Opinion //

Do something

Will Edwards on why saving Safe Schools will require more than angry Facebook posts

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You probably know a lot of people with strong political opinions. You probably know far fewer people who act on those opinions.

The Liberal-National government has imposed severe restrictions on Safe Schools, an anti-bullying program designed to make schools safe and inclusive for LGBTIA students. These restrictions are designed to undermine the program until it can be defunded in 2017, the latter pending the government’s re-election.

I’m writing this on Friday night, the day these restrictions were announced. My social media accounts are boiling with outrage and condemnation of the government. I quickly lose count of my progressive friends’ posts about the importance of the program. But I can count on just one hand how many of them actually tried to save Safe Schools.

Why do people care enough to use CAPS LOCK in their angry Facebook statuses but not care enough to actually do something constructive?

I’m not suggesting that people aren’t entitled to hold political opinions. I’m suggesting that merely having views isn’t enough. Believing in equality doesn’t create a more equal society if it isn’t accompanied by actions which erode real inequalities. Thinking righteous thoughts is little different than thinking bigoted ones if you don’t act on either of them.

We on the left shouldn’t be so eager to congratulate each other for sharing politically savvy content inside our own ideological bubbles. Save the congratulations for when, by words and deeds, we actually achieve something.

Which raises the question: how? Effecting real social change is, of course, hard. I suspect that’s why more people aren’t doing it. But it is achievable.

Back to Safe Schools, the Liberals and Nationals have dealt it a wounding blow, but it isn’t dead yet. This year is an election year, which means there’s no time the government is more susceptible to being pressured or replaced. This is when the citizenry is most powerful and politicians are most inclined to heed them, so let’s make ourselves heard. Here’s what you can do.

Protest the Australian Christian Lobby at 12:30pm April 23 at the Wesley Conference Centre. ACL started the campaign against Safe Schools, so let’s finish them before we finish it. They claim to represent a silent majority; show them how loud a majority really is.

Teach those around you what Safe Schools is and why it matters. The arguments against it are predicated on lies, including the age-old maxim that gays are paedophiles, so the best way to fight them is with the truth. The more people know the more they’ll care, and the more people care about something the harder it is for the government to take it away.

Advocate the program to your local MP. Every letter and email sent to MPs helps, because MPs prioritise (especially during elections) the issues they think matter to voters.

I wrote above that achieving social change is hard. And it is, for individuals. But collectively, if enough people just do a little bit each, this is one battle we can easily win. Support for LGBTIA rights is the majority position now. If a vocal minority has done this much damage to Safe Schools, surely a vocal majority can reverse it. We only need to make the effort, to support our beliefs with our actions. So don’t just stand there, do something.