Healthy Harold, the friendly giraffe who has been teaching school children around Australia about the importance of healthy living from the back of his van for decades, could soon be no more.
Health and safety group Life Education announced on Tuesday that the Federal government has cut funding to the organisation, leaving up to 750,000 children without the opportunity to learn from an iconic Australian schoolyard experience.
And people are outraged.
WAIT WHAT HAPPENED TO HEALTHY HAROLD— #NOTMYHAROLD (@shazzza_lee) May 30, 2017
Not Healthy Harold. Of all things to cut funding from. I have so many childhood memories learning from him. 😔— 🦄💖Stacey💖🦄 (@TigerPrincess__) May 30, 2017
I HATE THE GOVERNMENT— #NOTMYHAROLD (@shazzza_lee) May 30, 2017
today is a sad day the government has killed Healthy Harold— andrew barratt (@andrew83b) May 30, 2017
HEALTHY HAROLD IS AN AUSTRALIAN ICON AND CUTTING FUNDING IS UNPATRIOTIC AND UNACCEPTABLE— gabe | nsfr (@pasdedodie) May 30, 2017
Healthy Harold. NO. NO NO NO NO.— Caro Meldrum-Hanna (@caromeldrum) May 30, 2017
"The Australian Government has been a long term provider of funding to Life Education, primarily in support of the work of its National Office. This saw over $500,000 invested in Life Education by the Australian Government in 2016/17," Life Education said in a statement.
"In 2017/18 the financial support to be provided by the Australian Government has been cut to zero. The decision has been taken to defund Life Education. This is quite a remarkable given the compelling need that exists across our community for strong, sustained and effective preventive health education.
"In 2017/18 we had expected more than 750,000 young Australians would participate in our program, in school communities right across Australia."
In response, Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham announced the Federal government continues to support Life Education and the Healthy Harold program and "will work with Life Education Australia to ensure the funding [and] the program continues."
There remains uncertainty over what this new partnership could look like between Life Education and the government, however, as questions are being asked as to how the funding will be found and how the Minister plans to provide support for the program into the future.
We support #HealthyHarold & will work with Life Education Australia to ensure the funding & the program continues— Simon Birmingham (@Birmo) May 30, 2017
The funding dilemma comes after South Australian senator for the Nick Xenophon Team, Skye Kakoschke-Moore raised the issue of Life Education Australia support in a parliamentary estimates meeting on Tuesday, revealing the planned cuts to the program.
My questions which revealed the cut to Healthy Harold in Estimates today: https://t.co/46v4lZsEau— Skye Kakoschke-Moore (@SenatorSkye) May 30, 2017
On Tuesday night, Kakoschke-Moore took to Twitter to confirm Birmingham had called her directly in relation to the funding matter and confirmed his plans to work with Life Education in order to maintain its programs, although the exact details of how this is to happen remain unclear.
Minister Birmingham's office called mine advising will work with Life Education to continue programs -great result after my questions today— Skye Kakoschke-Moore (@SenatorSkye) May 30, 2017
For those of you who may be unaware, Healthy Harold the giraffe is part of the largest independent health and drug education program in Australia, run from a specially-designed van that visits schools around the country and has been part of Australian childhoods for more than 35 years.
To mark the sudden 'death' of Healthy Harold, fans took to social media to thank the giraffe for his life lessons and to remember some of the memories that were had during his presentations.
Healthy Harold has done a great service to teachers and kids. Providing consistent content and covering tricky topics. #dontcutharold— Simone Pietschner (@SPietschner) May 30, 2017
Healthy Harold scandals at my school:— Eliza Berlage (@verbaliza) May 30, 2017
- A kid pulled the puppet off exposing the hand
- An inquiry into a letter addressing "Horny Harold"
When I was in year 6 I pretended I was having a love affair with Healthy Harold and my teacher went along with it. I was school president...— Victoria (@yeahvictoriaaa_) May 30, 2017
I'm covering two walls in my room in Velcro to stick "good" and "bad" foods in memory of Healthy Harold tonight.— Alice 🤙🏻 (@alicevictoria19) May 30, 2017
And of course, there were those who took the chance to poke fun at the idea of a giraffe teaching small children about safety from the back of his van and the legitimacy of the program overall.
"Crys, what is Healthy Harold?"— SaBOOBOO (@Sabloobloo) May 30, 2017
"Well it was a van that had a giraffe puppet inside it and it would go to schools and put kids in the van."
@verbaliza The Healthy Harold guy used to smoke behind the van at lunchtime at my school, which kind of undermined the anti-smoking message— Erin Gillen (@erincgillen) May 30, 2017
I don't know what Healthy Harold was for the rest of u but in 90s Perth it was a van you were led into where a giraffe man talked about sex— Kaitlyn Plyley (@kplyley) May 30, 2017
Healthy Harold is a goddamn Australian hero. Who else is going to teach kids about drugs in the back of a dark van?!! pic.twitter.com/WEGLiKfuwP— Jenna Guillaume (@JennaGuillaume) May 30, 2017
As for the future, Life Education has acknowledged it will need to revise the expectations for the program, pending discussions over the details of the support referred to be Birmingham.
"The Australian Governments defunding decision will require us to materially revise our expectations of what is achievable in the short to medium term," it said.
"While it will be challenging for us, this cut will be most felt by the many children and their teachers and parents in school communities right across Australia that will now be denied access to our program.
"Of all the funding to cut, surely our investment in Australia's future -- ie. our children -- would be the last you'd expect to suffer this fate."
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