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A Handy Reminder That Tony Abbott's Government Launched The Safe Schools Program

It was Tony Abbott's.

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Former prime minster Tony Abbott came out swinging against the anti-bullying program called the Safe Schools Coalition on Tuesday, labeling it "social engineering" and saying it should be "terminated".

William West / AFP / Getty Images

His gay sister, Sydney councillor Christine Forster told BuzzFeed News his comments were "laughable".

"It's my view that you cannot engineer a child into being transgender or homosexual. And it's my experience. It's not something that's engineered. It's something that's inherent to a person," she told BuzzFeed News.

But the LGBT anti-bullying program was launched at the National Safe Schools Symposium in June 2014 by senator Scott Ryan... who was Tony Abbott's parliamentary secretary for education.

While the program was originally funded by the former Labor government, it was the Abbott government which was present at the launch of the national program.

Despite all the claims put forward in recent weeks, Senator Ryan (who comes from the right faction of the Victorian Liberal party) had some pretty lovely words to say about Safe Schools.

Alan Porritt / AAPIMAGE
Today we launch a program focused on issues of gender and sexuality.While I do not intend at all to dismiss the unique challenges in this area, it provoked me to consider the role of programs directed at specific motivations for bullying as opposed to more general lessons and principles.While individuals all face different challenges, and social attitudes evolve at different paces, I cannot help but think that the path to ending this type of behaviour is through simply recognising the dignity of each person as an individual and the validity of their choices.History has taught us that it is when we forget this, and we think of another person as primarily identified by some trait or label, that they are depersonalised. It is then that their feelings are more easily dismissed, or their dignity and individuality disregarded.Whether it is the kid with the funny lunch or the accent, the fat kid, the nerd, the sporty kid who has trouble keeping up in class or the kid who is hopeless at sport – it is the bullying behaviour rather than a specific insult that is the problem. What we seek to teach is empathy, to better understand the perspective and experience of another.

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

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