Home' LOTL : July 2005 Contents 9
LESSONS AND LIES
By Khyiah Angel
Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt recently undermined the
teaching profession when she withdrew a teaching program
designed to develop tolerance around sexual diversity. Though
no complaint was received from any parent or student involved
with the school or lesson concerned, a community member
became aware of the lesson and approached the Daily
Telegraph. In what appeared to be a move to allow the tabloid
newspaper to drive educational policy, Tebbutt banned the
program from further use.
The program Dealing With Diversity, was developed with
Department of Education funds and listed on the Department
website as 'Best Practice' for twelve months prior to its
withdrawal. It covers all dimensions of Quality Teaching in
NSW Public Schools and was used as an example of excellence
in teacher in-service programs.
The unit of work asks students to imagine themselves in a
world where they are growing up straight and the majority of
people are gay or lesbian. It is an exercise in empathy designed
to teach tolerance. The program is consistent with the New
South Wales Physical Education/Health/Personal
Development Syllabus for years 7-10 and is taught to year nine
students aged 14 and 15 years.
Awareness of and tolerance for "difference and diversity in
relation to sexuality" is a vital component of the curriculum and
supported by public school teachers. President of the NSW
Secondary School Principals Association Chris Bonner was
"very disappointed" with the Minister 's response, naming it a
"disgraceful act of cowardice."
"[The Minister's] response certainly does not align well with
other government and DET initiatives for dealing with
homophobia," Mr Bonner said. "It bears all the hallmarks of the
depressing culture we have come to expect: reactive, no-risk
policy making on the run and hasty ill-informed responses to
the tabloid media."
Mr Bonner was supported by the President of the NSW
Teachers Federation Maree O'Halloran, who condemned the
Ministers knee-jerk reaction to the Telegraph's "homophobic
"The whole episode is a move in hypocrisy from the same
Minister who claims to support the anti-bullying initiative in
public schools; Stand Up and Speak Out against Bullying Day.
The incidence of bullying in schools, particularly homophobic
bullying, remains seriously high," Ms O'Halloran said.
Recent research from LaTrobe University "Writing Themselves
In: 6 Years On," reveals that schools still remain the most likely
place young people experience homophobic bullying and
harassment. Youth suicide numbers are appallingly high
for those who identify as, or those who are perceived as gay
Whilst public school teachers and principals are taking the issue
very seriously and rising to the challenge to combat
homophobic bullying in schools, the last person they would
expect to desert them in their endeavours to make schools a safe
place is the Minister for Education herself.
The colder weather
makes life a little
less pleasant for
most of us, but if
you are living with
like food, medicine,
clothing and heating
can become difficult
to obtain. Bev
Lange, CEO of the
LOTL readers to
remember those in
need especially at
this time of year,
and to remember
that "gay men are
not the only HIV positive people in our community. There
is also an invisible group of women, bisexuals, lesbians
and children that are affected by the virus." BGF equally
supports all these groups.
"People are now living longer with HIV. The nature of the
virus has changed, and so has the nature and range of
treatments. While historically, BGF's clients required short-
term care, they are now needing long-term assistance.
Many are living in poverty, have lost their circle of friends
and support mechanisms are dim. We need to provide
them with this support."
Eight months into her role, Lange has some pressure on
her shoulders. In a time when community organisations
may be seen to be struggling, BGF is working to
consolidate its financial position to provide more holistic
and sustainable care for its clients with programs like
Positive Futures. "The organisation is in a strong financial
position but we need consistent fundraising to make it
sustainable into the future.
"We have a long history of lesbians and straight women on
the board and in leadership positions, and volunteers of
both genders are equally represented."
She encourages lesbians to get involved. "Hustling
buckets might not be everybody's strength. We are also
looking for a range of skills such as telemarketing, sales, IT
support and admin. You can also become a Friend of BGF.
It doesn't require grand amounts of money -- small
amounts are very welcome too."
How can you help BGF? By attending any of the functions
throughout the calendar year, or by making a tax-
deductible donation. Brochures for the Red Scarf Appeal
are available from community landmarks or simply ring the
BGF switchboard with your credit card details. "Our goal is
to wrap people in warmth and comfort this winter,"
Visit www.bgf.org.au or call
(02) 9283 8666.
Bev Lange. Photo: Jamie Dunbar
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