The Victorian Government has said it will not be making any changes to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program despite a Federal Government decision to amend it after concerns from conservative MPs.
On Friday, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said some lesson plans would change and the program would only be used in high schools following a review.
The review came after conservative Coalition MPs and senators said they were concerned about some of the material in the program, which is designed to teach children about sexual and gender diversity and stamp out homophobia.
Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino said the Safe Schools program content had already been approved by curriculum experts and would remain intact.
“Absolutely we can go it alone and we will if we need to,” he said.
“The [Federal] Government’s recommendations completely undermine the Safe Schools program.”
Mr Merlino did not go into further detail about how Victoria would manage the program after the changes were made at a federal level.
Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs welcomed the review.
“It’s been a proper process. It’s based on a lot of experience and I think that, for the moment, it would be reasonable to accept this,” she said.
“But perhaps in the future, when the program has been properly and fully assessed — parents have discussed it with school teachers — then it might be appropriate to extend it to slightly younger students.”
Malcolm Turnbull ‘caving in to bigots’
Mr Merlino said Victoria would continue to roll out the program in schools.
“If the Federal Government pulls funding from the Safe Schools coalition, we will ensure that the program continues as is,” he said.
“We will expand it to every government secondary school in Victoria, as we promised.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he believed Mr Birmingham had handled the review of the program well.
“The Victorian Government obviously can fund whatever programs it wishes,” he said.
Mr Merlino said young same-sex attracted people were six times more likely to attempt suicide and the program “saves lives”.
“We know that 75 per cent of same-sex attracted young people are bullied and the vast majority of that occurs in our schools and that’s why we need a universal anti-bullying program in our schools,” he said.
“What Malcolm Turnbull has done is cave in to the bigots in his party with no consideration to the pain and suffering this is causing LGBTI students and their families.
“This has never been an issue about the Safe Schools coalition, this has always been about the views of the extreme elements within the Liberal Party.”
Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said he supported the Federal Government’s decision to change the program.