The Northern Territory government has quietly taken over funding for the contentious Safe Schools program, advising principals they would have ongoing access to training and resources to protect same-sex-attracted and transgender students from bullying.
Months after the federal government withdrew financial support for Safe Schools, the NT Department of Education has written to more than 150 government schools to confirm the program would continue.
It is understood more than 100 school principals have expressed some degree of interest in professional development to support the implementation of the program, and more than 20 have so far sent staff to training sessions.
Training was conducted late last year by the Principals Australia Institute, which has offices in Melbourne and Adelaide, but it said yesterday that its involvement had ended.
A spokesman for the NT department confirmed it had assumed responsibility for the program “to ensure staff are well-equipped with the skills needed to create safe environments for all students, free from bullying”. It would be funded from the existing budget for professional development. Membership was not compulsory and it was up to each school to decide how it would use the resources.
Safe Schools, developed by La Trobe University and first rolled out in Victoria in 2010, drew criticism that it crossed the line into social engineering. Resources, including the Year 7 and 8 unit guide “All of Us”, which is still available on the federal government’s student wellbeing hub website, introduced students to the concept of gender and sexuality existing on a spectrum, while teachers were encouraged to de-gender classes by avoiding binary terms such as “girls” and “boys”. Victoria has increased funding but NSW and South Australia have scrapped it in favour of developing more comprehensive anti-bullying programs, while Queensland principals must fund training from their own budgets.