The Australian – 30 May 2016
Tessa Akerman & Greg Brown
Safe Schools’ Roz Ward with Victorian Education Minister James Merlino.
Victoria’s Acting Premier has distanced the government from the architect of the Safe Schools program, Roz Ward, following a social media post in which she labelled the Australian flag “racist”.
Education Minister James Merlino yesterday called Ms Ward’s behaviour and comments on Facebook appalling, stupid and offensive.
He refused to discuss whether the government regretted appointing her to its LGBTI taskforce. “In relation to Safe Schools, which I’m responsible for as Minister for Education, we need to be clear about what this is about,” he said. “It’s not about one person, it’s about our kids at school.”
He said same-sex-attracted and gender-diverse people were more likely to be bullied and most of that bullying occurred in schools. “Safe Schools Coalition is an anti-bullying, a universal program in our schools and it saves lives,” he said.
Ms Ward, an avowed Marxist, made the controversial post after Premier Daniel Andrews’s historic apology in parliament for past gay discrimination. She posted a photo of a rainbow flag above Parliament House with the comment: “Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done.”
Ms Ward resigned on Friday from an advisory position with the LGBTI taskforce after The Weekend Australian asked her and the government for comment about her post. She is listed as a member of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia and Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.
Safe Schools Coalition steering committee member Kate Doak tweeted her thanks to Ms Ward on Friday for her work with LGBTI kids but said she was glad Ms Ward had “taken the high road” and resigned. “As a national committee member of Safe Schools, I think Roz Ward crossed a line,” Ms Doak tweeted.
Ms Ward has yet to quit either Safe Schools organisation.
La Trobe University, which partially runs Safe Schools Victoria and employs Ms Ward, has announced an investigation.