SA Libs call for review into school ‘gender ideology’

The SA Liberal Women’s Council opposes and wants a review of how children are taught “adult related themes and content including gender ideology” in schools – a move some party members have dubbed “electorally suicidal” amid a shift to the right.

Apr 18, 2023, updated Apr 19, 2023
Photo: Dan Peled/AAP. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Photo: Dan Peled/AAP. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

All but a handful of the approximate 50 party members who attended the SA Liberal Women’s Council policy forum on Saturday voted in favour of a motion calling for the review, the council’s president Leah Blyth told InDaily.

The motion stated: “That whilst Liberal Women’s Council is understanding and inclusive, it strongly opposes the teaching of adult related themes and content including gender ideology to minors under the age of 18 and calls for a review of all supporting policies and procedures”.

Blyth, who is aligned to the party’s right faction, told InDaily the council wanted to be “inclusive and understanding” of LGBTIQ+ people, but it was concerned about the way in which gender and sexuality were being discussed in public, catholic and independent schools.

 “The council wasn’t saying: ‘We don’t teach about trans(gender issues)’ because a couple of speakers got up and said: ‘It’s really important that children know that there are different kinds of people who like different things’,” she said.

“It’s really important if we want to have understanding that children know that.

“But, at the same time, there were sort of horror stories of… the way they (children) are taught that in the school system.

“Absolutely, teaching there’s different sexual orientation and so forth is one thing, but when you start actually going through into this ideology and you’re talking about really adult-related themes and content with children who are under 18, there needs to be really clear boundaries around that.”

Blyth, who abstained from voting as she was chairing the meeting, said the council was not calling for legislative change; rather, it wanted a review into schools’ policies and procedures to determine whether any change was necessary.

“One of the Liberal values is less government intervention, personal responsibility and so forth,” she said.

“It (the motion) was just looking at what consistency or inconsistencies there were between schools and having a review at that level first and then looking at the end point of that – what comes from that, what needs to be done, what should be done, is it just a few odd stories here and there or is it a consistent theme that is going through the school system as a whole?”

InDaily contacted the Department for Education for comment.

The motion was one of six which passed at Saturday’s policy forum and will now go before the SA Liberal Party’s policy committee, before heading to the state council, where the Women’s Council holds 13 seats.

The council also agreed to oppose the First Nations Voice to federal parliament, and to condemn Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto’s push to expel MP Moira Deeming, after she attended a rally headlined by British anti-transgender activist Kellie-Jay Keen where neo-Nazis were photographed performing the Nazi salute.

The parliamentary Liberal team is not bound to adopt the motions if they receive support from the party’s state council, but Deputy Opposition Leader and education spokesperson John Gardner told InDaily MPs would give “respectful consideration to all suggestions”.

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“I will respectfully consider any examples of what the motion’s proponents believe to be inappropriate, noting that the Australian curriculum is designed by ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) – a body that reports to all ministers across the country,” he said.

“Liberal Party volunteers come from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences and in their suggestions for policy development they draw upon those experiences.”

However, party sources told InDaily the motion was a reflection of the growing influence of a Pentecostal church-driven recruitment drive spearheaded by conservative SA Senator Alex Antic.

The once moderate-led Women’s Council has in recent years been swept up by the Right, with party sources describing motions passed at Saturday’s policy forum as a “PR move” for those hoping to bolster conservative ranks.

“These motions are electorally suicidal. They are fringe issues,” one party source said.

“The parliamentary party is trying to talk about ramping and all the Women’s Council wants to talk about are issues that people just don’t care about other than on Sky News.”

Party sources said those who attended Saturday’s meeting were mostly conservative-aligned, but Blyth denied those suggestions – saying moderate-aligned members were also in attendance and voted in favour of the motions.

“I think we’re a centre-right party so you would expect there to be a sort of conservative approach and a sensible approach to the proposals that are happening,” she said.

“I think that they are all consistent with the party values.

“While media commentary would like to have this sort of factional tension, I can certainly say that even those who are to the left of the party were absolutely in support of these motions that were going forward and did speak to them.”

Education Minister Blair Boyer said the Australian curriculum had been endorsed by Labor and Liberal states across the country and ensured students received age-appropriate gender and sexuality education.

“Ms Blyth has made very serious allegations and must substantiate them immediately,” he said.

It comes after the SA Liberal Women’s Council invited lawyer and controversial New South Wales federal Liberal candidate Katherine Deves to speak at its last annual general meeting in August.

Deves, who unsuccessfully ran for the seat of Warringah, came under fire during the federal election campaign, when she said transgender children had been “surgically mutilated and sterilised”.

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