Victoria retains Safe Schools Program

Latrobe Valley’s state secondary schools will have the Safe Schools Program rolled out across their curriculum by the end of 2018 as part of the State Government’s commitment to the controversial program.

The news comes after the release of The Review of Appropriateness and Efficacy of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia Program Resources on Friday.

The Federal Government announced a string of changes to the anti-bullying initiative, including banning the program from primary schools, requiring parental consent for participation and removing links to third-party groups.

However, the State Government has refused to adopt the changes, instead pledging to roll out Safe Schools across all Victorian state high schools by December 2018.

Gippsland Rainbow Collective youth representative Brendan Ancilleri applauded the State Government’s stance.

“(Premier) Daniel Andrews has done so much for the LGBTI community and it’s great to see they are keeping it,” Mr Ancilleri said.

Also supportive of the program’s continuation is Traralgon College principal Paul van Breugel.

The college’s junior campus currently uses parts of the program in its curriculum.

“I certainly haven’t had any concerns raised with me and it seems to be well supported from the point of view of promoting acceptance,” Mr van Breugel said.

“It’s really important to note that our teachers are experts in selecting content from the program that will be most effective in our classrooms.

“It’s up to the teachers to use and select the resources that best suit the needs of the school.”

State Opposition spokesperson for Education Nick Wakeling said the Andrews Government was taking away a parent’s right to decide, describing the Federal Government’s recommendations as “reasonable”.

“The key of the review was to empower school councils and parents to make their own decisions and our view is it should be up to parents and school councils to decide what is best for its students,” Mr Wakeling said.

State Member for Eastern Victoria Region Harriet Shing is working with the Gippsland Rainbow Collective to “encourage as much active participation in the program as possible”.

She said the government was upholding an election promise.

“The Safe Schools Program will be rolled out across all Victorian Government secondary schools and we’ll do it whether the Federal Government supports us or not,” Ms Shing said.

“The program itself is mature, conclusive and positive and fundamentally about making it clear that every student is okay exactly as they are.”

State Education Minister James Merlino said it would cost the government up to $300,000 to retain the Safe Schools program in Victoria.

The Federal Government’s review, conducted by University of Western Australia emeritus professor William Loudon, found the Safe School Coalition’s main lessons were age-appropriate and consistent with national curriculum.

However, it recommended more official guidance be given on how schools should use the advice booklets, which were created by young people, and material on third-party websites that were not designed for schools.

Federal Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the government would require the lesson content Professor Louden found not suitable for all children, to be removed.

“That includes in particular some of the role playing activities that there’s been much public criticism about,” Mr Birmingham said.

A copy of the review can be found at www.education.gov.au