There is nothing harder than watching your community let hope slip through their fingers, the people who you share a common thread with, hearing their resolve unravel. Not even strangers fighting against your right to safety and winning is harder than your friends feeling barren of bravery in the streets and the schools to stand up for themselves. Today, we woke up to an Indian-giving government (much as I hate that phrase), who after stepping leagues forward in addressing struggles young people face in terms of identity, community, sexuality, gender and health, hit us square in the face with a 180-degree decision. To hack funding, squirrel away resources and place the weight on children to approach adults and ask for equality, effectively exposing themselves and gambling what social stability and trust in the mentor-figures they have. The whole thing is a crushing disappointment, a systemic betrayal and an anxious revelation for our entire population. But by no margin is it over.
The advantage conservatism has is that they’re community active where progressives are more individualistic, and so do not invest or provide as much content to the systems, political, educational or spiritual. At the end of the day, it is a blatant hypocrisy for communities that go door-to-door on the premise of educating and providing entry into a dogma to accuse a program of having an agenda, but no excuse or claim of “it’s unfair” will enact the change we need. What’ll do it, is you taking time off Facebook, not rocking up to Friday night drinks on time, skipping your spin class, or whatever it takes to repurpose your time and energy into solutions. Like it or not, Safe Schools is a wonderful program because it does the hard work for us so we can get back to living lives where the worst homophobia we experience is from a passing car.
So for those of us who still have the energy, for those of us who are galvanised not disheartened by this setback, for those of us who knew from the beginning this backlash would come and thickened our skin up, here’s a couple thoughts:
- Forget shaming, name and acclaim your school if you made it out alive, and remind them how proud a student you are for what they did at the time, and what they can do now. Maybe write them a letter?
- Tell your local school about the program, and ask them if they provide it. If not, ask why they don’t, and what alternative they suggest to people wanting to equip their kids with the skills for not being homophobes or bigots.
- Parents ask the school you send your kids to whether it’s a Safe School and if it isn’t, ask them how they intend to support at-home messages of equality, compassion and understanding in a broader social context.
- Potential parents let your catchment schools know you’re looking around and only want to send your kid to a Safe School if possible.
- Provide pamphlets to your council, make sure libraries have a stock, throw them up on your neighbourhood noticeboard.
- Daniel Andrews made a state-level commitment to fund the program independently of the Australian government. Write your local MP, or your Premier and demand the same. Get your mum, your Beyoncé-dance class, your gym, your boss to do the same. Better yet, write it for them and ask that they simply sign it if they won’t do it themselves.
- Contact Safe Schools Coalition and volunteer to do their local admin. Funding isn’t required if the thing can run for free. I’m not saying that’s the answer but an interim measure? Yeah!
- Get better at voting. Actually take your privilege seriously. Remember your elected officials make the systems, not the change. That’s our bit.
- MOST IMPORTANT! If you’re a kid in question, know you’re not alone, we’ve got your back, and you have more power than you think. Just ask these peeps, or these ones, or these.
Stop taking no for an answer to a question you actually never asked. Stop arguing a case without knowing the opposing points. Be more critical, and get more involved than retweeting. Safe Schools is a boon to our community given by the people with the skills, know-how and drive to make it happen. I was there when it was made, I sat in meetings helping it’s branding. While those who can get behind it get behind it, do your part as a community, as allies to prepare your schools to receive it, prepare your local businesses to be chill, prepare your neighbourhood to understand it. While we sit on our laptops and use Caps Lock in forums and sign petitions, those who would see it all CTRL+Z are putting it in people’s faces, finding the latent people who don’t have an opinion and providing them one. Don’t declare war and leave the skirmish unattended.
I heard this song on my shuffle today and it occurred to me that before Safe Schools, we made safety our business. We used to have Safe Houses signposted, we used to hold meetings, and rallies and readings. If you can make Safe Schools happen without the program, then when it’s back on its feet it’ll truly be there for good. Don’t stop there. Interrogate your work to be Safe, speak to your uni about how Safe it is, is your favourite coffee shop Safe? Oh friend indeed, come build me up…