While the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) normally doesn't buy into talk of a "Victoria/NSW" rivalry, this week's treatment of the movie Gayby Baby in these two states provides a stark contrast – a "tale of two cities".
Firstly to NSW, where the Education Minister banned the screening of Gayby Baby during school hours, following an alleged "backlash from parents", opinion pieces telling a 12 year old girl that she was "not normal", predictably ignorant comments from religious spokespeople about "promoting a gay lifestyle", etc.
In fact, it was all a tabloid media beat-up. Not one parents' complaint had been recorded, and the Burwood students issued an open letter in response, that was far more measured, inclusive and compassionate than the adults supposedly trying to "protect" them.
Of particular note was this attempt at justification by Minister Adrian Piccoli:
"During school hours we expect them to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters. This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that direction."
In response, AFA member Steve Brooks asked the pertinent question:
"…he claims school is about maths, english and curriculum matters… so where exactly does SRI [Special Religious Instruction] fit into this schedule of maths, english and curriculum matters then?"
Excellent question, Steve.
On to Victoria, where Premier Daniel Andrews slammed the NSW Gayby Baby ban as "cruel rubbish" and strongly supported the film being shown to Victorian students to promote inclusion and acceptance. This comes only a week after the Andrews government moved to exclude SRI from class times, only allowing it to be conducted at lunchtimes or before/after school. In their place – classes on histories, cultures, faiths, ethics, domestic violence and respectful relationships.
AFA President Michael Boyd commented:
"The difference either side of the border couldn't be more marked. Victoria is clearly moving to make their state education system more progressive, secular, non-discriminatory and inclusive, while NSW is unfortunately moving in the opposite direction – despite being the home of the Sydney Mardi Gras.
Sadly, the NSW government appears to have overreacted to media hysteria and tired religious complaints about 'promoting a gay lifestyle'. Surely in 2015 religious voices and tabloid newspapers don't still control what NSW school students are exposed to?
Steve Brooks' question also touches on an important issue, and we think it warrants a considered response."
The AFA strongly endorses the Victorian initiatives, and calls on the NSW government to reconsider its stance – and to address Steve's question. Because we're all wondering about that, too.
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595
Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: [email protected]