Out in Perth: “Banned in Bunbury”

Published in Out in Perth, Issue 132, July 2012. p. 12

Banned in Bunbury

On Friday, June 6th, four members of the Cross Campus Queer Network drove from Perth to Bunbury to speak to a group of students at Bunbury SHS, invited by student Owen Bandura, and approved by the principal Craige Pettit. It was only upon arrival that the CCQN representatives were informed that the talk on bullying and homophobia awareness had been cancelled by the administration, stating parental concerns for the inclusion of politics in a public school environment. With more than 100 people attending on the Facebook group, Pettit also felt there was the potential for violence at the talk.

Bandara, who is actually straight, felt compelled to organise the talk after attending the May 12 Rally for Marriage Equality. He had seen a number of his peers bullied and harassed for their sexuality, and felt it was his responsibility to stand up for all his classmates. Bandura said “It just pissed me off walking around school and Bunbury that people said things so readily without knowing what they were talking about, to see my friends being generalised. I just got so furious with people’s views and words of hate. I myself may not be gay, but this became a reason to fight for and defend”.

Since the cancellation, it has become apparent that a number of parents had complained about the non-compulsorily talk, some even threatening to remove their child from the school. It is also believe that the town mayor also contacted the school to voice his opinion. It should also be noted that the City of Bunbury website lists “mutual respect and inclusiveness” as one of Mayor Smith’s main interests.

Although Bandura planned on circulating a partition for marriage equality, of the four speakers who had travelled from Perth that morning, none had planned to mention any specific political viewpoints in their presentations. Instead, the topic covered included bullying, suicide and depression, invisibility, exclusion as well as diverse sexuality and gender.

Equal Right and Queerphobia Awareness talk will be on at ECU Bunbury, Tuesday, July 17 from 1.30pm-2.30pm, Building 6, Room 101

Suzie Day

CCQN Co-Convenor, 2012

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2 responses »

  1. Unfortunately your article has a lot of facts wrong and paints a very negative picture of what was to be a whole school stance on acceptance of all people who are different whether it be by gender, race, physical attributes or sexuality.
    The facts are;
    One parent complained but was satisfied that the presentation went ahead once the principal outlined what it was about.
    The mayor never contacted the school.
    The original intent of the presentation was about acceptance of all people who are differnt for whatever reason.
    No parents threatened to remove their child from school over this.
    The presentation was cancelled after it was clear that the original intent was ignored, the event was promoted as an open event to anyone and there was a threat that it was going to be ‘hijacked’ by people with opposing views.
    Amongst other responsibilities, the principal of a senior high school has an obligation to the parents of all students to do his or her best to ensure they are safe at school and that the values promoted by the school are those expected of our society.
    Schools can not make open invitations for the public to just front up to a presentation.

    Whilst you may view the actions of the principal as censorship, the other view of what happened is that a common sense decision was made to manage the risk associated with an approved event that had the potential to get seriously out of hand. There are no regrets in making that decision and it is most likely that the huge majority of the parents of the 750 students at the school are supportive of that decision.

    I am sad that the school that was prepared to put itself out there and support a student who has a passion for fairness and now the school is being viewed by your organisation as unfair.

    • This article was written with the information that we were given, and was proofread by everyone involved for possible errors.

      At least three of us distinctly remembered you mentioning the mayor contacting you in some regard.

      It was a student who informed us that her parent had threatened to remove her from school.

      Any event promoting equality often has others present who are attempting to take over and refuse to let us speak. This is nothing unusual, and we deal with this on a daily basis.

      We too are sad this event ended as such, and it is for this reason we are attempting to hold it again, this time at Bunbury ECU, We would welcome your attendance.

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