UPDATE - Safe Schools founder reinstated at La Trobe
Jun 03, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Roz Ward has been reinstated by La Trobe University tonight, with vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar acknowledging a high-profile legal battle would be against the university’s interests.
The National Tertiary Education Union, which threatened legal action over Ms Ward’s suspension, has claimed the reinstatement as a victory.
NTEU national president Jeannie Rea said: “The concerted campaign by the Union, the Safe Schools community, and the wider community has clearly forced the university to come to its senses.
“The NTEU calls upon Australia’s vice chancellors to stand up and make it very clear that this type of unwarranted attack upon both academic freedom and the right of employees to hold and express an opinion will never be repeated.”
Professor Dewar said the university did not accept it had acted unlawfully in suspending Ms Ward without pay over controversial comments she made on facebook about the Australian flag.
But he said: “It is not in the university’s interests to be engaged in a high profile and protracted legal dispute when there are so many other important priorities.
“Accordingly, I have decided after much consideration and in consultation with colleagues, that the allegations against Ms Ward and her suspension will be withdrawn.”
Ms Ward is now free to return to work on Monday.
A founder of the Safe Schools Coalition has been suspended for calling the Australian flag “racist” in a move sure to delight right-wing critics of the school anti-bullying scheme.
Roz Ward, the co-founder of the program designed to tackle homophobia and promote diversity among school children, has been stood down from her job at La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
She was suspended by the Melbourne university after posting a picture of a rainbow flag to her facebook account alongside the comment "Now we just need to get rid of the racist Australian flag on top of state parliament and get a red one up there and my work is done".
The move has strengthened claims that the school safely program, controversially emasculated following a review by the Turnbull government earlier this year, looks to impose Marxist doctrine on Australian school children by promoting LGBTI rights.
Conservative MPs and Christian groups forced the review in March, claiming Safe Schools sexualised children by asking them to consider issues of transgender and homosexuality from an early age.
State governments in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, The ACT and Tasmania have approved the roll out of the federally-funded, non-compulsory program but its content is again under question, with the Australian Christian Lobby accusing it of promoting "radical sexual experimentation”.
Ms Ward’s suspension follows articles in News Corporation publications such as The Australian describing her as a “hardline Marxist” with “extreme Left political views”.
The National Tertiary Education Union is now considering legal action against La Trobe University over the suspension.
Victorian secretary Dr Colin Long said: “The media attack on Roz Ward, purportedly about a social media post about the Australian flag, is in reality part of a concerted political and ideological campaign by Australia’s right wing ideologues on views that do not accord with their own.”
“That La Trobe University has apparently allowed itself to be cowed into participating in this anti-intellectual, anti-democratic attack reflects the dismal state of intellectual capacity at the senior management level in some Australian universities.
"It is this kind of moral and intellectual cowardice and bullying that underlies the bullying and victimisation of young people of diverse genders and sexualities, against which Roz Ward has dedicated her professional life.”
Ms Ward last week resigned from her advisory role with the Victorian government's LGBTI Taskforce Education Reference Committee, apologising for the comments and saying: "they in no way reflect the views of Safe Schools Coalition Victoria or the Victorian government".
Former Victorian premier and Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett led calls for Ms Ward’s resignation, describing her as an “extremist” who should have no involvement with the anti-bullying program.
La Trobe University has decline to comment on her sacking.