren’t) taught at school.

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I found Mr Andrews’ answer to be a curious one, and it raises several important questions.

Are our children taught Safe Schools material?

First of all, Mr. Andrews made the point that “Safe Schools is not taught to any student in any school in this state…It is a resource for teachers”.

He is correct when he says that Safe Schools provides resources for teachers. However, Mr. Andrews is mistaken when he suggests that “Safe Schools is not taught to any student in any school in this state.”

The reality is, Safe Schools material is promoted and taught in almost every State secondary schools, and it is also found in many primary schools and privates schools around Victoria.

For example, the Safe Schools Coalition website explains,

“The Hub is the Government’s one-stop−shop for information and resources on student wellbeing for the whole school community including students and their parents/carers. The site includes curriculum−aligned resources on contemporary topics and issues that impact on the wellbeing of students.”  (bold is my emphasis)

All of us is assigned material to be used in schools. To quote,

“ALL OF US All Of Us is a collection of short videos and teaching activities designed by Safe Schools Coalition Australia in order to assist students in understanding gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex topics. “

“ALL OF US: UNIT GUIDE…The Safe Schools Coalition Australia guide for a Health and Physical Education resource for years 7 and 8 on the topic of gender and sexual diversity. This unit is taught in conjunction with videos, student handouts and posters”

Safe Schools own advertising speaks of material that is designed for children, and it is written to be integrated throughout school subjects: “This material can be interspersed throughout school subjects, “Schools may also choose to adapt and use the videos and teaching activities in other areas of the curriculum such as English, History, Humanities, Legal Studies, Civics and Citizenship, and applied learning curriculums (e.g. VCAL, TAS) where the exploration of LGBTI people and topics allows.”

 

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Is Safe Schools about preventing all bullying?

I have a second question relating to the scope of Safe Schools. Mr Andrews said,

“It is a resource for teachers to make sure that if a child is bullied for wearing a turban or if a child is bullied (or a younger person is bullied) because of their sexuality or if a person is bullied because of the faith they practice or if a person is bullied because of their gender, then they have a safe environment”

While I applaud the Premier for speaking against students being bullied because of their race or religion, this has nothing to do with Safe Schools.

Safe Schools does not address issues relating to bullying on the basis of a student’s race or religious beliefs. It is specifically and narrowly aimed at preventing bullying of LGBT schools students and promoting and even encouraging the normalcy of LGBT lifestyles.

The Victorian Education website describes the program as follows: “In 2010, the Victorian Government established Safe Schools to ensure schools are safe places for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students, and are free of discrimination.”

To my knowledge, there is no emphasis on or even mention made in the program about bullying because of race or religion. I am yet to read even a paragraph that teaches students to respect and affirm other students for their religious convictions. The material does, however, allege that students who affirm a Christian or Jewish view of sexuality as being sexists,. Children who believe heterosexuality is normal or desirable are labelled with the new and derogatory term, heterosexism. There are also numerous reports of children being marginalised in their schools for not supporting the gender fluidity theories that are promoted as fact in Safe Schools.

I’m sure our schools are doing an excellent job at teaching children to respect people from other races and religions, but it is simply wrong to suggest the Safe Schools is doing anything to counter this kind of bullying.

Is Safe Schools compulsory?

A third question relates to Mr Andrews’ suggestion that Safe Schools is not compulsory. It has been interesting to note that while the Federal Government and many State Governments have either greatly reduced the Safe Schools curriculum or removed it altogether, Victoria has pushed ahead with the plan to implement the program into every secondary school by the end of 2018.

It is interesting to note that Mr Andrews stresses that Safe Schools is not part of the Education Curriculum. While that appears to be the case (it is fine to argue over semantics), but we must note that Safe Schools is an official program of the Victorian Education Department.

In March 2016, The Age reported that “Education Minister James Merlino says he’ll make the original un-gutted program compulsory for all state schools by the end of 2018”

In January of this year, Education Minister, James Merlino reminded Victorians that, “We will be continuing to deliver the Safe Schools program and every government secondary school will be participating by the end of 2018.”

In other words, every secondary school in Victoria is expected to participate in Safe Schools, and while there is flexibility as to what the school presents, there is specific teaching material provided for teachers to implement across the school curriculum.

I’m sure many parents would be keen to hear Mr Andrews or Mr Merlino clarify the Premier’s comments.

NSW is removing Safe Schools. Could Victoria follow?

It was announced today that the NSW Government is scrapping the controversial school curriculum, Safe Schools. From July, not only is the Federal Government stopping its funding of Safe Schools, but the NSW Education Department will introduce an alternative program. The content of this new program is yet to be released, but early indications suggest that it will be a broader and more inclusive program, and one that does not depend on the now debunked gender theory.

Safe Schools is presented as an anti-bullying curriculum, and is designed to teach children acceptance of other children who are different to them. The emphasis however is on sexuality, and teaching a flawed view of sexuality and encouraging young children to explore these alternative sexualities for themselves.

Safe schools was originally an opt-in program, but it is now compulsory in all secondary schools across Victoria. Many primary schools have also signed up.

One of the chief authors of Safe Schools, Roz Ward, defined the curriculum’s intent as follows: 

“Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’re still a long way from liberation,’’ she said. “Marxism offers the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordinarily new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.”

It would be wrong to suggest everyone who supports the program views Safe Schools as does Roz Ward, but it is telling that one of the chief architects has admitted that Safe Schools is less about anti-bullying, and is designed to educate and influence a new generation of children to the values of marxism and to its accompanying sexual ideology.

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One year ago, the Federal Government made numerous changes to the curriculum, following widespread concerns regarding the appropriateness of material and the promotion of third party websites whose content could not be approved.

The Victorian Education Minister responded by saying,  Canberra was caving in to the bigots, and announced Victoria would not implement any of the amendments.

At the start of this year, the NSW Government introduced even more overhauls, including that gender fluid theory could no longer be taught in schools.

Only Victoria has made Safe Schools compulsory for schools. Each school can decide how much of the curriculum they wish to use, but the material to be used must be that which is set by the education department. This makes sense, except that Safe Schools is, to quote Professor Patrick Parkinson from the University of Sydney, ‘dubious’, ‘misleading’, and ‘containing exaggerated claims’.

Concerns over Safe Schools has received some bipartisan support in NSW, with Labour MP, Greg Donnolly saying,

“Politicians in one state do not generally take kindly to colleagues in another state giving them advice. There can be exceptions but the unwritten rule is that if you stick your head out and give advice across the border, you are likely to get it knocked-off. With that said, let me now give some advice to my Labor colleagues in Victoria.

The Safe Schools program that the Victorian Government is imposing on public schools in that state is political poison. While it may be just starting to show up in focus groups and other polling activities undertaken by the Labor Party, do not underestimate its malignancy. When it fully manifests, it will be like a fully laden freight train that you will not be able to stop.

The problem for the Premier and the Minister for Education is that the Safe Schools program from the get-go was never about anti-bullying. It was about inculcating into school children hard edged sexuality and gender ideologies. The same ideologies that are examined and debated when undertaking Gender Studies units at university. The same units that such students elect to do by choice; no compulsion or requirement. Not only are these ideologies being presented to school children as a matter of fact i.e. sexuality and gender are not to be understood in any other way, but parents are being kept completely in the dark about what is being presented to their children and by who.”

As it stands, there are children in Victorian schools currently transitioning on account of what is being taught, despite best medical practice stating that most children with gender dysphoria will grow out of it by adulthood and will happily conform to their birth gender. Many Victorian families are being pressured because they cannot subscribe to the curriculum, and feeling  pushed out of the public system. Children who believe heterosexuality is normative are labelled  as sexist, and the program is built to reframe their thinking until they believe that all sexual preferences and practices are legitimate human expression, and perhaps they might wish to explore these for themselves.

Being a Victorian, I understand our reluctance to listen to our northern neighbours. After all, has anything good ever come out of Sydney? I totally get why Victorians build rhetorical walls to keep out this colony of convicts. Listening to a New South Welshman may sound like a Banshee singing Justin Bieber, but on this occasion we Victorians are fools to ignore such sage advice.

Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino, as a Victorian and parent of 3 children, I strongly urge you to re-examine your position on Safe Schools, and the unscientific and harmful gender theories now being forced upon our children. It’s ok to once in a while  redress mistakes and poor policy; humility is in fact a virtue that we value in our political leaders.  In winding back ‘Safe Schools’ and aspects of the ‘Respectful Relationships’ program, we do not have to wind back the clock on caring for children who may be working through issues of their own sexuality. We want to see them safe and flourishing, and this is achievable without having to promote ideology that is demonstrably skewed and unsuitable for the classroom.

There was evil in Melbourne today

‘My heart is in anguish within me;

    the terrors of death have fallen on me.

Fear and trembling have beset me;

    horror has overwhelmed me.

 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

    I would fly away and be at rest.

I would flee far away

    and stay in the desert;

 I would hurry to my place of shelter,

    far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:4-8)

Melbourne was frightened today, and tonight Melbourne mourns. This afternoon Melbourne witnessed the worse act of mass violence since the Queen St massacre of 1987, where 9 people were killed and several injured. Even as I write the toll from today’s crime has increased from 3 people dead to 4, and with a further 20 people injured. Police have told the public that the number of deaths may yet increase, and among the dead and injured are young children.

My city, our city, has been subjected to a pointless and evil act of terror. Like so many Melbournians I am trying to make sense of the incomprehensible, that a man would aim his car at innocent pedestrians in the centre of our city, along Elizabeth and Bourke Streets. 

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As with many others, I first realised some terrible event was unfolding as my twitter feed went into a frenzy with reports of a red car mounting the path of Bourke St, striking down several people. Within minutes a growing picture emerged of a police chase, an out of control driver doing donuts outside Flinders St Station, and hundreds of people shortly afterward running for their lives through city streets. One friend of mine reported that he heard gunshots and ran inside a nearby building, realising soon after that the assailant was being arrested, only 100m away.

During the first hour very few of us did not at least wonder whether we were seeing an act of terrorism; some foolishly sparked rumours on twitter, assuming without knowing. Police soon assured everyone that this was not terrorism and that the situation had been contained. Late afternoon police informed journalists that the alleged man was wanted for a stabbing from earlier today, and that he has a history of domestic violence and mental illness.

As with many others, I thank the police, ambulance, and hospitals who serve us so well. We should not forget them in our prayers as they work to protect, save, care, and heal.

The statement from our Premier, Daniel Andrews, echoes our own thoughts and prayers tonight,

“Our hearts are breaking this afternoon.

People have died in the heart of our city.

Others are seriously injured. Young and old. And all of them were innocent.

All of them were just going about their day, like you or I.

Some families are just starting to find out the news about their loved ones, and right now, our thoughts are with each and every one of them.

I’m so proud of all the Victorians who reached out and provided care and support to strangers today.

I’m so thankful for all our police, paramedics and emergency services workers who launched into action, and will now be working around the clock.

And I hope that everyone can be patient and cooperative, so we can let these professionals do their job.

This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act – and justice will be done.”

Mr Andrews is absolutely right, This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act”. Such appalling actions remind us how we need the moral category called, ‘evil’, and indeed that there is such a thing as evil. We are not stuck in an enclosed cosmos without Divine and ultimate reason and righteousness. Our recognition of evil forces us to discard esoteric notions of a godless universe, for we know and feel the odious presence of the nefarious, and we desperately need it gone, and perpetrators punished.

Tonight, some of our fellow Melbournians are entering the shadow of the valley of death, and many others stand nearby stunned and saddened. Psalm 23 reminds us that we do not have to walk through that valley of death alone,

‘Even though I walk

    through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

    for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

    they comfort me.’

More than that, the one called Jesus has walked this path ahead of us, and for us. He is no out-of-touch Deity, but a God acquainted with grief.

Tonight, perhaps others would also like to pray for all those tonight wrestling with what they witnessed, especially for the injured and for those facing the most inexplicable grief; praying that friends will surround them and weep with them, and asking that the God of comfort might give comfort and peace through the darkness.


phone number: 13 11 14

Lifeline Australia

 


Update Sunday morning (Jan 22nd): a 5th person has now died, a 3 month old baby boy. 

The answer can be found inside the Victorian Parliament

“All along the answer was staring us in the face.”

BREAKING NEWS: We are thankful to God for his grace and grateful to those who voted and defeated the ‘inherent requirement’ legislation.

Should this amendment to the ‘Equal Opportunity Act’ have been adopted, all religious organisations in Victoria, including churches, would have lost their freedom to employ people based on the beliefs and practices of the organisation. A tribunal would have been appointed by the Government, establishing a theological framework for all religious groups, and this same body would determine whether potential employees would be ‘inherently required’ to follow the convictions of any particular religious organisation.

In essence, the legislation would have redefined the role of Government in religious matters, giving it pseudo-episcopalian oversight.

A liberal democracy necessarily provides and protects an environment for society whereby associations have freedom to employ persons who’s convictions and character align with that organisation. In spite of the Andrews Government’s intent to remove this freedom from churches and religious schools, the Parliament has determined otherwise, at least for this point in time.

Today, we witnessed the Victorian Parliament putting on the brakes, and in a small way, slowing down a movement that is intent on eliminating Christian beliefs from society. After a series of anti-Christian policies that have come into effect over the past 2 years, we should be thankful for today’s decision, which means that the State of Victoria has retained an important aspect of religious freedom.

As we express gratitude, I trust though that people will refrain from pontificating, and from presuming that this decision will in some way advance Christian faith in Victoria. The reason is simple, the Gospel doesn’t advance through Parliamentary processes but only through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing that the legislation was defeated, but we mustn’t over-state the argument.

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Rather than focusing on the ‘inherent requirement’ legislation, I wish to take the opportunity to speak of a little known fact about our Parliament building. Positioned in the middle of the Victorian Parliament building, inside the library, is a large Bible, opened and sitting on a wooden stand. It is not hidden in a corner or shelved along a row of books, but stands alone at the centre of the library, conspicuous as a light post.  Despite its prominence though, one wonders how often people stop to notice let alone read this copy of God’s word. One wonders if people consider this Holy book anything more than an item of historic curiosity.

I have walked passed this Bible on numerous occasions, and  have noted that it is always opened to the same passage, Jeremiah chapter 31. I don’t know the story behind choosing this particular portion of Scripture, and whether it was chosen carefully or just opened randomly. Either way, it is a fitting page for the seat of Victorian political power.

The book of Jeremiah was written in the 6th Century BC, at the time of the Babylonian invasion and of Jerusalem’s destruction.  The book details the ministry of Jeremiah the prophet, who expounded words from God that offered explanation of the nation’s then predicament. It was a time when society had turned its back on the God of the Bible, and instead chose to propagate and trust in ‘progressive’ political and religious thought. Not all Biblical thought was silenced, aspects were retained although heavily redacted and reinterpreted in ‘new’ ways.

The nation’s leaders, both political and religious, in ways that may remind one of Neville Chamberlain, spoke of a message of peace,

“From the least to the greatest,

all are greedy for gain;

prophets and priests alike,

    all practice deceit.

They dress the wound of my people

    as though it were not serious.

‘Peace, peace,’ they say,

    when there is no peace.

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?

    No, they have no shame at all;

    they do not even know how to blush.

So they will fall among the fallen;

    they will be brought down when I punish them,”

says the Lord.’

(Jeremiah 6:13-15)

The book of Jeremiah contains many bleak messages, and with good reason, but it is not without hope. Jeremiah ch.31 gives a portrait for a new beginning, a Divine promise of hope to those without hope. What is especially staggering about the message is that it is not written for ‘good’ people who are being beaten down by an oppression regime, but it is written for those who were doing the beating. To a disinterested and at times vitriolic people, God speaks a message forgiveness and newness, one that reaches to a level of humanity that no human law and politics can reach, the human heart.

He says,

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,

    “when I will make a new covenant

with the people of Israel

    and with the people of Judah.

32 It will not be like the covenant

    I made with their ancestors

when I took them by the hand

    to lead them out of Egypt,

because they broke my covenant,

    though I was a husband to them,”

declares the Lord.

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel

    after that time,” declares the Lord.

“I will put my law in their minds

    and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

    and they will be my people.

34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,

    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’

because they will all know me,

    from the least of them to the greatest,”

declares the Lord.

“For I will forgive their wickedness

    and will remember their sins no more.”

35 This is what the Lord says,

he who appoints the sun

    to shine by day,

who decrees the moon and stars

    to shine by night,

who stirs up the sea

    so that its waves roar—

    the Lord Almighty is his name:

36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”

    declares the Lord,

“will Israel ever cease

    being a nation before me.”

37 This is what the Lord says:

“Only if the heavens above can be measured

    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out

will I reject all the descendants of Israel

    because of all they have done,”

declares the Lord.

It is quite extraordinary and wonderful that at the centre of Victoria’s State legislative power is a reminder of ultimate hope. The answer to our deepest struggles and concerns lays not with Government policy and lawmaking, not in a ground swell of public opinion, or in the strident voices of columnists, but in an ancient promise given by God, God who kept his word by sending his only Son into the world.

The reality is, in different ways our political and ideological preferences can blind us from the glory of Jeremiah ch.31, whether we define ourselves as progressive or conservative, green, red or blue. No matter where people align themselves on these spectrums Jeremiah 31 gives a Divine word that counters and surprises. God is not frustrated by or restrained by any socio-political movement, and neither is he defined by it.

I would encourage all who visit our Parliamentary library, don’t walk past the Bible. Why not pause and read, and ponder at the possibility of its promises being true?

Our Rubicon River

Should a cricket club have freedom to appoint persons who share the values of their club?

Should a political party have liberty to pre-select individuals who support and will promote their policies?

Should not a corporation employ professionals who will abide by the values and vision of that institution?

For most of our nation’s history Churches and Governments have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship; understanding their distinct roles while together serving for the good of society. Both have had their failings as well as making enormous contributions to building our society, but Australians have always been careful not to confuse the two.  Tomorrow (Tuesday 8th November) this judicious relationship may come to an end as the Victorian Government proposes a hostile takeover of all religious organisations.

The Victorian Legislative Council will tomorrow debate and vote on the proposed Inherent Requirements test. The purpose of this amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act is to require religious organisations to demonstrate that their employees must necessarily subscribe to the beliefs and values of that church, school, or charity. 

Religious organisations currently have freedom to employ persons who affirm the beliefs and practices shared by that organisation; this is only sensible. Should this legislation pass, a tribunal will be appointed by the Government who will determine what constitutes inherent requirements for all religions across the State. In other words, the Government is posturing itself as a teacher and arbiter of theology, with power to inform Churches, Synagogues, and religious schools whom they are to employ.

The Government has presented the amendment as a natural extension in the fight for equality, but the reality is quite different. Labor wants sameness not equality. This Bill will inevitably work against a pluralist and diverse society, and instead demand that Victorians fall into line with a rigid and historically dubious view of secularism.

Dr Michael Bird was right when he called out the inherent requirement test as an example of Secularized Erastianism, a philosophy which asserts that the State shapes and controls religious belief and practice.

I can imagine some secularists will be ecstatic at hearing the Government’s plan to further diminish religious freedom in Victoria, but is there not an air of hypocrisy in all this? Do atheistic humanists really want the Government functioning as bishops over churches, religious schools, and charities? Do nonbelievers genuinely think they have the academic credentials, expertise, and the right to define the theological parameters for synagogues and churches, explicating what is inherently required of that religion or not?

As Dr Bird notes, the problem is that “demonstrate a necessary connection” between beliefs and roles is notoriously subjective. There are no objective criteria here since beliefs and roles will vary from religion to religion and from organization to organization. So who is going to decide when a “necessary connection” exists between beliefs and roles and exactly how they will decide?’

The ‘inherent requirement’ test is all the more ironic, given how the Andrews’ Government has spent the last two years introducing several policies designed to push out Christian involvement from the public square, and now they are intent on invading religious spaces.

I cannot speak for all religious organisations, but when it comes to Christian Churches they are, for the most part, welcoming of anyone from any cultural, religious, sexual orientation background. I am not denying that there are appropriate rules and requirements for those who would serve in a formal capacity, and neither am I ignoring that associations can sometimes get it wrong. But the Christian Gospel is all about welcoming men and women who have no rights on God, no inherent claims on him, and yet in Jesus Christ we are lovingly forgiven and welcomed. This conviction has forged a tradition throughout the world of Christians starting not only churches, but also schools and hospitals and aged-care facilities, without which both our Government and society would collapse.

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Former Victorian Crown Counsel, Mark Sneddon, recently offered this caution against the Bill,

“The proposed bill amending the Equal Opportunity Act will not encourage Victorians to get along with each other. It won’t enable Victorians to live and let live. In fact, it is more likely to exacerbate division by creating legal weapons for forcing some voluntary associations to host or endorse views with which they deeply disagree.

Deep differences of moral vision will not be resolved by trying to legislate one view to supremacy and squashing others. Rather, we should accept that there are different views, and defend each other’s rights to hold and live out different views. Importantly, we should also commit to respectful communication so we can understand each other and agree how to live together peacefully with our differences.”

All the good that this Government may achieve is being swallowed up by their rigid and aggressive social agenda. This legislation is not only nonsensical, it is dangerous; they have reached the Rubicon and are intent on crossing it, and Victorians have no assurances that the Government will stop there.

As our representatives vote, I trust common sense will prevail and that freedom of association and religion will remain after November 8.

Victorian Government and Birth Certificates

History cannot be changed.

This axiom used to be true, until now with the Victorian Government introducing a Bill, giving people freedom to alter their birth certificates, as much as once a year, should they feel the need.

Would you like to change your birth certificate? Perhaps the year in which you were born? What about the place of your birth? We are not yet able to make these changes, but you will be able to change the identity of your gender, should you decide that your preference no longer matches your birth gender.

Birth certificates were once sacrosanct, treated as definitive legal documents. What was once subject to facts surrounding the birth of a child, can now be repeatedly changed according to how individuals wish to reconstruct their sexual identity.

I want a pause for a moment and recognise that gender dysphoria is real, although rare. I am not without personal knowledge of Victorians who are genuinely struggling and suffering due to gender confusion, and they seek resolution and acceptance (which does not always mean being identified in ways contrary to their biological sex). I want to affirm their dignity and humanity, and would pray that they would come to know the God who loves and gives us the greatest and most fulfilling identity, of being in Christ and knowing him.

My intent is not to cause people greater consternation, but to explain that this Bill does not provide answers.

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The Bill’s scope includes transgender, gender diverse, and intersex persons.  Transgender for example, is not identical with gender dysphoria, although it’s inclusive of; trans covers a broad range of sexual expressions. The category of gender diverse technically means, well, almost anything. The point is, the Bill’s parameters are so broad as to include persons who are not suffering medically diagnosed sexual dysphoria, but include people who for many reasons wish to change their legal status.

The Government website summarises the Bill as follows:

The Victorian Government will remove barriers for trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians seeking new birth certificates.

Delivering on another equality agenda election commitment, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016 to be introduced in Parliament today removes the need for applicants to have undergone sex affirmation surgery before being able to apply for a new birth certificate.

Importantly, the Bill also ensures couples will no longer be forced to divorce if one partner wishes to apply to change the sex recorded on their birth registration.

Adults will be able to apply to alter the sex recorded on their Victorian birth registration and birth certificate.

Under the changes, an applicant will be able to nominate the sex descriptor in their birth registration as male, female or specify a gender diverse or non-binary descriptor.

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages will be able to refuse to register an amendment descriptor that is obscene or offensive, or if it is not reasonably established as a sex descriptor.

The Bill will also introduce a new process enabling parents or a guardian to apply to alter the sex recorded on their child’s birth registration.

The process will require the child’s consent. The application must be accompanied by a supporting statement from a doctor or registered psychologist confirming the child has capacity to consent, and that the change is in the best interests of the child. Children over the age of 16 will be assumed to have capacity to consent.

Why is this Bill problematic?

The social, familial, educational, and legal implications are enormous. For example,

1. Persons will be permitted to change their birth certificate every 12 months (according to the amended Section 30A). This is not an abstract over-the-top never-going-to-happen eventuality, for why would the Government provide this known loop hole if it is not designed to be used? And why, given the significance of this point, has it not been delineated by the Government in their press releases?

2. Apart from the legal and social confusion arising from persons changing their identified gender, perhaps annually, the Government has created a back door for same sex marriage:

A married man can choose to now identify as a women on his birth certificate, without having to divorce his wife. Or a unmarried woman may change her birth certificate to male and therefore be legally free to marry a woman, and should they choose 12 months later, change back to female without needing to divorce.

3. Gender confusion exists among a small but significant number of children. Research has demonstrated that as children mature their psychology will conform to their biology, and thus grow out of their confusion. For a tiny percentage, dysphoria continues into adulthood, but this is not the norm.

It is therefore not difficult to see the problems arising when young children and parents, due to misinformation being now taught in our schools about sexuality, are told that their little boy is in fact a girl and should identify as such (there are numerous examples of this happening in Victorian primary schools at the moment). What will happen is that children will have their birth certificates altered, and be treated as a different gender, only to realise in adolescence that they are in fact what their biology says. This will result in all manner of social, legal, and personal disorientation for these children and their families.

We need to appreciate how incredibly dangerous this Bill is to the health and well being of young Victorians.

4. Biologically, even with sex-change surgery, one cannot change their gender. Changing one’s birth certificate does not alter one’s identity, and thus it will create a dissonance between one’s legal status and one’s nature.

The births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016 is the latest step in a social engineering agenda that has been moving in the background for many years and is now being championed by Daniel Andrews.

There are many difficult and pastoral issues surrounding these issues, but the fact is, the now many legal and social changes that have been forced upon Victorians by the current Government will not relieve and lay aside issues surrounding sexuality, but will only heighten sexual confusion in our society.

Teaching boys and girls that are not boys and girls, and that they can choose and change their sexual identities, depending on how they are feeling for the day, is frightening and irresponsible; this is not education, and it is not responsible lawmaking.

The Bill was due for final consideration and vote in the Legislative Council earlier this month, but the Government has delayed the vote due to a lack of support by members.

Perhaps it would be helpful if the Government paused and considered the due concerns of their Parliamentary colleagues and of the broader public whom they are here to represent and serve.

Study shows huge flaws with Safe Schools

Where are we leading our children?

The Safe Schools Program made the front page of my local newspaper this week. One of the local councillors, Paul Peulich, raised concerns over the program at a recent Council meeting. He proposed a motion to bring attention to the issues with Safe Schools, but it was met with ‘silence’ from his fellow councillors.

Following the failed motion, another Councillor,  Steve Staikos, referred to Mr Peulich’s comments as ‘disgraceful’, and Kingston Mayor, Tamsin Bearsley, said no local resident had raised Safe Schools with her as an issue.

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The lack of letters and phone calls to the Mayor’s office is probably due to the fact that Safe Schools is a State and Federal issue, rather than one for local Council, but we are  mistaken if we believe that Kingston City residents are not profoundly concerned with Safe Schools.

While the Federal Government has proposed revisions to the program, parental concerns have been repeatedly ignored by the Victorian Government. Disappointingly, rather than responding to questions with reasoned argument, Government members persist with name calling and accusations of phobia and bigotry.

It is one thing to discount the views of opposition politicians, and even to spurn the concerns of families; but it will be interesting to see what will happen in light of an academic  paper that was published last week, The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program – Finding the Sensible Centre.

Professor Patrick Parkinson AM is one of the nation’s most respected legal academics. He has been researching Safe Schools and has deemed it ‘dubious’, ‘misleading’, and ‘containing exaggerated claims’. 

To be begin with, I fully affirm Professor Parkinson’s words, “it is axiomatic that children and young people should be protected from bullying.” As a parent (and as a Pastor), I do not wish to see any child suffering from bullying. Our schools, churches, and communities ought to be safe places for children.

Throughout the 32 page paper, Professor Parkinson gives detail of the research used by La Trobe University to form the basis of Safe Schools, and what he reveals is shocking.

First of all, the numbers don’t add up. Safe Schools material claims that 10% of the population is same-sex attracted, 4% are transgender or gender diverse, and 1.7% are intersex. None of these statistics are true, in fact all these numbers of wild exaggerations.

For example, when it comes to transgenderism, if 4% was true, it would mean that 1 in every 25 students (approximately one child per classroom) would be transgender. We know anecdotally this is not the case. Where does this number come from? The only citation offered by Safe Schools is from a New Zealand study, which, when read, does not purport that 4% of people are transgender.

Professor Parkinson then quotes the actual report, which says,

“About 1% of students reported that they were transgender (a girl who feels like she should have been a boy, or a boy who feels like he should have been a girl…). Ninety-six percent were not transgender and approximately 3% were not sure.”

Parkinson then states, ‘To count the 3% who answer ‘not sure’ as being ‘gender diverse’ is academically irresponsible. People who answer ‘not sure’ in surveys do so for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they don’t understand what the questioner is asking.’

He then follows to summarise a series of notable studies, none which found more than 0.52% of people are to some extent transgender.

He concludes the section with this damning assessment:

“A likely explanation for the exaggeration of transgender and intersex conditions is that it is regarded as necessary to support the authors’ belief system to show that gender is “fluid” and can even be chosen.”

This is not science, this is uncontrolled ideology, and one that is aimed at our children.

Professor Parkinson also demonstrates how Safe School’s depends on theories of sexuality that counter best knowledge and practice in psychology and medicine, how it offers flawed legal advice, and how it is creating unsafe environments for children and families who don’t adhere to the program’s contentious views. He even argues that Safe Schools poses genuine risk to students who are struggling with aspects of their psychosexual development.

Safe Schools must be challenged, because our children matter and because truth matters. No doubt a reader will inevitably mis-hear and accuse me of hating LGBTI people; for their good and the sake of all children, should not our education programs be grounded in proven research? Should we not frame school curricula with the best available research, rather than ‘erroneous information’?

Mr Peulich’s concerns have been substantiated, and rather than being met with silence, we must speak and address this, and we must resolve these issues before we abuse a whole generation of children with unscientific pop-psychology. We want effective anti-bullying programs in our schools, but Safe Schools is not it.