Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [6.28 p.m.]: Today I express support for students, staff and parents of Burwood Girls High School. I have some of the most outstanding schools in New South Wales in my electorate of Strathfield. When I speak about those schools, I refer in particular to Burwood and Strathfield girls high schools. Tonight I speak about Burwood Girls High School, which is a leader in recognising and celebrating diversity. It is a school that advocates for inclusion and tolerance while recognising that facilitating where it is most needed requires real and meaningful action. That is why this week the students at Burwood Girls High School planned to show the movie Gayby Baby on Wear it Purple Day.
That important film tells the story of four children—Gus, Ebony, Graham and Matt—whose parents are gay. It is a story reminiscent of hundreds of stories of children across New South Wales and Australia. What has not been widely published is that this film has a very strong and personal connection to Burwood Girls High School community. The director, Maya Newell, is a Burwood Girls High alumni, as was Katherine Hudson, the founder of the Wear it Purple Day, and I acknowledge and congratulate both women. However, as members are aware, yesterday Burwood Girls High School was banned from showing Gayby Baby during school hours. This ban, now in place at every public school across New South Wales, was in reaction to a headline in a Sydney newspaper.
Craig Laundy, the Federal member for Reid, stated that he was inundated with calls of complaint to his office. As the member for Strathfield, I would have expected I would also have received those complaints, but I did not. I received seven emails, six from the same source. I replied and indicated that I had spoken to the principal and that she had confirmed that attendance at the screening of the film and participation in Wear it Purple Day were optional. I also indicated that the principal had my full support—and she continues to have my full support.
Prior to the ban, neither Burwood Girls High School nor the Department of Education had received any complaints. The president of the Parents and Citizens Association has also confirmed that he received no complaints from the community or parents. So I am a little perplexed at the comments of the Federal member about the flood of complaints he has received. I am also disappointed that he has made this issue about same-sex marriage. This is not about same-sex marriage. The students at Burwood Girls High School have no political agenda. Cath Sefton, a Burwood Girls High School parent, was quoted in The Guardian today:
What the school is doing as part of Wear it Purple Day actually has nothing to do with gay marriage, It is about respect for diversity, about people who are different from you.
One of the best things about the school is it teaches people to respect other people.
As I said earlier, I am proud of the students and whole school community, not only for their commitment to social justice and inclusion but also for the grace they have shown. When they could have been silenced, they have acted with incredible dignity. Today at an event celebrating women in policing, I saw school leaders Qisthy, Eve and Lucy. I gave them a hug and told them how proud I was of them. They are strong and forthright young women. They are young women who are brave and empathetic, and they are young women who have taken a stand against discrimination and intolerance. I say to the Burwood Girls High School community that I stand with them, and tomorrow I will be with them on Wear it Purple Day. There is so much I could say in support of Burwood Girls High School. However, I feel the best way that I can express my admiration is to record in Hansard the statement posted by the school prefects on Facebook. The post, which had almost 13,000 likes and almost 3,000 shares last time I checked, states:
The Prefects of BGHS wish to express their disappointment at the media coverage of the school's intended showing of the documentary Gayby Baby. As Burwood girls, we pride ourselves on our support of diversity—in whatever form it takes. Throughout the year we partake in multiple events which aim to support and celebrate the diversity of our school community as a collective.
These include International Day—which celebrates our multicultural community—this year raising $15,000 for international charities, an annual Iftar dinner to support our Islamic community, and Lunar New Year celebrations to support our Asian community, amongst a range of others.
We consider ourselves leaders in the push for equality and acceptance—for all people. When it is considered that the LGBTIQ community has the highest rates of suicide of any population in Australia and experience significantly higher rates of mental health issues, we consider our support to be just one small step in creating better understanding in the community. We are a proud school. We are proud of our culture. And we are proud of the leadership our school shows in supporting all views and the right for all people to be accepted.
I say to Burwood Girls High School students that as the member for Strathfield I am proud of them.