Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I will speak briefly on this motion by my colleague Dr Carling-Jenkins. I feel like we had this discussion in October last year. I did not support the motion in October last year, and I do not support the motion now. I do not feel that this motion is all that different. I am sure many of us would love to see the full adoption of article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; I am sure we would like to see that within our own legislation. But, sadly, I do not think that this motion actually goes to the crux of article 26, ‘Right to education’, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
With reference to article 26, the motion suggests that Victoria is not meeting this country’s international human rights obligations. That is just simply not true. Parents can freely choose where they send their children for education, whether it is a public school, a private school, a Catholic, Islamic, Steiner or community school, homeschooling or one of the many other varieties of education in the great tapestry that is our education system in Victoria. That choice is protected by article 26, and as I said, it is freely available. What parents have never done is to dictate and choose each and every subject that their child undertakes from an à la carte menu. That is not how we run our education system. We expect you to learn maths, we expect you to learn certain things and we expect you to learn respect. We expect you to learn to be a good human being — —
Ms Pennicuik interjected.
Ms PATTEN — As per the declaration, which I will get to. Thank you, Ms Pennicuik.
With respect to the Safe Schools program, the Department of Education and Training has encouraged parental and school community engagement and from what I read and see, that is just what has been happening. Schools have been engaging with parents in developing how they work with the Safe Schools program and how they work with the respectful relationships program, one that I am very much in favour of. I also note that this is exactly what the minister said to Dr Carling-Jenkins in a letter to her that was printed in Hansard on 9 March: that this is exactly what the program is about. It is about encouraging parental and school community engagement. So I feel this motion is trying to create a problem that simply does not exist.
Let us again look at the complete version of article 26 because we cannot look at part 3 of that article without looking at parts 1 and 2. Ms Pennicuik read those through, so I would just like to paraphrase and say:
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace’.
That is what the respectful relationships program is about, so by denying the respectful relationships program you are actually denying article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I will quickly go to the fact that these programs, the respectful relationships program and the Safe Schools program, are about preventing discrimination, preventing bigotry, preventing homophobia, concepts that, I repeat, are clearly articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And in an interesting juxtaposition, one of the reasons the many parents I spoke to about homeschooling were taking their children out of schools was because of bullying, because they came from LGBTI communities, because they were autistic, because they had disabilities. All the reasons why we have the respectful relationships program is to protect the exact people I am hearing from: the parents who are homeschooling their children. It is those children that those programs are protecting.
I do have some sympathy and concern for parents about some of the regulatory changes around homeschooling. In meetings I had with many homeschooling parents and in speaking to a number of organisations they shattered a lot of the stereotypes I had around homeschooling, and I am very pleased that those stereotypes I wrongly had have been corrected. I have a much greater understanding of the reasons that people homeschool and the benefits for many children. In fact my sister, who has been a teacher for 25 years, is a proponent and supporter of homeschooling.
Just in finishing, and I will make this quick because I would like to hear Dr Carling-Jenkins sum up, I think this motion is ideologically driven. It is the same idea that she attacks the rest of us as having, and I think it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the charter of human rights. It infers a breach of rights that is non-existent. I call on this house to affirm something that we are already doing. We are already trying to promote respectful relationships, to address family violence, to address violence in our community and to address the horrible discrimination that parts of our community are feeling, whether it is people with disabilities or the LGBTI community. As I did not support the motion moved in October last year, I do not support this motion.