SHFPACT is proud to work with Canberra schools and our collaborating partners to support school communities to be safe and inclusive places for same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse students.
Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT) has a long record of service provision and advocacy to meet the identified needs of same-sex attracted, sex- and gender-diverse Canberrans, and is proud of a longstanding commitment to gender equity in health, education and community services through our training programs for professionals in these industries.
For SHFPACT, the Safe Schools Coalition program represents a continuation and extension of this commitment to helping families as primary educators and schools as formal educators for Canberra's young people.
Over many years, SHFPACT has supported school communities to meet the age- and developmentally-appropriate learning needs of all students in the areas of sexual health, sexuality and relationships education. This has included awareness raising and anti-discrimination work related to sexuality, sexual and gender identity, gender equity, sex and gender diversity. This work has included professional development training for school staff, advice and assistance in the design and evaluation of learning programs, recommendations for evidence-informed practice and teaching/learning resources, and sometimes classroom education.
Background to the Safe Schools Coalition ACT Program
In 2014, SHFPACT led a successful collaboration of ACT health and community services in a bid to provide the Safe Schools Coalition Australia program in Canberra. This program was convened by Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), based in Melbourne, and funded by the Australian Government. Safe Schools Coalition Australia aimed to build on the successful Safe Schools Coalition Victoria program established in 2010 and share this model of school support and engagement nationally.
Our collaborating partners in that process were AIDS Action Council, A Gender Agenda (AGA), Belconnen Community Service, Northside Community Service (in their program partnership with Anglicare), headspace Canberra, and Youth Coalition of the ACT. We continue to be proud of our Canberra model that brings together existing and expert community service providers to work with school communities to help them be more inclusive and safe learning environments for same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender-diverse students, staff and families. And we are proud to have worked with colleagues across Australia in the national Safe Schools Coalition Australia program.
The program has enjoyed the strong support of ACT Government, and other community and professional groups.
In early 2016, in response to a significantly increased media and political campaign against the Safe Schools Coalition program, the Australian Government announced and conducted a rapid review of the program by Prof Bill Louden (link to the report here). Following this review, Commonwealth Minister for Education Simon Birmingham announced changes the Australian Government would require from the Safe Schools Coalition program (link to the statement here). During this period of time, the ACT Government made several public announcements and statements of support for the program. The ACT Legislative Assembly passed a motion of support of the program's work in Canberra on 9 March 2016
New requirements on how the program is delivered have taken a period of many months (including a hiatus during the federal election) for revised guidelines to be finalised and issued to SHFPACT for its provision of the program under national funding arrangements. In August 2016, after careful consideration of the impact of the changed guidelines on vulnerable young people, member school participation, and the ability of the collaborating partners to successfully assist school communities to make schools safe and inclusive for same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse students, families and staff, SHFPACT reluctantly concluded that the negative impacts on continuing under those arrangements outweighed the benefits, and advised the ACT Government accordingly. The ACT Government response has been to back its public statements of support for the program with a financial commitment that will enable us to continue to meet the needs of our school communities.
Current status of Safe Schools Coalition ACT
- Safe Schools Coalition ACT will be funded by ACT Government to continue to provide supports to school communities.
- This decision, once implemented, will mean ACT can no longer receive Australian Government funding for the program convened by Foundation for Young Australians.
- We look forward to the opportunity to build on what we have learned nationally and shape service guidelines that reflect the needs of the Canberra community.
Facts about how the program works
- Membership and participation has always been a voluntary decision, and will remain soon in the ACT Program.
- Principals and school leaders are best positioned to make decision on the support their school community needs.
- Professional educators are trained and skilled to prepare and deliver learning programs that are relevant for student and community needs and meet Australian Curriculum requirements.
- Safe Schools Coalition ACT supports schools to maintain open communication with parents on all learning and student welfare issues.
- Safe Schools Coalition ACT will provide support to any Canberra school to address safety and inclusion of same-sex attracted, intersex, sex and gender diverse students, whether Government, Catholic or Independent.
Contact for more information or to request assistance (02) 6247 3077