Published in Out in Perth, Issue 132, July 2012. p. 12
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.
CCQN Co-Convenor, 2012