The Safe Schools Coalition, a national program aimed at curbing school-based discrimination against LGBTI youth, has been the target of a long-running reactionary campaign by the Australian newspaper and the right wing Christian fringe. The newspaper’s committed campaign against the program has also encouraged all sorts of other bigoted slugs to crawl out from the bottom of the woodpile and join in the attack.
Just last week, Safe School’s Victorian convener, Roz Ward, received transphobic hate mail from a person claiming to be a teacher in Queensland. One choice line read: “I’d call you a bitch but you’d probably be offended because you most likely identify as an ‘it’ rather than female”.
In response, a branch meeting of Queensland Teachers’ Union members unanimously passed the following motion: “That this meeting of Macgregor Rochedale branch of QTU reaffirms our support for Safe Schools, and condemns recent hate mail received by Safe Schools convener Roz Ward”.
The QTU has joined teachers’ unions across the country in passing motions of support for Safe Schools, hosting workshops and proudly associating the union movement with the work of the program. Union support for the program as well as for Ward, who is a member of the National Tertiary Education Union, has been integral to defending Safe Schools.
In yet another blow to the campaign against her, Roz Ward won the People’s Choice award at the 2016 Globe Community Awards, held on 21 October. The event celebrates achievement in Victoria’s LGBTI community. Nominated in the same category was an outspoken critic of Ward, former human rights commissioner now Liberal Party politician Tim Wilson. Ali Hogg, Equal Love convener, also missed out on the award but said: “I was thrilled when I heard Roz won the People’s Choice. Not just because of all of her efforts in fighting discrimination against young LGBTI people but because the award is a massive up yours to the bigots that have tried to bring her down”.