Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Support for Labor's same-sex pledge

UnitingCare Cutting Edge diversity project community worker Damien Stevens welcomes Victorian Opposition leader Daniel Andrews' promise to have same-sex education program in every government school.

ALEXANDRA BOLKAS February 18, 2014 4:04am

A Shepparton gay rights advocate has welcomed Victorian Opposition leader Daniel Andrews’ pledge to roll out the Safer Schools Coalition Victoria initiative in every government school.

The coalition aims to provide more teacher training and resources to support same-sex, intersex and gender diverse students, teachers and families.

Mooroopna Secondary College is the only school in City of Greater Shepparton signed up to the voluntary program of 122 schools Victoria-wide.

Mr Andrews made the pledge at Melbourne’s Pride March this month.

‘‘Young people expressing their identity are too often subject to stress, fear and harassment at school,’’ he said.

‘‘The SSCV program uses the power of education and information to create a supportive, respectful and safe environment for all young people.’’

UnitingCare Cutting Edge diversity project community worker Damien Stevens said he had been in talks with schools across the region to adopt the program.

‘‘Throughout 3 years we’ve been in touch with every secondary and some primary schools in the region,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘In principle they agree students should be free from bullying, whether it be about their perceived or identified sexual orientation, race, religion or colour.’’

But he said schools stopped short of signing up to the coalition program.

‘‘It’s telling of the extra difficulty that sometimes comes when you live in a regional or rural area where attitudes can sometimes be more conservative than in the big cities,’’ he said.

Mr Stevens said the program was an important tool to shatter the stigma and fear associated with varying sexual orientation.

‘‘We’re really keen to continue conversations with schools across the Goulburn Valley,’’ he said.

‘‘To get the program in all state schools is a must.’’

Mooroopna Secondary College wellbeing co-ordinator Aileen Watson said the student body nominated the school to sign up to the coalition program two years ago.

‘‘It was easy for us to adopt, we are very aware of inclusive practice — it’s never been a huge issue,’’ Ms Watson said.

‘‘We value students and families no matter their sexuality, we support their individuality.’’

Benalla P-12 College has also signed up.

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