Anti-gay leaflets handed out as “presents”

Henrietta Cook

The children assumed they were receiving an early Christmas present when their school bus driver handed them golden envelopes.

With a cheery message on the front, “To the wonderful people who care for me. Merry Christmas”, Kyabram P–12 College students gave the envelopes to their parents on Wednesday night [14 December].

But many parents were shocked to discover that they contained anti-gay marriage leaflets from the Mar­riage Alliance. The leaflets also criticised the Safe Schools Coalition.

The school’s principal, Stuart Bott, wrote to parents yesterday to say the information was “not repre­sentative of the school’s position”.

He told Fairfax Media that he was unhappy about what had occurred and concerned parents had contac­ted the school.

“We are an inclusive school, and are working with families to say that won’t happen again,” he said.

Mr Bott said a “member of the community” handed the leaflets to school bus drivers and asked they be distributed to students. Some refused to pass them on. He would not say how many school bus drivers distributed the leaflets, but Fairfax Media understands that it could be up to ten.

The school has refused to sign up to the controversial Safe Schools program, despite the Andrews gov­ernment making it compulsory for all high schools to sign up to the program by 2018.

The college’s council said earlier this year that its school already pro­moted acceptance regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, race, religion, or age and “do not believe they need to align themselves to the Safe Schools Coalition to do this”.

It is not known whether this is why students at the school were targeted.

LGBTI advocate Damien Stevens, who lives and works in Shepparton, said the tactics were designed to scare people.

“To do that around Christmas and to disguise the information in the form of a present is foul,” he said. “The parents have opened it up in front of the child, the child says, ‘What is this’, and then they have a conversation about it.”

He said that the Marriage Alliance had also distributed the leaflets in the local newspaper and it was a sign that they felt threatened by changing attitudes in the region.

Murray Nationals MP Damien Drum supports gay marriage, and the area has received funding to sup­port LGBTI youth.

A Marriage Alliance spokesman said a volunteer had handed out the flyers, and it was not part of an offi­cial campaign. “This was not an ac­tion that was part of a campaign from Marriage Alliance and is not condoned or endorsed by Marriage Alliance,” he said.