The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has requested a review of the $8 million Safe Schools education program, currently operating in 490 schools Australia-wide.
Supporters of the program say it is designed to curb bullying and establish a safe school culture by the provision of inclusive teaching of gay, lesbian and transgender issues in schools.
Opponents say it is propaganda and raises sexual issues inappropriate for the age of the students it is taught to.
The review is expected to provide advice to Education Minister Simon Birmingham on the future of the controversial program by next month.
The program is funded by the federal government, and provides educational resources with a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues with the aim of encouraging inclusive education for all students.
The program is based on a series of videos and encourages students to discuss scenarios such as imagining what it would mean to them in terms of gender identity if they were to lose their genitals.
Long term critic of the Safe Schools program, Senator Cory Benardi described the program as “indoctrination” and wants federal government funding for the program ceased.
“It beggars belief that we’re asking 11-year-olds to identify themselves or imagine themselves as having no genitals,” Mr Bernardi told the Senate on Monday night. “Schools should be places of learning, not propaganda.”
Among the supporters of the program is Greens Senator Roberts Simms, who told the Senate the program was not trying to encourage any particular sexuality or gender identity.
“Newsflash: some people are gay and some people are transgender and, despite Senator Bernardi’s efforts at social engineering and efforts to deny that reality exists within our schoolyard, there are gay and lesbian kids at school,” Mr Simms said. “There are people at school who have issues with their gender identity who may well be transitioning. Those people deserve to have their experience recognised within the schoolyard.
“Not talking about it is not going to change that reality. Denying that reality in schools does nothing other than create more human misery.”
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