Former prime minister Tony Abbott has commended the NSW government’s decision to ditch the controversial Safe Schools program, designed to educate students about sexual and gender diversity.
“Good that NSW is scrapping so called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying,” Mr Abbott tweeted on Sunday.
This was a Gillard govt programme, not – REPEAT NOT – an Abbott govt one. 2/2.
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) April 16, 2017
His tweets followed the state government’s confirmation a new broader anti-bullying strategy will be put into place in public schools, when federal funding for the Safe Schools program runs out in June.
Education Minister Rob Stokes said education officials were developing the new plan which would be made available to teachers from July this year.
“The Australian government, who fund and oversee the Safe Schools program, have advised that they will no longer be providing funding for the program by mid-year,” Mr Stokes said in a statement.
“The NSW Department of Education is currently developing an updated anti-bullying strategy that will be a new resource available for teachers from the beginning of term three.”
Mr Stokes said NSW public schools would continue to provide support to LGBTQI students.
“Bullying will never be tolerated in NSW public schools – whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason,” he said.
“Students and parents should expect that schools are a place where they feel safe. Schools remain one of the most secure and trusted public institutions in our community.
“Students who are struggling in our schools, for whatever reason, need support and will continue to receive it in NSW public schools.”
Safe Schools a ‘political football’: Shorten
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the program had been made a “political football” for conservatives and Labor would scrutinise any new proposals.
“It is important that children go to school and are not bullied on the basis of their sexuality,” he said.
“Labor won’t take a backwards step from the principle that our teenagers going to school need every help to free from bullying.”
Labor’s education spokesman Jihad Dib said he would be very concerned if students who relied on the Safe Schools program found “there is nothing left for them”.
He said it was the state government’s responsibility to allocate sufficient funding.
“You can’t do things on the cheap and if we are going to provide support to students, schools and their families we need to make sure there is adequate money put into things like that,” Mr Dib said.
“As the government talks about its rivers of gold in its budget surpluses this is an opportunity to put money into programs that are going to work.”