Gayby Baby Is The Least Political Film You'll Ever See

01/09/2015 5:36 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Maya Newell

In the past week or so a storm in a teacup has erupted around a groundbreaking but unassuming documentary made by a young Australian female film-maker.

The movie Gayby Baby marks the first time, to my knowledge, that the lives of children of Australian same-sex couples have been closely examined in a fly-on-the-wall style documentary.

The film takes the viewer right into the homes, classrooms and thoughts of these kids. It tells their story, mostly from their point of view. It is at times funny, moving, heartwarming and sobering. Pretty much like life in most Australian families.

The power of the film lies firmly with its stars -- the children. They show themselves to be just ordinary kids with all the usual interests, dreams, insecurities and challenges as any others.

The fact that their parents are in same-sex relationships is largely incidental in most of these stories. The major exceptions are the two dads who worry about the response of the school community in their new home in the South Pacific, and the young lad who struggles with the notion that the church his devout mother attends does not acknowledge her relationship.

It is ultimately a gentle film which observes rather than preaches. It makes absolutely no political statement. It does not touch on the question of marriage, currently the biggest and hottest political issue related to the gay and lesbian community in our country.

In no way does it "promote a gay lifestyle." It is simply an honest and open portrayal of the lives of children living in real families.

And yet this innocent little film has now managed to provoke the intervention of New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, who was moved to decree that it should not be shown at Burwood Girls High School, or any other around the state, within school hours.

I certainly hold strongly to the view that schools and school curricula should be apolitical in every sense. I also agree that only films that are central to the curriculum should be part of the school day.

But let's all just take a chill pill and have a look at what Burwood Girls High School was doing. It was proposing to show a film made by one of its ex-students, Maya Newell. It planned to screen the film on Wear it Purple Day, which is promoted by an organisation co-founded by another ex-student, Katherine Hudson.

To quote its website, Wear it Purple believes that "every young person is unique, important and worthy of love." It promotes a world in which no one is subjected to "bullying, belittlement [or] invalidation," where "every young person can thrive, irrelevant of sex, sexuality or gender identity."

Nothing particularly controversial or political in that.

Wear it Purple is a not-for-profit, student-based organisation which aims to stamp out bullying of our young people. It has grown exponentially in just five years and now enjoys widespread support across a broad range of community and corporate sectors, and even has the backing of New South Wales Police, who were out in force in their purple shirts in Hyde Park last week.

Katherine and the other young people involved in Wear it Purple should be lauded for what they've achieved.

Maya Newell is an intelligent, articulate and talented young woman, who worked incredibly hard over five years to produce Gayby Baby. It was a grassroots project that had to be funded and produced on a shoestring, but which is now gaining national attention and will shortly be on wide commercial release.

Burwood Girls High School had every right to showcase these two young ex-students to their current school body. What they've done is admirable and should be acknowledged. They dreamt big, worked hard and achieved a lot. They are exactly the type of role models we should be promoting to our schoolchildren to show them what young Australians are capable of doing when they set their hearts and minds to it.

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