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We Need Safe Schools. We Need It Now

This government has not yet satisfactorily addressed gender equality issues, marriage equality or education programs that assist young people struggling with their sexuality.

29/11/2016 12:41 PM AEDT | Updated 29/11/2016 12:52 PM AEDT
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In recent days the tragic news of 13-year-old Tyrone Unsworth's suicide has shocked the nation. His mother has suggested that the years of mental and physical bullying and discrimination has resulted in him taking his own life all too early.

As a person who has spent many years working in the community managed mental health sector, this tragedy is all too common and clearly indicates that there is a lack of appropriate education and support programs in our schools. We must end the senseless bullying and discrimination that young people struggling with their sexuality are often exposed to, and the Safe Schools program will assist in this space.

Malcolm Turnbull proclaims that he and the rest of his LNP Government support inclusion and diversity; however, his actions tell a very different story. We are now fast approaching the end of 2016 and this government has not yet satisfactorily addressed gender equality issues, marriage equality or education programs that assist young people struggling with their sexuality.

The best that the right wing conservatives of the Federal LNP Government can do is call for the Safe Schools program funding to be cut. Sadly, this government has completely missed the point of the Safe Schools program, making incredibly cruel and divisive remarks regarding certain content aspects of the programs booklet early this year.

Prime Minister Turnbull needs to stand up and lead his government instead of pandering to the extreme right wing conservatives, such as Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham MP, and backbencher George Christensen MP, who seem to be dictating government policy.

This nation deserves a government that is supportive and inclusive of all people and education is the key to achieving such an environment. Our young people deserve and have the human right to live in safe and nurturing communities where they can achieve their maximum potential, regardless of their race, sexuality or culture.

Instead, some of our very vulnerable young people are experiencing mental distress that can lead to suicide as a result of bullying and discrimination at school. This could be addressed immediately if the Federal Government funded the Safe Schools program. This program provides school teachers with the knowledge, skills and practical frameworks to create safer and more inclusive learning environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.

At present, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged between 12 and 24 years of age, according to the Kids Helpline webpage. This is incredibly alarming and begs the question: why?

Sadly, we live in a world where bullying doesn't just stop within the school grounds. Social media is also widely accessible and unfortunately has become a medium that is easy to use to bully and discriminate against vulnerable young people without face to face contact. Social Media can be much more devastating as its reach is far greater. Again this is where the resources contained in the Safe Schools program can assist.

As a mother of a daughter who is gay, I have seen first hand the struggles that young people can experience in coming to terms with their sexuality, especially when it means that they will be labelled as "different".

The Unsworth family has endured pain and tragedy that no family should ever have to face or experience. Tyrone's tragic death should not be ignored and as a nation we need to step up and say "no more" by taking the preventative measures that will help prevent youth suicide, and that includes continued funding for the Safe Schools program.

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If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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