Every student has the right to feel safe at school, irrespective of their race, religious beliefs, gender identity or sexuality.
As the shadow Minister for Education, the member for Lakemba, has noted other than their family homes, school is the place where our young people should feel safest.
For many LGBTI students, school is not a safe place. A recent La Trobe University study showed 61 per cent of teenagers reported experiencing verbal abuse because of homophobia, 18 per cent reported physical abuse and 80 per cent of that abuse was experienced at school.
The organisation Beyond Blue notes that LGBTI Australians are significantly more likely to have suicidal thoughts, attempt suicide or indeed, take their own life.
We have a moral imperative to consider why.
We have to contemplate how our culture puts young LGBTIQ people at risk. We must acknowledge the impacts of these types of debates on the well-being of those young people.
I understand and respect that many parents who may have signed this petition only have their kids' well-being at heart. But I say this to you with respect and with humility: It may not be your kids who are at risk. There is no danger in your kids learning to accept other's differences.
Safe Schools is about stopping the bullying and intimidation of our LGBTI people.
It gives LGBTI students a framework to better understand their place in the world. It encourages young people to have self‑confidence and self-respect.
The debate around the Safe Schools program has unfortunately become supercharged and politicised. There has been misinformation and inaccuracy. The program does not encourage people to be same-sex attracted—it simply supports those who are.
The program does not encourage people to change gender. And it absolutely does not teach young people sexual techniques.
To assert this is nothing more than a beat-up to scare parents and teachers into banning the program.
It is also wrong to say that parents have no say in what their kids are taught. Parents may refuse permission for their children to participate.
Even though opponents of the program have the choice for their kids not to participate, they would prefer if no-one else's kids benefited from it either.
This exposes the underlying reality of this debate: There are some who would prefer young LGBTI people to stay silent and invisible.
We have already learned the hard way that silence equals death.
I say to the member for Epping, who has led this debate and contributed to misinformation and politicisation of the Safe Schools program, that there is no such thing as a gay agenda. There is only equality.
There is no such thing as political correctness. It is about respect for difference.
And when it comes to human rights, we must move forward together.