Labor is calling for an end to the attacks on the Safe School Coalition program in light of reports from services, like the Victorian Drummond Street Services, that they are seeing a doubling of distressed young people seeking support after the Australian Christian Lobby and conservative Liberal MPs and Senators targeted the program.
The Safe Schools program was established after teachers wanted to ensure that a vulnerable group of young people were provided with the appropriate supports at school and that school communities were able to provide tolerant and inclusive environments for LGBTIQ students.
The Australian Christian Lobby and the religious right of the Turnbull Government's attacks on this program demonstrate exactly the kind of bullying behaviour that the Safe Schools program seeks to tackle head on.
Data shows that 75% of LGBTIQ young people report being the victims of verbal of physical bullying and intimidation related to their sexuality and that 80% of this occurs at school.
This group of young people are already disproportionately represented in statistics of self-harm, suicide attempts, depression and anxiety.
These statistics are the sad reality for many LGBTIQ young people and demonstrate why programs to address this bullying and discrimination are so important.
Whilst the Liberal Party might want to play out their internal culture war in public we cannot allow a vulnerable group of young people to be caught up as the innocent victims of this battle.
We need to let LGBTIQ young people know that they are valued and respected and that programs and services are there to support them when they need it.
This targeting of an already vulnerable group of young people must stop.
The mental health of young people should not be the innocent victims of the religious right’s attack on sensible and much needed programs in our schools.
It's times like this that leaders need to stand up and say enough is enough.
**For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au. Other services include Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467, Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 **
Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations.