Victorian Education Minister James Merlino says “Safe Schools saves lives.”

While the Federal Government implements changes to the Safe Schools program, the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is holding his ground.

A review of the anti-bullying program was ordered in February after weeks of scrutiny from the conservative wing of the Liberal party. The review examined the material to determine if it was “age appropriate” and returned without finding any issue with the program.

A number of MPs that wanted to see the program defunded, however, labeled the review a fraud. The Federal Government decided to introduce several changes, including restricting certain resources to one-on-one counseling sessions, amending lesson plans, and requiring parents to grant permission for their children to participate in the program.

The changes also saw the original website moved to a government-controlled portal, and redesigned to remove lesson plans or links the Federal Government believes are 'inappropriate' for students.

Since the announcement about the changes, premier Andrews and the Victorian Education Minister James Merlino have vowed to keep the program unchanged and running in the state through funding from their own budgets.

“The Federal Government’s recommendations completely undermine the Safe Schools program," Merlino said in March.

On Sunday, the Victorian Education Department launched a website that contains all the original material from the Safe Schools program. The material teaches students about sexual diversity, without the changes made by the Federal Government.

About the decision to make the original material available in this way, Andrews said, “I get my advice on policy from experts, not from bigots, not from people who really ought to be ashamed of themselves in terms of their views and their tampering with a program that actually works.”

Mr. Merlino said, “We will continue to support Safe Schools Coalition Victoria and will make the existing resources available on the department’s website because Safe Schools saves lives.”

Victoria will have to spend an estimated $1 million of the state’s funds to keep the program unchanged. The state will also lose about $300,000 in financial support from Canberra.

Victoria’s government has said they won’t be instructing teachers on what to do but the material is there to provide teachers and staff with the resources they need to continue to help students. 

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