Health Alliance Abandons Safe Schools

Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds

National LGBTI Health Alliance in tonight in deep crisis, after the Executive Director of the National LGBTI Health Alliance unilaterally threw the Safe Schools Coalition under a bus today. The Coalition has been under heavy attack by extreme right wingers and ‘Christian’ groups.

Breaking ranks with every other LGBTI organization in the country, and even her own board, Health Alliance Executive Director Rebecca Reynolds told The Australian that the peak LGBTI health body “does not feel the program should be mandatory”.

“Choice is important for everyone, including school communities and LGBTI populations.

“The alliance knows that it is sometimes difficult for communities and schools to understand the importance of inclusion and the changes that may be required. The alliance and its members across Australia are here to support organisations and people on that journey. We also know that LGBTI people are part of every community and population.”

Only two people are authorized to speak on behalf of the Alliance: Board Chair Susan Ditter, and her employee Rebecca Reynolds.The statement was made without prior authorization by the rest of Health Alliance Board. Ditters involvement is unknown.

Board member Luke Gahan, when asked if this was the organisation’s position, authorized by the board, replied forcefully

No – at no time was the board involved in this decision and I would not support it if it had been presented to me.

I am the Victorian director of the alliance – this is not a decision that was put to the board or me as a director. If it had been put to me I would NOT support it. As one of the authors of WTI3 I believe it should not be a choice and the research supports this. I apologize for this statement and distance myself from it.

Fellow board member Gina Wilson also distanced herself from the statement. She said

Like Mr Gahan I was also unaware of this statement and have not had it put to me. I do not hold the position stated.

I have been contacted by several community organisations in respect of it. I speak here as Deputy Chair of the LGBTI Health Alliance. This is not a position that has been put to me and to the best of my knowledge the Alliance Board. If it had been put to the board for a vote and it was approved I would , as has been suggested by a few I should, have resigned.

I support the Safe Schools Program and the research that underpins it. I especially support the recommendations that flow out of that research that suggest that Safe Schools should be rolled out to all schools and should be a compulsory resource. I support without equivocation the safety of all students at school and their human right to that. I support without equivocation the compulsory introduction of Safe Schools programs that promote student safety and the prevention of bullying and intimidation at school.

This is not an LGBTIQ issue alone. Students are intimidated and bullied for a wide range of reasons… Issues as small as having red hair or wearing glasses to issues as large as ethnicity or LGBTI status attract Bullies and discrimination. These practices scar children for life. Human rights and our children’s safety are not issues of choice .

As vice chair and a board member I humbly apologize for any hurt to those involved in Safe Schools programs. I give you my personal full support. I await further information before making any further decisions. Again my deepest regrets and apologies.

The Alliance has a history of not providing information to board members, with agendas not circulated in advance, and extremely scant papers provided to Board members. Stories have been circulating for months of gross disorganization and dysfunction, which led to the loss of major funding.

Shockingly, a budget was presented to the board for 2015/16, but as Ditter reportedly ‘forgot’ to put it on the agenda, it has never been voted on, let alone passed.

A totally inadequate funding submission document was lodged with the federal government. It failed to provide any rationale for the requested threefold increase in funding anywhere in its entire 9000 word length, and was rightly rejected. That submission document, authored by Reynolds, was also not authorized by the board, and has still not been seen by any board member besides Ditter (who deemed it an ‘operational’ and not a board matter).

Did Ditter deem today’s disastrous statement an ‘operational’ matter too?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has strongly supported Safe Schools Coalition, making it mandatory for all Victorian schools, and is reported to be angrily demanding answers from another Alliance board member, Victorian lawyer and human rights advocate, Anna Brown. Brown, who was also blindsided, is said to be “spitting chips.”

An emergency board meeting, at which the board will be asked to consider motions demanding the immediate resignations of Ditter and Reynolds, is urgently being sought, and strenuously resisted. Ditter was said to be “pulling her head in and playing turtle.”

“They ought to have had an apology and retraction out within seconds of that story appearing,” said a source, ‘instead of which they continue to dither and dodge, adding to the damage. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)