July 28th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Strange Case of the Vanishing Safe Schools Resources

EDITORIAL By-elections will test Shorten's 'politics of envy' strategy

ASIA-PACIFIC AFFAIRS A modest proposal for Australia's regional security

CANBERRA OBSERVED Odds are that Labor won't Albo Bill aside

TECHNOLOGY Wonder carbon material on cusp of commercialisation

ENVIRONMENT Electric vehicles still only for elitist planet savers

ENERGY SECURITY Steam rail backup could get us out of hot water

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT NEG papers over crisis behind energy price hikes

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Beijing goes 'boo', Qantas gets in a flap

EUTHANASIA Death with dignity, or putting Death to death?


MUSIC Aural wallpaper: The background hiss to our lives

CINEMA Ant-Man and the Wasp: Downsized superheroes

BOOK REVIEW Timely essays on religious freedom

BOOK REVIEW Fraudulent father of psychoanalysis



No question about it: the Don is in charge

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The Strange Case of the Vanishing Safe Schools Resources

by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, July 28, 2018

The opposition to Safe Schools continues to grow. The strange thing is that the more the media coverage of the Safe Schools program exposed, the contents of the resources and what information and advice students were being exposed to through recommended websites, the more, slowly but surely, those contents were cleaned up to make the exposure look like a “myth”.

I am referring here to the Safe Schools Victoria resources that until recently were accessible online through the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) website.

The first to go was the link to The Tool Shed, an online sex shop advertising sex toys and sadomasochistic items, which was taken down virtually overnight after George Christiansen exposed it in Federal Parliament in February 2016. Then articles on the Minus18 website (Minus18 being an organisation recommended to students through Safe Schools resources), such as When Are You Ready To Do It? (“choosing when to have sex … is totally up to you and completely valid”), So you Got an STI. Now What? (“It was just part of life as a sexually active individual”) and Where Are My Bisexuals At (“It doesn’t matter if someone sleeps with more girls, guys or people who identify as neither”) were removed or replaced by less confronting articles.

Another Minus18 article that has disappeared is Cover Your Tracks, which instructed readers – who would include students accessing Minus18 as an organisation recommended by Safe Schools resources such as All of Us – how to hide their browsing history (“Nothing worse than having someone see your last Google search was for ‘gay teens Melbourne’”) This is a way to hide that online activity from anyone, including parents.

Forget about reprimanding parents for not properly monitoring their children’s online activity when the children are exposed to this sort of advice in the schools they send them to.

The link to American teen sex advice website Scarleteen, which had been listed under the heading, “Other Groups in Victoria”, on the Minus18 website, also has been removed.

Scarleteen is aimed at adolescents and answers questions about sex submitted by minors. Scarleteen has advised how to restrain a sex partner with rope, use sex toys such as dildos and vibrators, as well as how to masturbate using electric shavers and toothbushes.

Scarleteen has promoted polyamorous relationships and has given graphic advice on how to engage in oral and manual sex and how to maximise pleasure. However, Scarleteen is still recommended under the heading, “sexual clinics and info” on page 29 of the OMG My Friend’s Queer booklet.

Until early 2018 the following official Safe Schools resources that had been listed on the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) website, and available at the click of a mouse to view online, disappeared; All of Us, Stand Out and the OMG booklets: OMG I’m Queer, OMG My friend is Queer. OMG I’m Trans.

Where have the Safe Schools resources gone? It seems like a classic mystery story – the strange case of the disappearing Safe Schools resources.

The resources can still be found by those determined to find them. Most of them now reside on the Minus18 website. This should come as no surprise as Minus18 was involved in writing the “original” Safe Schools resources. It should be noted, though, that the OMG booklets are not accessible on the Minus18 website – they can only be ordered at $5 a copy. OMG My friend’s Queer is available online but only by googling “OMG My friend’s Queer online”.

The other resource which was listed on the DET website and is not on Minus18 is the Guide to supporting a student to affirm of transition gender at school. It is still available on the federal Student Wellbeing Hub.

Safe Schools is now described on the DET website simply as “a formal and public commitment that schools make to create an inclusive and safe environment for their school community, including LGBTI students, families and teachers”. It is described as a “program [that] helps schools foster a safe environment that is supportive and inclusive of LGBTI students”.

There is no information as to what resources may be recommended to be used to create this “inclusive and safe environment”, except a reference to All of Us. Is this the same All of Us that was previously listed in the DET website and is now on the Minus18 website? Or is it a different version?

There is no access to its contents on the DET website as there had been previously. It cannot be viewed on the DET website. Does it still recommend Mnus18, thus providing students with direct access to the information and advice contained on that website?

Are the OMG booklets, with the controversial content quoted above, still recommended resources? If OMG My Friend’s Queer is recommended, then students are exposed to a direct link to the highly controversial content of Scarleteen as is described above.

The Victorian Education Department’s Safe Schools Unit has confidential online survey tools for schools to gauge staff and student perceptions and opinions: “This information can help you identify what you’re already doing well and what your next steps may be. The same survey can be used again later to evaluate the difference being a safe school has made. Contact the Department’s Safe School Unit to get access to these surveys.”

How do parents know what questions their children are being asked in these surveys? Why should the questions asked not be available online for parents to access?

Despite this lack of transparency, the Victorian Government is still “committed to expanding the program to all government secondary schools by the end of 2018”.

Why is it so difficult to access the resources that are actually being used with students in the classroom? What is there to hide if they are only creating an inclusive and safe environment in schools?

With a state election in Victoria in November, the highly controversial nature of much of the content of the Safe Schools resources may have made it a hot election issue for parents. Now it may be the lack of transparency that may drive parents to vote for any party that would scrap Safe Schools and punish any party that refused to listen to their concerns.

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