Safe Schools Petition Debate

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I stand here today for tolerance and acceptance and pride.


I stand here today on behalf of young people like Murray in year 12 in my electorate and the many other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning [LGBTIQ] students and teachers, their families and friends.

I say from the outset that I support the Safe Schools anti-bullying program and I am absolutely unwavering in my support in this place for the LGBTIQ community.

I support the campaign for marriage equality. I am alarmed by heightened rates of homelessness for LGBTIQ people. I add my voice to calls for renewed focus on LGBTIQ health issues. I was also very proud to stand at this dispatch box and apologise to the gay and lesbian people who were attacked and arrested by police at the 1978 Mardi Gras.

According to beyondblue, between 24 and 36 per cent of the LGBTIQ community experience significant mental health issues, while the rate among their heterosexual peers is just 7 per cent. Lesbians, gay men and people who are bisexual are also twice as likely to have a high or very high level of psychological distress. The contrast between the mental health of LGBTIQ people and heterosexual people is greatest amongst young people.

The average age of a first suicide attempt for a gay, lesbian or bisexual person is 16 years. This is why the Safe Schools program is so important.

Young people in the queer community are dying because of social pressures they experience and the mental health problems that those pressures produce.

It is absolutely critical that this Parliament sets aside the bigotry, ignorance and hateful motives of conservative politicians like Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and their allies in this place.

We need to engage with this issue on the facts. At a recent forum in the Blue Mountains, the Safe Schools Coalition invited parents and teachers to discuss the anti-bullying program and to address some of the community concern that has been whipped up by malign elements of the Liberal Party and The Nationals.

One parent who attended said:

I am glad that I went because I got the chance to find out what the program is all about. I had been concerned because of the negative publicity but then I learned that much of what is being said in the media is ill-informed and sensationalised.

As parents, we all want our kids to grow up with the necessary skills to keep them safe in the world. We want them to learn about road safety, stranger danger, the effects of drugs and alcohol, and eating and living well. In this age there are new threats like cyberbullying and our young people need new skills.

Mr Deputy-Speaker, I seek an extension of time.

[Extension of time not granted]

The Safe Schools program must be allowed to continue.

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