Posted on 12 Nov 2016

    Conservative Chinese Australians Will Take To The Streets Over Safe Schools

    "I think it's more of a religious push against the program than a racial issue."

    Members of Australia's Chinese community who oppose the Safe Schools Coalition are planning street demonstrations to pressure politicians over the LGBTI anti-bullying program.

    BuzzFeed

    A private members bill to end the program in Victoria failed in the state's upper house on Wednesday.

    However, even if the bill had passed the upper house, it would have faltered in the lower, where the pro-Safe Schools Labor government has a majority.

    The vote came a couple of weeks after the Chinese community presented a petition against the program with more than 5,000 signatures to the Victorian parliament, via several conservative MPs.

    Dan Xie, who helped organise the petition, told BuzzFeed News he was very disappointed the bill had failed.

    "We found out the news and we are now trying to put together with a few religious parties for a street demonstration," he said.

    "We haven't come to a conclusion on when, where, how. A few more questions to finalise."

    Supplied

    An anti-Safe Schools flyer distributed by Chinese opponents to the Safe Schools program.

    Peter Chung, co-convenor of the Asian Australian Rainbow Alliance, told BuzzFeed News the people behind the petition represented a minority of the Asian Australian community.

    "A lot of them are probably affiliated with the Christian community, and I think it's more of a religious push against the program than a racial issue," he said.

    Xie said he and other anti-Safe Schools activists are currently coordinating with other ethnic and religious groups, including the Australian Christian Lobby.

    Chung said it was wrong to characterise the Safe Schools program as antithetical to the Chinese community.

    "The LGBTI community exists in all cultures and all societies, not just Western societies. You can't say the LGBTI community doesn't exist in Asia, or is not part of their traditional cultures," he said.

    Chung added that many Chinese Australians grapple with coming out to their families.

    "Similar to many migrant communities, they can come from more conservative backgrounds. On the whole, people are a bit more reluctant to be vocal and visible in the community because of that," he said.

    "I think as a whole it's for the greater good that the next generation grows up feeling they can be accepting of anyone regardless of their sexuality and identity."

    Supplied

    The defeated bill, brought to the parliament by Democratic Labour Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins, described Safe Schools as an "indoctrination program, designed to promote a contested and controversial form of gender theory". It also said the program practised social re-engineering.

    Labor MLC Harriet Shing, who is gay, told the parliament during debate on the bill last month that LGBTI people are everywhere, including schools, and deserve appropriate support.

    She rejected the notion that the Safe Schools Coalition could make a child gay or transgender.

    "Watching Melrose Place every Wednesday night throughout the 1990s did not make me straight, so I do not know how eight sets of resources on an education home page is going to turn people into something that they are not," she said.

    "The formative years of being a teenager are when the majority of same-sex attracted and gender diverse people begin to question and begin to explore. Providing them with resources in order to do that and providing teachers and staff with resources to allow that to happen in a respectful way is crucial."

    Lane Sainty is the editor of BuzzFeed News in Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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