Prime Minister Morrison called out for reckless commentary on LGBTI kids

September 19, 2018

Leading human rights lawyers are dismayed by the manner in which our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has chosen to approach the rights of LGBTI children in Australian schools. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has written to the Prime Minister condemning his recent negative public statements about programs designed to ensure that children who identify as LGBTI are cared for within the education system.

Last week the Prime Minister Tweeted a Daily Telegraph article about counsellors working with teachers to support transgender children with the statement “We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids.” Earlier the same week, in an interview on 2GB radio with Alan Jones, the PM stated that programs in schools that aim to prevent family violence which acknowledge the existence, for example, of lesbian girls, made his “skin crawl” and public schools should ‘focus on things like learning maths [and] learning science.’

Nicholas Stewart, Co-Chair of ALHR’s LGBTI Rights Committee said, “We are frankly astonished that the Prime Minister appears to be unaware that Australia is obliged under international law to ensure our education system delivers much more than ‘learning maths and learning science’. Australia is a signatory to numerous human rights conventions all of which make it clear that students have the right to protection from mental or physical harm, the right to freedom from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and the right to freedom of expression. Homophobia and transphobia in Australia remain barriers to these human rights and these comments further entrench those barriers.”

Associate Professor Rita Shackel, Chair of ALHR’s Children’s Rights Committee said, “Early next year Australia is due to appear at the UN and report on its compliance with the Convention on the The Rights of the Child (CRC). Yet the Prime Minister’s recent comments show little regard for our obligations under the CRC which establish that children have a right to an education that provides life skills, the capacity to enjoy the full range of human rights and which promotes a culture infused by appropriate human rights values such as inclusivity”.

Georgia Burke, Co-Chair of ALHR’s LGBTI Rights Committee said, “LGBTI youth remain among some of our most vulnerable to abuse, harassment and violence. The Beyond Blue report From Blues to Rainbows on mental health and wellbeing of Australian trans and gender diverse young people found that almost two thirds of young people had experienced verbal abuse in response to their gender presentation or non-conformity, and one-fifth had experienced physical abuse. Over 90 per cent of young people who experienced physical abuse had thought about suicide in response to their experience.[1]

 “The Prime Minister of Australia should ensure that independent and public schools take active steps to create safe and inclusive school environments for LGBTI students, staff and families. Instead his comments encourage exclusion and division,” said Burke.

Stewart continued, “ALHR calls on Scott Morrison to consider, carefully, what language he uses on social media and in public because, as the Prime Minister of Australia, his conduct has an enormous impact on the physical and psychological safety of Australian citizens.”

ALHR has joined other human rights organisations in calling on Scott Morrison to meet with transgender children, to listen and learn about their experiences and the impact that comments such as the ones he has made have upon their wellbeing.

Read a copy of ALHR’s letter to the Prime Minister here

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.

[1] Smith, E., Jones, T., Ward, R., Dixon, J., Mitchell, A., & Hillier, L. 2014. From Blues to Rainbows: Mental Health and Wellbeing of gender diverse and transgender young people in Australia. Melbourne: The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health, and Society, 12.