Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull missed a huge opportunity to demonstrate his stated commitment to the gay community when a right wing revolt led to an axe being taken to funding for the Safe Schools program, an anti-bullying initiative designed to reduce incidents of bullying and youth suicide.

Appearing from presumably the 1920’s was MP George Christensen who made the baffling statement that due to the removal of information and support for gay students, “the program’s been gutted of all the bad content that was in it.” That this could be seen as a bullying comment in itself was irony lost on Christensen and the response from students and other lawmakers was swift with Senator Cory Bernadi’s office being ransacked by protestors. Of more interest however is an online campaign that continues to gain momentum. Rather than being based on hate or anger, thee Safe Schools Story Project offers members of the gay community who were bullied in school the opportunity to share their stories with a view to showing others how much pain is caused in by intolerant people. It shouldn’t be necessary, the statistics speak for themselves as gay students are twice as likely to commit suicide and according to Beyond Blue, up to 50% of transgender people have tried to end their own lives.

The power of using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a tool to provide insights into the plight of victims is a powerful one. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has already announced that his state will fund the Safe Schools program unchanged regardless of what Canberra does and other states are likely to follow. This has become a movement of people trying to make children’s lives better and if politicians use it to score a few political points then everyone wins, apart from George Christensen and his cronies.

Regardless of political or religious beliefs, it’s important to note that the Safe Schools initiative was designed to offer support and education in schools and not to press any agenda. Australian kids deserve to be kept safe from verbal and physical harm and our next generation needs to be far more accepting than the last if we’re to thrive on the global stage because at the moment our reputation for caring for more than ourselves leaves much to be desired.