The NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, has banned every public school in the state from screening a documentary about children with gay parents during school hours. Mr Piccoli issued a memo to the state’s principals ordering them not to show the film Gayby Baby so as “to not impact on the delivery of planned lessons”. The film depicts how four children with gay parents wrestle with the onset of puberty, whilst the outside world wrestles with the issue of marriage equality and whether kids of same-sex families are at risk. Up to 50 schools across Australia, including 20 in NSW had organised a simultaneous broadcast of the film as part of a nationwide Wear it Purple day campaign of sexual inclusion in schools. A spokeswoman for the minister said he did not object to the content of the largely crowd-funded film.

She said the decision was taken to avoid students missing out on class and that screening the film may be considered if it is an integral part of the planned curriculum for an age appropriate year group. Students at Burwood Girls High School are among those who participate in the Proud Schools program. The state-wide ban came after the Minister personally intervened to prevent Burwood Girls High in Sydney’s inner-west screening the film to 1200 students in the wake of a front page Daily Telegraph story about the controversy. The film’s director, former Burwood Girls High student Maya Newell, said that minister’s decision had sent the wrong message to children who may be feeling ostracised. “This is a film about kids who are growing up, they just happen to have gay parents,” she said. “The minister could have told all these families that they are equal and respected. He chose not to do that.”

Mr Piccoli has previously been a vocal supporter of programs that target homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism. Wear it Purple day founder Katherine Hudson said she could understand the film being banned if it showed “grotesque sex scenes or violence”. “But this is a film about families,” she said. Earlier in the week the film screened inside NSW Parliament as part of the opening for the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) friendship group at the state legislature. The ban followed complaints from parents and religious groups including the Presbyterian church, which criticised the school for planning to screen a film which “promotes a gay lifestyle”. Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the minister’s decision to prevent the film from being shown during school hours was “absurd and deeply disappointing”.

“From a personal perspective, if I had seen a film that showed that gay and lesbian people in loving and stable families, that would have a positive and profound impact on my confidence and self-identity. “It is not a controversial film. It just shows rainbow families being as normal as any other,” he said. The NSW Department of Education guidelines on film screenings do not prohibit showing films with homosexual themes and advise that films with an M+ rating can be shown at the discretion of the principal. Gayby Baby has been rated PG. The department’s policy on controversial issues maintains schools should avoid creating “arenas for opposing political views or ideology”. NSW Premier Mike Baird said he did not believe the film belonged in the classroom. “I think tolerance is a good thing. But I think there should be some parameters around it,” he said. “This is something that can be done outside class time.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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What’s the deal with kids these days? With 58 gender categories to choose from, ­sexual and gender identity are part of the Zeitgeist. Ask Josh Han, the queer officer with Sydney University’s Student Representative Council. “It’s about deconstructing ­societal views of what it means to be a man or a woman,” he says. “If you only have two genders, there are limited interactions. But if you have a diversity of gender identities you don’t have these closed categories. It means you can have way more than 58 gender categories.” Among those 58 ­options, first listed on Facebook, are bigender, gender questioning, gender variant, pangender, intersex and 26 versions of trans, transgender and trans­sexual. Plain old male and ­female didn’t make the list.

But don’t think for a moment that Han is part of a fringe movement. At campuses across the country students are campaigning for gender-neutral bathrooms and official records to state chosen, not birth, names. Kyol Blakeney, the president of Sydney University’s SRC, says these are important issues. “A lot of people who transition have a chosen name that is different to their legal name. If they go to class and their legal name is called out it can be horrifying for them.” Ditto on the prosaic business of going to the bathroom. “For a queer person or a trans person to use a male bathroom can be a ­humiliating or dangerous exper­ience because of physical and verbal assault,” says Blakeney. Signs of gender fluidity are everywhere. Former Kardashian clan patriarch Bruce Jenner transitioned into Caitlyn on the cover of Vanity Fair this month.

A Gucci advertising campaign features gender-unspecific models. Children as young as six are telling their parents they no longer identify with their assigned birth gender. Sarah Maddison, a gender studies expert from the University of Melbourne, argues it’s not a trend. “We’ve seen over the past 40 or 50 years an absolute transformation in how we think about gender and sexuality,” she says. “Is it that more people are coming out and identifying with ­diverse gender identities because it’s of the moment? I suspect the more likely scenario is that these young people have always been lurking in the shadows.” Toby Miller, the Sir Walter Murdoch Professor of Cultural Policy Studies at Murdoch University, says one only needs to look to Andy Warhol’s Factory and David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs days to see the current fashion for gender complexity is nothing new.

There are indigenous cultures in Asia and the Americas “that have several different ways of categorising genders and in-­betweens”. There is no doubt, however, that social media and reality TV are driving the trend. “Reality TV has been intrinsic to normalising some of these ideas,” Miller says. And the ubiquitousness of ­social media means anyone who feels different can easily find a tribe to identify with on Facebook. But is it narcissism or hyper-indiv­iduality? Not at all, says Blythe Worthy, the women’s officer with Sydney University’s SRC. “That is  saying it’s attention-seeking. That is not the case; it’s an identity issue.” Karen Brooks, an honorary senior research fellow with the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, is not so convinced. “It’s a way of making ourselves more interesting,’’ she says. “Like tattoos and body piercings, the search for individuality is almost the new conformity.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has called on the Palaszczuk government to rule out further increases in the number of poker machines allowed at the new Queens Wharf casino and to place a $1 bet maximum on all poker machines. The government recently announced the casino would be granted an extra 1,200 poker machines in Brisbane’s CBD. ACL Queensland Director Wendy Francis said the government needed to demonstrate it was serious about tackling problem gambling. “1,200 new poker machines is a huge increase and we are disappointed it has been allowed to occur.  It calls into question the government’s commitment to tackling the scourge of problem gambling.

“We are calling on the government to immediately announce there will be no further increase in the number of poker machines in Queensland. Instead the government should be working towards a $1 bet maximum on all poker machines in the state and at the new casino. Since they were introduced in 1992, Queensland now has over 45,000 operational pokies and Queenslanders are losing over $175 million a month – or over $5.6 million a day – to gaming machines. An increase of 2,500 poker machines from the current 1,300 allows more capacity for broken families, more capacity for alcohol abuse and more capacity for mental health issues in at-risk individuals.” Francis said.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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