Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith has criticised the NSW premier Mike Baird and education minister Adrian Piccoli for their ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to the ‘homophobic calls by some media outlets to ban the film Gayby Baby from being shown in NSW public schools’.
She said the move reinforced negative stereotypes, had a potentially devastating effect on the morale of LGBTIQ young people and queried whether the government was kowtowing to a right-wing Christian agenda.
The stoush has come in the lead-up to Wear It Purple Day on Friday (August 28) on which students and members of the wider community are encouraged to wear something purple to show their commitment to the LGBTIQ community.
The PG-rated film, which follows the lives of four pre-adolescent kids of same-sex partners, received accolades after its screening at the Sydney Film Festival in June.
But that was not good enough for the premier and education minister, who said the film could not be screened during school hours as it was ‘not part of the official curriculum’.
The move was a reaction to a comment piece by right-wing Murdoch commentator Piers Ackerman in a column headlined ‘Gay push should be kept out of schools’.
Ackerman addressed the piece directly to a 12-year-old girl who says in the film that she often worried if she was ‘normal’.
‘Statistically, you are not in a “normal” family, no matter how many LGBTIQ-friendly docos you may be forced to watch by politically driven school principals,” Ackerman wrote.
The NSW Government’s move was in stark contrast to Victoria, where premier Daniel Andrews has thrown his support behind the film.
Mr Andrews said he had personally taken his children to see Gayby Baby.
‘All kids need to know there are lots of different kinds of families, and all kids need to know that the most important thing in any family is love,’ he said on Facebook.
Ms Smith echoed his comments, describing the movie as ‘ an important and wonderful film that tells the stories of a number of families in NSW from children’s perspectives.’
I’m very concerned about the message being sent to young people about sexuality and gender identity by the government’s decision to ban this film.
‘Schools should be a place where sexuality and gender identity can be discussed in a way that is inclusive and builds understanding and films like Gayby Baby do this in an important and accessible way.
‘Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24, and LGBTIQ questioning youth are as much as three times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
‘I would be worried if this decision by the government is motivated by the influence of the fringe conservative views of Fred Nile and other conservative religious elements in the Parliament.
‘Tomorrow is Wear it Purple Day, a student led movement to ensure every young person can thrive regardless of sex, sexuality and gender identity. The government should lift the ban and allow teachers and students to be able to use this film as an important resource to actively foster safe schools for LGBTIQ identifying students and their families,’ Ms Smith said.
A former teacher herself, Ms Smith said the film, which contains no sexual content, was an ideal springboard for discussion.
‘The minister yesterday in Question Time said that the film could not be shown unless it is part of the school curriculum. As an ex-teacher I would use the film to explore identity and gender in the NSW stage 5&6 English curriculum and National curriculum; the HSIE Stage 5&6 curriculum and the PDHPE Stage 5&6 cirriculum. This excuse simply does not stand up to scrutiny.