Adoption – a personal perspective

March 21, 2013

Note: Today was the day of the official apology to those whose suffered as a result of forced adoptions in Australia. These people – mothers, fathers, children – all went through the most dreadful trauma, and it’s not my wish to minimise or crowd in on that in any way. They deserve apologies from all of us, our unconditional support and love.

But something struck me during the speeches. Everyone spoke of the past, as though adoption was no longer a problem. As though women no longer suffer. Sadly, this is absolutely untrue. Australia’s adoption system is an utter, heart-breaking mess – and while they may no longer resort to brutal and illegal methods, there is still coercion, and judgement and trauma.

With that in mind, I decided to adapt an old article. I hope that those who suffered under forced adoption will take this in the spirit it’s meant – a story that warns us we have not, perhaps, come as far as we should from those terrible years.

Today, every State has its own set of legislation and guidelines. In some states, adoptions are done the old-fashioned way: the birth parent never knows who’s bringing up their child, and never sees them again unless that child wants to track them down after their 18th birthday via a private registry. In Victoria, so-called ‘open’ adoption is the rule: the birth parent sets out their preferred criteria in adoptive parents, meets with them beforehand, and has regular access with the child. That sounds much more compassionate all round, but it’s a deeply flawed system.

I speak from experience.

My older children, triplets, were taken from me when they were babies. I wasn’t shackled to a bed. I wasn’t pumped so full of drugs that I had no idea what I was signing. There were no nurses guiding my hand to sign papers I couldn’t even see. I was awake, free to move and speak.

Even so. I had no choice. My attempts to reach out for help as a single woman, desperately trying to raise triplets and fighting off post-natal depression, were rewarded with judgement and unrelenting pressure. A cascade of intervention from the Department of Human Services ensued which was so streamlined that, in retrospect, I wondered if there was a checklist being followed by the caseworkers. First a few hours’ respite care, then a weekend’s respite, then a week with a foster family, then a couple of months with my family – all of which occurred while I was left to find my own way of coping with the increasing guilt and sense of failure. No counselling. No support. Nothing but condemnation, as though I’d deliberately decided to make trouble for them. I wasn’t a good housekeeper. I wasn’t thinking ‘enough’ about my children. I wasn’t ‘making an effort’.

And, of course, the implicit criticism – I’d fallen pregnant while single, without a partner, and was now unable to work. I was a drain on the system.

(Could I have had an abortion? Sure. But I wanted a baby – and by the time I knew I had three growing in me, it was beyond the point where I could consider one. So I tried to do my best.)

Then the ultimatum. Take them back in the next 24 hours – regardless of my living circumstances (I was sharing a house with four other people, trying to save money) or mental health (a doctor had finally decided that perhaps I did need medication). If I didn’t do that, I would have to agree to have them adopted under Victoria’s open adoption laws, or have them taken away and never see them again.

I opted for what seemed to be the best choice at the time – adoption under Victoria’s scheme. A new case-worker came on board, to help me fill out a form listing my preferred criteria for the children’s new family – their religious belief, their location, their attitude towards queer sexuality, etc. I tried to balance my concerns with fairness – asking for an open mind on all religions, an accepting attitude towards queer sexualities, living in the greater Melbourne area, that sort of thing. The case-worker took that form away and came back with three families. Not one fulfilled the majority of my preferred criteria. For example, two were practising Christian families, and one lived in rural north-west Victoria. When I rejected them, I was told that they were my only choices, decided by DHS, and that if I didn’t select one, the choice would be made for me. No further investigation would be done.

Again, I chose the best outcome out of a group of bad choices. I met with the prospective parents, who seemed friendly and enthusiastic about the open adoption scheme. They agreed to my visiting four times a year, and exchanging letters and photos. DHS informed me that the first few visits would be supervised, but then the Department would step out and the family and I would work together in the future.

That was the plan. The reality was very different.

Trying to arrange access was always a fraught process. I was forced to rely entirely on the DHS worker, who often did not pass on to the family my requests for a visit. Actually being with the family was nothing short of distressing, as we struggled to adjust to the situation. No counselling was ever offered to me, though the adoptive family were given a great deal of support. My visits, which usually lasted less than an hour, were always mediated by DHS, and the adoptive parents watched me like a hawk the whole time.

And then things took a turn for the worse. The family started to make excuse to deny me access. Though I had insisted on visits being part of the legal adoption order, I was unable to enforce that order. In four years, I saw my children twice. My complaints to DHS were met with declarations of impotence – there was nothing the worker could do, apparently. Consulting a solicitor didn’t help, either. The laws were in such a sorry state that there was little way of enforcing that legal order.

As the years wore on, it got worse and worse. The family refused to allow me direct contact – everything had to be done with DHS as an intermediary. The access stopped altogether, and for months the DHS worker would not even return my calls. Finally, the worker and her supervisor turned up on my doorstep, and informed me that the family had ‘relinquished’ two of the children, who had been placed in foster care. Two months ago. I hadn’t been told because – despite legal orders – I didn’t have the ‘right’ to know if the family explicitly said they didn’t want me to be told.

My parents immediately offered to have the two children – now nearly 11 – stay with them. I had neither appropriate living arrangements nor the financial ability to care for them myself; I’d recently married, and we were expecting twins within two months. We went to court for that, where the Magistrate repeatedly stressed the ridiculous and confusing nature of the laws – which, even now, allowed the adoptive parents a say in what happened to these children that they had told DHS were effectively ‘orphaned’. We won that court date, but I’ll never forget the Magistrate’s puzzlement and frustration.

The two who went to live with my parents started talking – and they unfolded a tale of emotional and physical abuse that horrified me. This was a family that had supposedly been vetted thoroughly by DHS, who were presented to me as an ideal choice – and I’d taken the Department at its word. This was the family who were ‘better’ than me at parenting – and for years, I’d been told the children were better off. I immediately contacted DHS, and told them I was worried about the third child. The Department’s response was that, unless contacted by someone ‘in the child’s life’, they could not do anything other than request to see the child. The parents were free to refuse – and they did.

I fought for two years to even see my child, while my other two were under care of counsellors. In the end, that child took matters into their own hands, and ran away to be with their siblings. We informed DHS and the police that my parents were happy to care for all of them, and for once, the parents didn’t fight.

But in all of this, there was nothing I could do. I could pass on the terrible stories of the abuse meted out by these adoptive parents. I could plead with DHS to intervene, to at least contact the teachers at their school. I could write letters begging the adoptive parents to let me have access, or at least to let the DHS worker in the door. I did all of those things, and they were all utterly useless. The adoptive parents were aided and abetted by the system.

My children are now healthy adults with their own lives. Our family are committed to each other, even though we are thousands of miles apart. All of this is not because of Victoria’s adoption system, but despite it. And we all have scars.

Looking back now, it seems as though the decision to institute ‘open adoption’ was little more than someone’s thought bubble. In theory, the idea that a child can have access to both birth and adoptive parents has much to recommend it. The reality is that there is no support for birth parents, that court orders are not worth the paper they’re written on, and the screening process for adoptive parents is sorely in need of a complete overhaul. And that’s just for a start.

Children deserve to be protected by the State, not allowed to suffer abuse while it turns a blind eye or throws up its hands in defeat.

This is only my story. I know it’s happened to others, who have contacted me in the past, but it’s not my place to tell their stories here. I wanted to tell my story. While we think about the horrible injustices of the past, we also need to make sure that our current laws are uniform across the States – and above all, that they work. We need also to make sure that those who are supposed to be there to help us do so in a compassionate, non-judgemental way. Let’s support all our parents, and all our children. Being single shouldn’t be a licence to be treated poorly. Let’s be the village who raises the child.

posted originally on Dreamwidth


When is a knife not a knife?

March 7, 2013

When it’s a sword, apparently.

Remember back in 2010, when Education Minister Julia Gillard and the Faceless Men of Labor ‘knifed’ then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? The lurid headlines trumpeting, ‘Assassination’? The pundits crying, ‘J’accuse!’ at everyone from Labor junior Ministers to union officials?

Of course you do. After all, it’s not like any of us have been allowed to forget it. As recently as two weeks ago, we were treated to yet another reminder courtesy of the Coalition, complete with dire warnings that federal Labor will ‘inevitably’ see Gillard suffer the same fate as her predecessor.

Back up a second. Let’s remember something. Rudd may have been urged to go, but he didn’t lose a leadership challenge. He resigned in the face of loss of confidence from his party room. Splitting hairs? Maybe, but hold that thought.

Last night, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu also resigned from his leadership position. An earlier leader, Denis Napthine, emerged from the party room as the new Premier as a tearful Baillieu made his farewells.

The headlines made it clear. Baillieu ‘walked away’. He ‘fell on his sword’. In the face of loss of confidence from his party room (not to mention potential corruption charges and a continued slump in the polls), he resigned.

Sound familiar?

Oh, but wait.

It’s not the same at all, clamoured the Coalition. Rudd was ‘executed’. And anyway, he was a bad PM. Baillieu was a good Premier, a ‘man of integrity‘ who had ‘put Victoria’s finances on a sustainable footing and made significant investments in infrastructure,’ to quote Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Never mind the fact that earlier the same day, Victoria officially slipped into recession. It’s not nice to say bad things about an outgoing leader – unless that leader happens to be from the Labor Party, according to the Coalition playbook.

So let’s get this straight. When a Labor leader resigns under pressure from his party, he ‘gets knifed’. When a Liberal leader does the same thing, he ‘falls on his sword’. Is it just me, or is there something just a little ridiculous about that?

Kevin Rudd's tearful resignation

Kevin Rudd’s tearful resignation

Ted Baillieu's tearful resignation

Ted Baillieu’s tearful resignation

The Coalition will now reap everything it sowed when it sought to capitalise on the resignation of Rudd. The new Premier, in power under the same circumstances, is well and truly open to allegations of ‘assassination’ and ‘execution’ – and let’s not forget, Napthine himself was rolled as leader after poor polls and a split in the Coalition. Already, the accusations are flying thick and fast in the Victorian Parliament.

At least The Australian, ordinarily a bastion of Coalition support, didn’t go along with the ‘when-is-a-knife-not-a-knife’ spin attempt. Peter van Onselen was frankly incredulous at the turn of events in Victoria, describing the state Coalition as ‘rats in an experiment that did not learn from their mistakes’.

The frantic efforts to paint Baillieu as some kind of courageous and noble Roman general (notably absent from Parliament today) just won’t work. And the Coalition only has itself to blame. It wrote this script back in 2010, and ever since, have hammered it into public discourse without once stopping for breath. What goes round, comes round, as they say.

The big question, of course, is what – if any – effect this will have on Federal politics. It’s possible there will be none. Abbott’s very good at deflecting media attention, and Gillard risks a backlash from voters if she adopts the dramatic language usually directed at her. Neither stands to gain much (pending an early change of government in Victoria), and Abbott’s ‘sustainable finances’ gaffe is already the stuff of ridicule – so it won’t be long before he drowns it out with yet another criticism of the ‘carbon tax’ or the mining tax.

There is, though, one crucial lesson that we should take to the next Federal election – the knowledge that neither party can claim any sort of moral high ground in terms of loyalty to the leadership. Whether it’s resignation through coercion (as in the case of Rudd and Baillieu), or loss of position through a leadership spill (Nelson and Turnbull), ultimately doesn’t matter. Both parties are ruthless, and will do whatever it takes to gain (and hold) power. No leader is ‘safe’.

That’s something to remember next time you hear a politician wax lyrical about the stability of their party, or the instability of their opponent’s. In the words of Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar, just after the real assassination of Rome’s leader:

How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,
In states unborn, and accents yet unknown!
(Julius Caesar, 3.1.111)

How many, indeed?

Just a little bit of history repeating

Just a little bit of history repeating


Repression is not reform, Mr Baillieu

February 15, 2011

Newly-installed Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu isn’t wasting any time making good on those campaign promises. Or at least, making good on some – those that have a potentially devastating effect on the way we live. It’s all about religion, you see. Specifically, it’s all about how insisting on compassion, decency and above all fairness unfairly discriminates against a few vocal conservative groups.

The former Brumby government laid down a series of changes to Equal Opportunity legislation that would have taken effect in August. Religious organisations would have had to prove that they had good reasons for refusing employment or services to people beyond the basic excuse of, ‘We don’t agree with how they live their personal lives’. Under these changes, such organisations would have had to show that employing someone who was gay, or a single parent, would ‘undermine’ the organisation’s beliefs or that the job in question required someone who conformed to the faith in question.

Christian lobby groups – most particularly the Australian Christian Lobby – complained bitterly at what they characterised as an attack on freedom of religion, particular religious schools. Well, now they’ve got a government who speaks their language, and that is prepared to allow these organisations to go on discriminating against anyone they don’t like.

This is what the Attorney-General, Robert Clark, had to say in this article in The Age:

‘The 2010 legislation is a far-reaching attack on the freedom of faith-based organisations and freedom of religion and belief. The amendments will restore tolerance and a sense of the fair go. Faith-based organisations and political organisations should be free to engage staff that uphold their values.’

He went on to talk about the ‘direct attack’ on religious schools, implying that somehow, the Liberal government were protecting parents’ rights to choose a good education for their children. This was further rationalised by the claim that the issue had been ‘well-canvassed’.

Well-canvassed among the vocal – and rabid – minority of the Australian Christian Lobby, perhaps. A minority that, for reasons passing understanding, seems to have the ear of government at every level.

This is an appalling decision by the Victorian government. This policy decision doesn’t only prevent reform that would allow real fairness. It sends a clear message that these organisations can go even further. By scrapping the proposed reforms, Baillieu is effectively saying to these organisations – you can do what you like, and we’ll back you up. We consider your interests to be more important than those of single parents, queer people, and those who don’t believe as you do.

This is the party that frequently rails against the idea of giving in to ‘special pleading’ from ‘minority groups’. Apparently, it’s only some minority groups, however.

Baillieu’s government thinks this is a great piece of reform, and they’ve trotted out the clichés to back themselves up. It’s a ‘fair go’. It’s about ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’.

It’s nothing of the kind.

It’s a warning: conform or be punished. And it’s targeted at people who already suffer massive discrimination simply for being who they are.

Oh, it all seems very reasonable. After all, if you’re not a member of this kind of religion, why would you want to work for them, or seek their help? But it’s not that simple. Understand, we’re not talking about church membership here, where belief – or even, the will to believe, could be considered a reasonable requirement. This unlimited power to discriminate extends to any business that describes itself as a religious organisation. That’s a broad spectrum, encompassing everything from schools to charities to community-based organisations to health care.

Single mum looking for a part-time job now that the kids are at school? Young gay school-leaver seeking to work in a gap year before going to uni? Devout Muslim woman wanting to help the local community by working for a welfare agency?

Need not apply.

In rural areas, sometimes these religious organisations are the only ones available. Baillieu’s so-called ‘reforms’, then, have
potential knock-on effects that could disrupt people’s lives. The only job going for teachers in any given town might be in the local Catholic school (the only one in the area) – but if the most qualified applicant is an atheist or in a de facto same-sex relationship, that school can legally refuse to employ them on those grounds alone. So that teacher faces two equally unpalatable choices; seek a job much further away, perhaps requiring hours of travel or even moving to another town, or forget about the idea of becoming a teacher in their home town.

What if a single woman employed by a religious charity became pregnant, and elected to keep the baby? She could be dismissed. Ditto the man who, after wrestling with his own sense of self for many years, finally accepts that he is a woman, and needs to transition.

And it goes further. A religious school would be able to pick and choose its teachers. Evolution? Sex education (beyond abstinence)? Forget it. And the kid who’s discovering her sexual identity is something other than what she’s been told is ‘normal’? Well, she’d better be prepared to keep it quiet, because her principal might just decide she needs to go elsewhere.

Oh, and just as a point of contrast … a convicted criminal would have more protection under Equal Opportunity in Victoria than a bisexual man or a pagan if Baillieu has his way.

Baillieu and Clark are happily condoning the kind of prejudice that leads to mental illness, violence and suicide. Worse, they’re actually championing it. Their ‘wide canvass’ doesn’t seem to have included people like these teens, who wrote of their experiences with homophobia at school:

I tried to kill myself because I was so badly teased at school for being a lesbian.. it never ended and I got severe depression and I saw no other way to be happy, I was in hospital for 2 months trying to control my depression and because doctors thought I would hurt myself again if they let me out and it also forced me to drop out of school.
(Claudia, 16 years)

i thought about it so much, i came close just as many times. but for some reason i never bought myself to try. i did have a complete plan though, i took a week to plan the whole thing out. (Craig, 16 years)

(Source: Writing Themselves In Again: 6 years on, 2nd national report on the sexual health & well-being of same-sex attracted young people in Australia, via La Trobe University)

These are the kind of kids who exist in a school system where there are programs to address issues of homophobia and violence, and where teachers are encouraged to support same-sex attracted students. Imagine these kids under Baillieu’s ‘reforms’. Because their parents want them to get a good education, or because there’s no decent public school available, they attend an independent school (most of which, as the ACL has noted on many occasions, are at least nominally religious). No teachers for them to turn to when they are victimised, no positive role model with whom they can identify. An unmistakable message that there is something ‘wrong’ with them for being queer – or even suspecting that they might be so.

This isn’t about ‘freedom’. Baillieu and Clark, with this plan, would sacrifice the well-being – and perhaps the lives – of Victorians just so they can pander to groups that believe they have the (literally) God-given right to demonise others. The very same people who tend to howl about how badly they are discriminated against if another religious group wants to exclude them, or if Mardi Gras tells them their lying rhetoric alleging all gay men are pedophiles isn’t permitted in their celebrations.

And they have the nerve – the absolute, outrageous nerve – to tell us it’s reform. It’s fair.

This is not reform, Mr Baillieu – it’s repression, pure and simple. You can dress it up with buzzwords designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, because after all, none of us like to feel we’re being denied a fair deal. But there is nothing fair about this.

The Shadow Minister, Martin Pakula, weaselled when asked whether Labor would support Baillieu on this plan. He said Labor would have to look at the amendments. That’s not good enough, Mr Pakula. Your government wanted to bring in these changes in the first place. Your government was the one that really undertook a wide canvass. You know just how important it is that these groups not be allowed to reduce people to outcasts. No amount of appeals to sacred texts can disguise the fact that what they want is the ability to arbitrarily declare some people less worthy than others. Despite their often-repeated claim that Australia is a ‘Judeo-Christian’ nation, we are a country of diverse beliefs, none of which should be subject to favourable treatment or prejudice. We are not a country subject to the doctrine of one interpretation of one religion.

And we should not be a country that turns a blind eye to the deliberate attempts of a lobby group to strip away the rights of those they simply do not like.


Does the ACL want blood on its hands?

January 6, 2011

Well, it’s a new year, and a new Victorian government. Sadly, though, it looks like the same old bigotry rearing its ugly head.

This time, it’s about bullying in schools, and the ever-popular concerned citizens who think it’s time Premier Ted Baillieu understood that the current funding situation to address this problem is just too darn unfair. Bullying is a big problem, after all, and our elected representatives need to make sure that taxpayers’ money is spent properly. Accordingly, they’re up in arms, determined to champion the needs of Our Precious Children against the ‘ideological agenda’ of questionable groups.

Sounds reasonable, right? The last thing most parents would want is to see kids become the victims of people pushing narrow and potentially damaging ideas. And bullying is a huge problem, so it’s important to make sure the best possible steps are being taken to protect and educate the kids.

But wait. Who are these Corrupters of Our Youth?

Apparently, it’s the Safe Schools Coalition of Victoria.

This dangerous organisation is a network of schools, Rainbow Network Victoria, the Foundation for Young Australians and interested individuals. Its purpose is to promote school environments where same-sex attracted people are able to find acceptance and support. As part of its work, the SSCV produces information and education resource packages for schools, as well as offering courses in dealing with issues of intolerance and fear.

Pretty scary, huh? Why, you can just see the agenda dripping from their webpage.

Now we know who the ‘enemy’ is – so just who are these Noble Crusaders for Fairness? It’s our old friends, the Australian Christian Lobby. You remember, the lobby group that claims to represent all Christians in our ‘Judeo-Christian’ country? In fact, the ACL does nothing of the sort. They are not an ecumenical or interfaith group – rather, they espouse a narrow and intolerant set of values set squarely in opposition to issues that include equal rights, diversity of religion and freedom of expression. They’re also pretty adept at obscuring the differences that exist between the Christian faiths and are not above inflating their numbers to make a political point.

As lobby groups go, they’re very well-organised. They created an image for themselves of an organisation representing ‘mainstream’ values, speaking for the ‘majority’ of Australians. They’ve been so successful at this that successive Prime Ministers (John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard) afford them special attention. Political parties go out of their way to help that image along by responding to their heavily-slanted ‘values questionnaire’ at election time. Needless to say, the same privileges are not extended to lobby groups claiming to represent Muslims, atheists or any other faith. The ACL are pretty shrewd marketers. But they are not representative of most Christians in Australia.

Now we know who the players are. But just what grievous act did the SSCV commit that moved the ACL to call for Baillieu to cut funding to anti-bullying programs aimed at addressing homophobia and similar issues?

The SSCV sent a letter to schools reminding them that the upcoming Pride March will take place around the same time that classes commence, in case any students want to attend.

Yes, you read that right.

The ACL were outraged. How could the Victorian government be involved with an organisation that promoted events that were ‘no place for young children’? It’s absolutely unacceptable for taxpayers’ money to be used to ‘persuade children to attend a gay pride march’ or take up an ‘alternative lifestyle’. That money should be spent on the ‘wider context’ of bullying, not some vocal minority’s agenda.

According to the ACL, the SSCV aren’t using their funding to keep schools informed and encourage a sense of self-worth and acceptance in students. No, no, they’re actually taking funding away from ‘real’ bullying.

See what they did there?

It’s actually horribly clever.

They appeal to the ‘reasonable expectations’ of parents. Not every parent is queer, or has a queer kid, right? Bullying is a terrible thing that affects all sorts of kids, right? Doesn’t it make sense, then, to make sure we have the best possible programs to stop bullying?

You can almost see people’s heads nodding. Well, of course. But unpack the ACL’s position a little more, and you can see the really ugly side.

ACL: ‘Gay’ is a ‘lifestyle’, and it’s not one we should encourage our kids to take up.

Leaving aside the whole question of genetics, ‘lifestyle choice’ or whatever, the question remains – why not? What’s so bad about being gay that the ACL feels kids must be protected from it at all costs?

Now, obviously there’s a religious dimension here. The ACL has never made any secret of its belief that same-sex attraction is against ‘God’s law’. But it’s nastier. Look at what they said in the Star Observer article:

ACL Victorian director Rob Ward said gay pride marches were “no places for young children” …

This harks right back to a disgusting strategy employed by organisations – usually backed by the same brand of religion as the ACL – that attempts to link homosexual behaviour with pedophilia. They’ve written reams on the subject. If you have a strong stomach and can rein in your anger, just Google the two terms.

It hardly needs saying that there is no correlation between the two – but we are talking about an organisation that doesn’t scruple to misrepresent its numbers in order to push its agenda. Why would a little consideration like absolute lack of factual evidence get in the way of that?

Of course, the ACL doesn’t come right out and say that, but then they don’t have to, do they? There are plenty of other people out there saying that for them – including Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile. And with the current preoccupation with sexualisation of children’s images, child exploitation material and child safety, it’s never far from a parent’s mind.

That particular idea is contemptible – but there’s more, and it borders on the downright dangerous.

ACL: Baillieu should yank funding out of SSCV (and presumably other organisations working to promote sexual diversity) and put it to better use in a ‘wider context’.

This is a tried-and-true ploy; appealing to some notion of ‘fairness’. Is it fair, they ask, for these minority groups to get money to push their ideas while the majority suffer? Why should they get special treatment?

Of course, it’s utter rubbish. The SSCV does not take money from any other anti-bullying initiative – or any other school program, for that matter. They have a one-off grant for $80,000 from the former Brumby government. Compare that to the $800,00 pledged by Baillieu to the school chaplaincy program – a program specifically allowed to promote a particular religion inside public schools – and things fall into perspective.

The ACL wants to muddy the waters by spreading the lie that the SSCV is a tiny group getting more than its ‘fair share’ of public funding. If it succeeds, and Baillieu responds by choking off further funding, the ACL will count it as a victory. Of course, there is no guarantee that the paltry amount earmarked for the SSCV would find its way into any other anti-bullying initiative – but that’s not really the point. The ACL wants to make it very clear that there is no place in Victorian schools for any such program that addresses the needs of same-sex attracted kids.

In other words, bullying is bad, but it’s not as bad to bully the queer kid. We can have programs about not picking on the little kid, not singling out the ‘weird-looking’ kid, not reducing a kid to tears because they have braces or belong to a particular racial group – because that’s ‘real’ bullying. Hounding a kid into suicidal depression for being queer isn’t a signal that we should be teaching kids acceptance of diversity – on the contrary, we should do everything we can to convince that queer kid that there’s something ‘wrong’ with feeling the way he does. We should ‘get help for her’. We should ‘support them by showing them that being queer is bad.

Already, too many queer kids drop out of school because of the bullying and intolerance they suffer. Queer kids are six times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.

And every time that kind of bullying isn’t dealt with quickly and effectively, it sends a message to the bully that what they’re doing is acceptable. That’s the kind of lesson they’ll carry into adult life, and perhaps parenthood.

If the ACL gets its way, an organisation doing far more than its fair share of heavy lifting in trying to combat homophobia and promote diversity will have what little money it does receive choked off. Without money, the SSCV will have to depend on volunteers and donations. Inevitably, there would be a scale-back of programs – not because they wanted to, but because they simply couldn’t afford it. The result would be a void where there is a real, urgent need.

And the next time a queer kid tries to kill himself, or gets bashed to within an inch of her life, the ACL and Ted Baillieu will have blood on their hands.

What frightens me is the idea that the ACL, at least, simply wouldn’t care.


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