Victorian students will be taught about “male privilege” and how “masculinity” encourages “control and dominance” over women, as part of a mandatory new school subject aimed at combating family violence. The Victorian government will push ahead with the rollout of its $21.8 million respectful relationships education program, despite claims the program fails to consider the multiple and complex drivers of family violence, ignores male victims and amounts to the brainwashing of children. Evidence has emerged the program risks alienating men, by presenting all men as “bad” and all women as “victims”, a point highlighted in a report evaluating a pilot of the program in 19 schools last year.

As part of its broader campaign against family violence, the Andrews government has released a series of new resources aimed at kindergarten through to Year 12 classes designed to complement a “whole-of-school” approach to violence prevention. The Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships learning materials aim to encourage gender equity in relationships and challenge gender stereotypes, which are key drivers of violence against women, it is claimed. While the program refers to “gender-based violence”, the overriding emphasis is on men being the perpetrators of violent acts. Proposed lessons will introduce students to the concept of “privilege”, which is described as “automatic, unearned benefits bestowed upon dominant groups” based on “gender, sexuality, race or socio-economic class”.

“Being born a male, you have advantages, such as being overly represented in the public sphere, and this will be true whether you personally approve or think you are entitled to this privilege,” states guidance for the Years 7 and 8 curriculum,” it says. By Years 11 and 12, students are asked to examine their privilege and ways that “equity” can be encouraged, such as catch-up programs, special benefits or entitlements for those who are not considered privileged. “An awareness of the existence of male privilege is critical in understanding why there is a need for feminist perspectives, and education on gender at all,” the curriculum guide points out.

It also introduces students to the term “hegemonic masculinity”, which is defined as the dominant form of masculinity in society that “requires boys and men to be heterosexual, tough, athletic and emotionless, and encourages the control and dominance of men over women”. Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, criticised the program, calling it “taxpayer-funded indoctrination” of children. “The idea behind this program, that all men are latent abusers by nature of the ‘discourse’,  is an idea that only cloistered feminist academics could love,” Dr Sammut said. “A lot of evidence suggests that like child abuse, domestic violence is a by-product of social dysfunction: welfare, drugs, family breakdown.”

Kevin Donnelly, a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, said the program was biased and lacked objectivity and balance. “There’s no doubt that women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence and more needs to be done,” Dr Donnelly said. “The royal commission found that 25 per cent of victims of family violence are men and there’s little, if anything, in there that acknowledges the impact of violence on men and young boys.” Hannah Grant, a spokeswoman for Our Watch, which managed the pilot and carried out the evaluation, acknowledged there had been tension in some schools and statistics demonstrating the gendered nature of violence often prompted challenging discussion.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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A new legal centre devoted to protecting fundamental rights and freedoms has been established in Canberra to fill the void left by the publicly funded human rights commissions and legal centres. Relying initially on private funding, the Human Rights Law Alliance intends to operate as a clearing house to ensure important cases involving the defence of fundamental freedoms are properly resourced. Its key areas of interest are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of association, subjects that it believes have been neglected by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and human rights legal centres. “We are finding legal cases are increasingly being brought against people over their beliefs and what they say,” said Martyn Iles, the managing director of the alliance.

It is developing a network of lawyers who are prepared to help defend these freedoms and will also provide grants. While it does not plan to conduct its own cases, it will identify strategic cases and mobilise legal support from within its network. It has the backing of private donors and seed funding from the Australian Christian Lobby where Mr Iles was once chief of staff. “They have been concerned about fundamental rights and freedoms and favoured the idea of a more secular body that is interested in this in a broader strategic sense,” Mr Iles said. While the AHRC and the other legal centres are officially charged with protecting human rights, Mr Iles said many organisations believed the protection of human rights was limited to enforcing anti-discrimination statutes.

“As a nation, we find ourselves in the position where the issue of human rights is basically seen through a lens of anti-discrimination,” he said. “But human rights law has always been about much more than that, it is about freedom at large, primarily about the freedom of the individual to exercise their rights to freedom of conscience and speech without the interference of the government.” This was increasingly coming into conflict with anti-discrimination legislation, particularly section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. “We are in a dangerous position where human rights law is being used to undermine what human rights once stood for,” Mr Iles said.

It was bringing the power of government into the resolution of disputes when he believed it should be about keeping the power of government out of those disputes. One of the factors behind the establishment of the Human Rights Law Alliance was the realisation that laws were changing and freedoms would be eroded unless strategic legal action could set limits on that trend. Mr Iles believed this work should be the responsibility of the human rights legal centres “but unfortunately, the human rights law centres are part of the problem”. He was also concerned that there was no transparency about the methods used by the AHRC when it conciliated complaints that are lodged under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. 

Many of the participants in the commission’s conciliation processes had to sign nondisclosure agreements while others lacked the resources to defend themselves, he said. “You actually have a government appointed policeman on speech, on belief, on expression that is empowered to go after ordinary citizens for the things they say and do and to do it in secret,” Mr Iles said. This was having a severe impact on particular communities who were becoming increasingly concerned about what they are permitted to say in public. “It forces people to retreat from public debate on key issues and the Human Rights Commission is part of the problem,” Mr Iles said. The alliance has been building its network of lawyers and supporters and backing some cases that were already under way since April 2016.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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There has been a good deal of name-calling in Parliament recently, all directed at anyone who opposes same-sex marriage. Senator Anne Urquhart referred to the ‘rabid right’ and the ‘vicious anti-marriage equality lobby’. Senator Susan Lines said Australia was being held hostage by ‘a Rump’ of right-wing conservatives. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young spoke of ‘ideologues and haters’ Complaining of the ‘many, many, deeply, deeply offensive emails’ she received from constituents opposed to same sex marriage, Lines explained that she refuses to answer such emails, and unfortunately for anyone who would wish to investigate this further – they get deleted. 

Lines argued that a respectful public debate is impossible because it gives a strong voice to those who oppose same-sex marriage and would therefore be ‘divisive’. It seems that Lines may think that disagreement and offensive behaviour are the same thing. Senator Chris Back, speaking in support of a plebiscite, argued that the examples of offensive behaviour he could point to all went the other way, and passed well beyond offensive emails. He referred to: The violent attack on Senator Bernardi’s offices by activists who threatened Bernardi’s staff, vandalized his offices and targeted his children’s school, which had to close its gates against the protestors.

The ‘feral social media posts, and threatened violence’ directed at the Mercure Sydney Airport Hotel for hosting a meeting of those campaigning to preserve marriage, which included Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) staff. Again, children were targeted as LGBTI activists asked the staff of the Mercure Hotel “are your children safe at the Mercure?” The case of Tasmanian Archbishop Porteous who was dragged before an anti-discrimination tribunal for instructing the Catholic community about the church’s teaching on marriage. Back concluded his point saying “if there is intolerance and hate speech, it hasn’t come from people who would support marriage as it is currently defined.”

Source: Compiled by APN from information provided by ACL

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