NSW government stops showing of documentary in schools

This began, it appears, with a characteristic fit of righteous wrath from the Sydney Daily Telegraph front page. I saw but did not bother reading it. Life is too short.

But there have been rapid consequences, as reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

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.

On Wednesday afternoon 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”.

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.

The state-wide ban comes after the Minister personally intervened to prevent Burwood Girls High in Sydney’s inner-west screening the film to 1200 students on Friday morning, in the wake of a front page Daily Telegraph story about the controversy on Wednesday…

Fairfax Media understands four emails from parents were sent to the school expressing concern about the screening….

The ban follows complaints from some 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 can have loving and stable families and are just as normal as everyone else, that would have a positive and profound impact on my confidence and self identity.

“It is not a controversial film. It just shows that rainbow families are just as normal as any other,” he said…

Compare the Department’s policy on controversial issues, obviously a tricky thing to balance given that studiously avoiding such things is to neuter true education – not a good thing in a democracy.

The Guardian offers a view rather different to that in the Tele.

Burwood girls high did not receive a single complaint from parents of students at the school regarding its plan to screen a documentary on gay parenting, Guardian Australia can reveal…

“The school has not received any complaints from Burwood girls high school parents,” the department said in a statement.

After the plans made front-page news in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Piccoli said on Wednesday the film, part of the Wear it Purple Day campaign aimed at supporting LBTGIQ students, would need to be shown outside school hours.

“During school hours we expect them to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters,” Piccoli told 2GB Radio. “This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that direction.”

Gayby Baby, directed by Maya Newell, an alumnus of the school, follows four children with gay parents and highlights the obstacles they face in Australia and overseas…

The story was accompanied by a comment piece headlined “Gay push should be kept out of schools”.

The piece, by Piers Akerman, directly addressed a 12-year-old girl who confessed in the film she often worried if she was “normal”.

“Statistically, you are not in a ‘normal’ family, no matter how many LGBTIQ-friendly docos you may be forced to watch by politically driven school principals,” he wrote.

Akerman also claimed the school had received “numerous complaints”.

Cath Sefton, whose daughter attends the school, described the episode as a “total beatup”…

Adrian Piccoli has in many ways proven a good Education Minister, so I am disappointed – if the report fairly quotes him – with “During school hours we expect them to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters… This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that direction.” It might be thought that the movie does address issues in the larger curriculum dealing with personal development, health and social inclusion. (I see a friend on Twitter – a head teacher in a western Sydney school – finds Adrian Piccoli’s response “sad and gutless”.)

See the film’s website.

“Touching, frank and delightfully humorous”

– The Reel World

“Essential viewing for every family – same-sex, straight or otherwise.”

– Benjamin Law, author

More from Burwood Girls:

Amy [a year 11 student at Burwood Girls] says the school follows the same protocol for the Gayby Baby screening as it does with its religious seminars, which run for a full period – 80 minutes – once per school term. Attendance is expected unless a student brings a note of exemption from their parents.

“People come and teach us about Christianity. I don’t believe in it but I’m not offended and I’m not going to complain,” she says. “But we can’t learn anything else because the whole class isn’t there.”

Another year 11 Burwood Girl, Milly, says the students and teachers she’s spoken to think all this fuss over the film is “ridiculous and offensive”.

“To say that it’s too political to show is incredibly offensive to LGBTIQ people.”

But what bugs her most, Milly says, is that when Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop spoke at the school on Monday, no mention was made of the potential for any Liberal Party indoctrination to occur. “Then, when we’re to watch something and the political view isn’t ‘right-wing’, suddenly everyone’s offended.”

Neither Amy nor Milly expressed gripes about religious seminars trying to turn them Christian instead of that time being used for the “maths and English and curriculum matters” that Education Minister Adrian Piccoli is championing, and they thought Bishop’s speech held positive messages for women…

So to the school’s own web site.

Friday 28: WEAR IT PURPLE Day – wear purple accessories and please bring a gold coin donation. “Gayby Baby” screening has been cancelled. Students are invited to a whole-school morning tea to be held in the school Hall at recess. Students who do not wish to attend will be supervised in the playground as normal.

Note that “Wear It Purple Day” is not just a Burwood thing: [last year] Young High ‘wears it purple’ for the gay community.

Young High School turned purple for a day to show their support of sexuality and gender diverse young people. It was Wear It Purple Day on Friday, a national event held across the country to raise awareness and offer support to these young people…

And last year in the Daily Telegraph:

Police and emergency workers will be going through a purple patch on Friday to support the Wear it Purple campaign against homophobic bullying.

Joining police officers, members of the State Emergency Service, the Ambulance Service, Fire and Rescue, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Australian Federal Police in wearing purple will be Brisbane Water Local Area Command Superintendent Daniel Sullivan.


A few recycles now. Consider:

Just wonderful: Kim Ho’s “The Language of Love”

Posted on December 8, 2013 by Neil

I mentioned this in July but, having downloaded it then, I have just watched it again just now – and it is so remarkable, so good, so beautiful that I had to repost on it alone, rather than as part of a set of things like last time. It really is one of the best things I saw all year!


See Kim Ho on The Language of Love. See also Actor Stephen Fry’s tweet about Sydney student’s film turns it into worldwide hit on YouTube, Dannii Minogue falls in love with a film by a 17 year old Sydney schoolboy, and Sydney student’s gay love story receives global acclaim.

Written and performed by student Kim Ho, 17, and shot at his high school, Sydney Grammar, the piece has resonated with audiences around the world.

Since it was released in April, it has been watched by more than 100,000 people on YouTube, been praised by the US gay magazine The Advocate as perfectly capturing the “wonder, fear and excitement of first love” and English actor Stephen Fry tweeted that it was “amazing”.

Not many HSC-time exercises* have such an effect! Kudos to the Australian Theatre for Young People. Kudos to Sydney Grammar too!

Then a movie that I showed in class:

Gay movie still relevant today

21 Nov 2006

shsjumperLast night I watched the 1994 movie of David Stevens’ play The Sum of Us starring a very young Russell Crowe, wearing a SBHS footie jumper, and Jack Thompson, veteran Aussie actor. There is a good account of the movie’s critical reception from this Murdoch University page: Film Information, and a former colleague of mine, Su Langker, has written an online study guide for Currency Press.

It is a gay feel-good movie, let’s face it, but is also very witty and very Australian; it is also totally humanitarian and positive. Some people one could name should be locked in a room with a DVD player and made to watch it over and over until some of that wonderful dialogue seeps into their closed little minds. 😉 As Su Langker remarks:

The script begins with a scene depicting love, that between Gran and her grandchildren and, even though it is only a hint in the background, of the love between Gran and Mary. This is a comfortable kind of love, the love of belonging, of companionship. This companionship is an important component of all the love depicted in the rest of the script. A second hint of the importance of love/companionship is also given before the titles start to run, when Dad seeks the bar attendant’s advice about a dating agency.

There is obvious affection between Harry and Jeff as father and son. This is revealed through their teasing of each other and their knowledge of each other’s habits as in the scene about the dripping shower. In one of Harry’s direct addresses to the camera, we not only learn his acceptance of Jeff’s sexuality but also his deep love for his dead wife. However, what is important here and what gives the film universality is that this is not just about the relationship between a gay son and his straight father but all parent-child relationships. Lives there a parent, no matter how much loved, who is not, at times, an embarrassment to his or her children?

I could not help but reflect on the fact the movie is twelve years old, but sadly too many in our community have not caught up with its simple but powerful message.

Finally, the following page was once my contribution to student welfare at Sydney Boys High:

GLBT resources

“Be sure that, in the end, inclusion will replace exclusion. For the sake of the planet and of humanity it must be so. And by our lives let us be an example of respect for human rights. Not just for gays. For everyone.” — Justice Michael Kirby, High Court of Australia. See below…


The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)

This page is dedicated to understanding at least and acceptance at best.


So far as there are cultural and religious issues involved here, I can only say 1) I have not gone out of my way to offend but have stayed within the guidelines common to various welfare areas in the NSW Department of Education and Training though that does not imply any official standing for this page, and 2) clearly individuals and families will consult many sources other than this one, and will already know what teachings their particular belief system endorses. Note also that this page was originally in the context of a boys school, which colours somewhat what is said here… more