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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 12 May 2021) . . Page.. 1386 ..

not to have the right to learn and discover who you are as a human being in a safe and supportive environment is appalling and damaging, to say the least.

I know many people who were treated appallingly in schools for being different. Sadly, this treatment is debilitating and has resulted in too many young people, innocent lives, being impacted and even lost. While I acknowledge that the world is maturing and that there are changing attitudes towards transgender people, there is still a lot of discrimination to overcome, and this bill will not help with tolerance in any community.

I fear that if this bill were to pass the New South Wales parliament, there would be a detrimental impact on the lives and wellbeing of thousands of students across New South Wales. These students undoubtedly often face discrimination from their peers and the community, and, unfortunately, it is even common enough for someone to experience it from their own family. To have an official authority figure—in this case, the New South Wales government—added to that list is unacceptable. The bill prohibits schools from teaching that trans and gender diverse people exist. It prohibits school counsellors from affirming a trans or gender diverse student and providing them with support or making referrals to gender-affirming support. It also puts teachers at risk of losing their jobs when they support trans or gender diverse students to affirm their identity. It baffles me that a teacher can lose their job for providing support to one of their students who needs support when it comes to identifying their gender. In summary, it requires schools and teachers to tell trans kids, to their faces, that they do not really exist.

How is any of this okay? Every student in New South Wales should have the opportunity to reach their potential, to learn with their peers and to feel a sense of belonging in their own schools. The introduction of this bill achieves none of that. It goes out of its way to bully students who are potentially already struggling. I praise the ACT government’s commitment to ensuring that our education system is welcoming, affirming and inclusive of all children. This is how it should be; no government should go out of its way to ensure that inequality and human decency are lost for students who do not meet certain norms.

I praise that we have already worked to protect trans and gender diverse students through programs such as the Safe and Supportive Schools policy. However, it does not sit right with me that students across the border may be stripped of this basic human right and that there are people in the New South Wales government who actively view some students as lesser. Having our own education minister write to her counterpart in the New South Wales government, expressing our concern about the effect of the bill’s debate on trans and diverse children in the ACT, is absolutely essential. The act of having a minister from another government urge the New South Wales government to vote down the bill demonstrates how inhumane the legislation is. Our education system’s purpose is to educate and prepare our young people for the world that they will live in once they finish school. It is in their best interests to be allowed, in a safe and supportive environment, to learn not only about the world around them but about themselves. This should be a universal right for all students in Australia and not a right available on a state-by-state basis.

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