OVERVIEW: The Australian 'Safe Schools' program - As a parent, how much do you know? - Know Bull! Australia :: Workplace anti-bullying website

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OVERVIEW: The Australian 'Safe Schools' program - As a parent, how much do you know?

Those 'first-day-back' lunch boxes were barely snapped shut...and the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SCCA) was in the news again. The furore it seems, involves a 'warning' letter about the danger of the 'Safe Schools' anti-bullying program— that was mailed to parents/guardians of two high schools in Sydney. The letter was shared as a post in a Facebook group— until it drew so much 'heat' that it had to be removed.  Whenever the 'Safe Schools' program draws any attention, unflattering or otherwise, the demarcation line is quickly drawn.

On one side are the parents (and interested others) expressing concern about the content and motivations behind the 'Safe Schools' program
while the other side, which is frequently accused of using the 'Safe Schools' program to 'push' political agendas, is chock-full of cultural marxists (a.k.a. the 'PC brigade'), and various supporters and members of the LGBTI community.

There's nothing wrong with a healthy, robust, debate.  However, when it comes to the 'Safe Schools' program the dialogue between the two sides is nearly always heated, and any pretence of civility quickly vanishes under the weight
of 'ad hominem' attacks. It's little wonder some parents feel bewildered.

The primary focus of
Know Bull! has been 'workplace bullying'— but we also provide a small number of school-related bullying resources for teachers, parents, and community groups. And since 'Safe Schools' is an Australia-wide program it made sense that we at least include sufficient links and information to give parents an overview of the Program —so they could make up their own minds.

A few historical events relevant to the Safe Schools program

Note: In order to get an understanding of 'how' the furore around 'Safe Schools' gained momentum...the (short) parliamentary videos of Senators George Christenson, and Cory Bernardi are highly recommended viewing.

  • The Safe Schools program was developed by the Safe Schools Coalition, commenced in Victoria on 21 October 2010, and received (initial) national funding of $8 million in 2013. It was intended as a voluntary program, and "Federal funding was sought by openly-gay Senator Penny Wong, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Finance Minister in 2013. It was formally launched in June 2014 by the (Liberal) Abbott Government. The program was stated as focussing on "challenging the bullying and discrimination of the LGBTIQ community within the school setting" (Wikipedia).

  • 584 out of Australia's 9414 schools 'volunteered' to run the Safe Schools program. 531 of those 584 are public schools.

  • Late February 2016, under Parliamentary privilege, George Christensen claimed the 'Safe Schools' program exposed students to inappropriate sexual material. Christensen also likened the program to a "pedophile grooming a victim". He supported this statement by outlining the specific 'steps to grooming', gleaned from information provided by a NSW peak body involved in Child Sexual Assualt Counselling.

If parents knew their children were being exposed to this type of material, they would probably not let them go to school. If someone proposed exposing a child to this material, the parents would probably call the police because it sounds a lot like the grooming work that a sexual predator might undertake," Christensen said.

Also in late February 2016, Senator Bernardi called on the Government to withdraw funding for the 'Safe Schools' program. As with a number of other political figures, Senator Bernardi saw 'Safe Schools' as a "radical" program that was "indoctrinating" children. Later, in an interview with the ABC he stated that children were "being bullied and intimidated into complying with a radical program".

Labor senator Penny Wong, who was among those who announced the initial funding, dismissed criticisms that the 'Safe Schools' program was ideological, and that the program (was) addressing discrimination against LGBTI community. While the Safe Schools Coalition dismissed all claims in their entirety (Wikipedia)".  

Then about three weeks later, and again under Parliamentary privilege, George Christensen named Gary Dowsett, the deputy director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University (where the Safe Schools Coalition project originated), of being behind the anti-bullying program. In addressing parliament Mr Christensen referred to an article written by Gary Dowsett in titled,  'Boiled lollies and bandaids: gay men and kids' (published in the Gay Information journal in 1982), to accuse Dowsett of being 'a long-time advocate of intergenerational sex, otherwise known as pedophilia'.

In the article Dowsett wrote that many mothers and fathers found their children "sexual" and activities such as cuddling, bathing and breastfeeding "generate sexual responses in their parents. How different, then," queries Dowsett, "is that gentle, tentative sexuality between parent and child from the love of a pedophile and his/her lover? From all accounts, and from many academic studies — some worse than others — that kind of love, warmth, support and nurture is an important part of the pedophilic relationship" (Source).

Further into the article Dowsett proclaims "...the current pedophilia debate then is  crucial to the political processes of the gay movement: pedophiles need our support, and we need to construct the child/adult sex issue on our terms."

Mr Christensen noted that Dowsett had served on Victoria’s ministerial advisory committee on gay and lesbian health between 2000 and 2002, where he was able to advocate the precursor to Safe Schools Coalition program.

I think it would shock many parents to know that a pedophilia advocate is overseeing the organisation that came up with the Safe Schools program," he told parliament, and that "Given this shocking information, it is imperative all federal funding for Safe Schools is suspended immediately pending a full parliamentary inquiry" (Source).

  • Various politicians supported Mr Christensen's call for de-funding the Safe Schools program (pending iinvestigation), including Cory Bernardi. However, on Friday 18th March 2016, and while Mr Bernardi was still in Parliament House in Canberra (the Capital), a group of protesters stormed his office in the Adelaide suburb of Kent Town over the Coalition senator's stance against the Safe Schools program. They forced the front door, terrorised the staff, broke furniture, and generally ransacked the premises. In their wake they posted signs demanding Mr Bernardi resign, among various 'ad hominem' attacks.

Before, during, and after Senator
Cory Bernardi's office in Adelaidse was 'stormed'

Let's cut to the chase

Corey Bernardi's office was trashed because he questioned the validity of the 'Safe Schools' program, and then sought to have the program de-funded.
On Friday 18th March 2016 morning, anbd while Bernardi was still in Parliament House in Canberra (the Capital) a group of protesters stormed his office in the Adelaide suburb of Kent Town over the Coalition senator's stance against the Safe Schools program. On Friday morning, a group of protesters stormed his office in the Adelaide suburb of Kent Town over the Coalition senator's stance against the Safe Schools program.Yes, smashed the fence - forced the front door, Terrorised the staff, broke furniture,normal Socialist Alternatives

Question 1: Is the 'Safe Schools' Program really an anti-bullying program?
Answer: No, it isn't.
Justification: Because one of the two main founders of the 'Safe Schools' program (Roz Ward) declared that it wasn't an anti-bullying program.

In fact, Roz Ward (pictured left) stated during the filming of a video in Melbourne (June 2014):
"...Safe Schools Coalition is about supporting gender and sexual diversity. Not about celebrating diversity. NOT ABOUT STOPPING BULLYING. It’s about gender and sexual diversity. About same-sex attractive. About being transgender. About being lesbian, gay, bisexual – say the words – transgender, intersex. Not just 'Be nice to everyone. Everyone’s great'. "

You can view the full transcript from the video, and you can watch the video here.

At a conference on Marxism last year in Melbourne she bragged about how she developed the SSC for the express purpose of implementing Marxism in the classroom. She has repeatedly spoken about how she wants to use the school system to agitate for Marxist economic and social policy. Source:

Arguments against the program
One of the major criticisms about the
Safe Schools program is that it raises 'inappropriate' sexual issues with children.

Sex education in schools is being dictated by activist-driven research projects aligned to gay and lesbian groups, resulting in the significant overstatement of the rates of same-sex attraction among young people and questionable claims about the degree of homophobia in the schoolyard.
Senator Bernardi has called on the Government to withdraw funding for the program.

Labor senator Penny Wong, who was among those who announced the initial funding, dismissed criticisms that the program was ideological"It's not about gender, it's not about sexuality," he said.

"It makes everyone fall into line with a political agenda.

It also receives some state funding, with the Victorian Government allocating $1.04 million in its 2015-16 budget.
However, the Safe Schools Coalition dismissed those claims in their entirety (Wikipedia)".  

inally, listen to the following (excellent) podcast by Dr Gary Namie from the Workplace Bullying Institute (link opens small popup window), 33mins in length:

The following is a representative sample of the information and sentiments in the public domain about the 'Safe Schools' program.

Where would we be without ill-informed propagandists making us a 'gift' of this fodder?

Anyway, another 'gift' came along this week in the shape of an article by a few HR bods who wanted to have a bit of a 'spit' about the FWC's new anti-bullying jurisdiction. After reading said article
— not only did I realise it was 5 mins of my life I'd never get back—I was struck with the curious thought that some industry members might actually believe the diatribe. And therein lays the dilemma of industry publications—in the absence of a factual basis, well-reasoned argument, balanced thinking, and integrity—what you end up with is propaganda.

According to a Department of Education spokesperson, individual schools determine whether or not to participate in the Safe Schools program, and all NSW public schools are "required to consult with parents prior to using Safe Schools resources with students in class”. Futher, "parents can choose to opt their child out of any Safe Schools lesson...or, any lesson using Safe Schools resources".

Further, the new anti-bullying laws are not  about vilifying the workplace bully or the company, business, or organisation that harbours them. At best, if a bullying complaint is found to be proved, the FWC can issue an order 'to stop'. In addition the FWC may also specifiy other actions...like the bully and the target be separated...or that an employer revise their policies and procedures if they're found lacking. Think of it this way...

There's an organisation where a workplace bully has been active for a couple of years. A number of staff have been treated badly...some have become ill...some may have even left. Then one 'target' decides enough is enough. They've asked HR to assist them in resolving the bullying, but their request falls on deaf ears—and the HR staff sides with the bully—their golf buddy. There's an anti-bulllying policy—but it sits on shelf gathering dust—and its contents aren't promoted within the workplace. The 'target' attempts to follow the procedural steps outlined in the bullying policy—but there's either no investigation, or the investigation is a sham. Instead of being resolved, the workplace bullying escalates—an action known as 'bully retribution'. The 'target' has exhausted all available steps and lodges a complaint with the FWC. By now, the workplace bullying is a daily event—and the target's health is declining. Symptoms include anxiety, reactive depression, fatigue, and hyper-obsessiveness. The quality of the target's work is negatively impacted—productivity declines, and mistakes may appear.

Enter the FWC. Based on the above scenario...What can you expect?

  • Firstly, the anti-bullying laws don't  apply to all  companies/organisations. For the laws to apply—the organisation needs to be a 'constitutionally covered business' —think pty ltd company, or an incorporated business. Commonwealth agencies at the Commonwealth level also come under the jurisdiction. Partnerships, sole or individual traders do not  fall under the jurisdiction, nor do military personnel. Neither do Not-For-Profit (NFP) entities—however there's a but. If as an NFP, your sole revenue is from Commonwealth funding, you don't come under the jurisdiction. BUT, if you've established various businesses, or conduct activities that generate revenue—you could be considered as a trading corporation and the jurisdiction will apply. Anyway, this is the kind of information you need to clarify for yourself, so get a copy of the FWC Benchbook to make things a little clearer.

For the sake of the scenario, we'll say the organisation does fall under the anti-bullying legislation. Bear in mind though, the new rules apply not only to this organisation's employees—but contractors, sub-contractors, apprentices and work-experience placements, and volunteers. The definition of who is 'a worker' is outlined in the FWC Benchbook—read up on that as well.

  • From the FWC's point of view there's a few things they need to establish before hearing any workplace bullying claim:

1. The applicant reasonably believes they've been bullied at work
2. That the worker was bullied at work by an individual or group, and
3. There's a risk the bullying will continue

Once the FWC is satisfied the above has been established, they'll make any orders deemed necessary to prevent the worker being subjected to further workplace bullying.
Also note that the amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), now includes a definition of 'workplace bullying' [See Fair Work Act s.789FD(1)]:

Workplace bullying occurs when:
• an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or a group of workers at work,
• the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

The key words are bolded in the FWC Benchbook, so we'll take a brief look at those. Repeatedly: workplace bullying consists of repeated behaviours, and is generally not a one-off incident. The behaviours used
don't need to be the same. What you're looking for is a 'pattern' —of ongoing (repeated) behaviours. Unreasonably: the pattern of behaviours needs to be of an unreasonable nature e.g. abuse, work sabotage, humiliation. Check the FWC Benchbook for examples. At work: is used in a contextual sense, meaning the bullying is 'of the workplace'...which is separate from 'outside the workplace' e.g.—a bullying neighbour. Also, 'at work' does not mean that only bullying behaviours in the physical workplace will be considered. As we know from experience, workplace bullying can extend past 9-5 hours on work premises—and into the targets home life and out-of-work hours. Risk to health and safety means exactly that...that the repeated and unreasonable behaviours by one or more people in/from the workplace —on another or others in/from the workplace — poses a risk to health and safety. Note there is no requirement for an injury to have already occurred —just the risk.

  • Based on the scenario, what kinds of orders could be made? (remember—this is only speculative). While the order 'to stop' bullying will be made, other possible orders might include:

1. Either the 'bully' or 'target' be moved to a separate work site (if another site exists)
2. They could be moved to opposing shifts (if shiftwork, or rotational roster is available)
3. If neither of these options are available—they could be moved further apart (physically) in the workplace
4. The 'bully' may receive an order to refrain from certain behaviours such as emailing, confronting, or admonishing the 'target', and that requests to the 'target' be made via a senior manager, or some other third party
5. The organisation may be required to bring their policies up to date, and to promote them among staff, and train senior managers
6. The 'bully' may be required to attend various 'workshops' or training such as 'Being a Better Manager 101'
7. The organisation will have a certain amount of time to comply, and could also be monitored for compliance.

Key Points (a.k.a. addressing some of the propaganda):

  • The goal of this legislation (once workplace bullying is found to exist)— is to prevent it from re-occurring—because workplace bullying creates a risk to health and safety

  • The legislation is not about extracting some amount of financial payment from the bully or the organisation. The only time 'money' will enter into the equation is if the orders are breached (not complied with). An organisation or individual could then be prosecuted and incur penalties— up to $51,000 for corporations, and $10,200 for individuals

  • The legislation is not about adding financial burden, or meddling in organisations rights to determine workers' hours or rosters. If two workers need to be separated to prevent workplace bullying re-occurring— and the organisation does  have additional work sites— then moving one worker to another site makes a lot of sense.

  • If the organisation doesn't have additional sites— some other arrangement will be worked out, and this will be achieved through consultation and agreement between the parties.

  • The Commission will not place an unworkable, or highly prohibitive order on an individual or organisation. Orders need to be workable and acceptable in order to achieve the goal: to prevent workplace bullying from re-occurring.  

  • And in the event thngs don't go as swimmingly as the organisation desires— they can have the matter relisted with the Commission for further conference.

  • Note there is no requirement that the target of the workplace bullying be suffering an 'injury' in order to have an anti-bullying claim heard. All that is required is that the bullying behaviours constitute a risk to health and safety. Although most assuredly, by the time of lodgement with the FWC, the target will be affected by varying degrees of injury—physically, emotionally, or both.

  • As the current legislation stands, workers can approach the FWC without notifying their organisation, and the FWC will deal with matters in 14 days. However, the then Abbott government was proposing changes to the jursdiction with the requirement of the bullying claim going to a gatekeeper first— before going to FWC. Possible gatekeepers would be the relevant WHS regulator in your State or Territory. So you need to keep an eye out for these potential changes.

  • Finally, some (propagandists) say the 14-day timeline for the organisation to respond to the FWC isn't sufficient time "for preparation". Realistically —a workplace policy about 'bullying' either exists or it doesn't. Staff and managers are either trained about the policy, or not. Said policy either outlines the procedures, remedies, and timelines, or it doesn't. By training staff in what is, and what isn't workplace bullying —organisations can reduce the possibility of vexatious claims. The truth is, authentic leaders won't quibble about the 14-day timeline —simply because they'd have their finger on the pulse of the organisation.

In conclusion, as far as where Know Bull! stands with regard to the anti-bullying laws— while it's a positive step— there's potential hiccups/flaws. Even though we forecasted the arrival of legislation of this nature in 2010, we believe that legislation on its own is not the sole solution, or necessarily the best solution, to the workplace bullying problem. However, we'll explore this further in a later article.

[13 April 2014]

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Recommended resources to resources to bring you up to speed quickly

For a little effort the following resources will provide a wealth of information...the kind of 'information' that's generally omitted in the marketing 'hype' and falsehoods that 'Safe Schools Saves Lives', and that it's an 'anti-bullying program'.

  • 1. Bill Muehlenberg has an excellent webpage titled, Seven Things You Must Know about the Safe Schools Program  (dated Mar 17, 2016), and it's a 'must read' for all concerned parents. And if you have the time - read the comments as well.

Bill notes:

"The taxpayer funded Safe Schools Coalition has certainly been in the spotlight recently – and for good reason. It is an absolute shocker of a program, and the more folks learn about it, the less they like it. Pretending to be an anti-bullying program for our schools, it is nothing of the sort of course. And the more we learn about what is in it and who is behind it, the more it stinks to high heaven."  Click on the image below to go to Bill's webpage.


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