This article was published on news.com.au and has been published here with permission.
Sonia Kruger has unleashed controversy on morning television yet again, this time laying into a scholarship program for LGBTI high school students.
The television host slammed the scholarship as “reverse discrimination” on the Today Extra show this morning, two weeks after her call for a ban on Muslim immigration sparked a widespread backlash.
Dubbing the program “odd”, Kruger said she did not understand why a $7000 scholarship was being reserved for a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex student.
“I don’t think it should have anything to do with the awarding of a scholarship,” Kruger said. “I thinks scholarships should be given on merit.”
David Campbell disagreed with Sonia saying the “program was hardly a big deal”.
“Many 15-year-olds are still working through issues around sexuality”
Her comments followed today’s front-page story in The Australian, which revealed that the Australian Business and Community Network Scholarship Foundation had reserved a place in its Year 10 scholarship program for an LGBTI student.
Family Voice Australia criticised the scholarship as “another example of ideological activism making its way into schools”.
The lobby group’s national policy officer Damian Wyld argued it was inappropriate for children to “be asked to declare their sexuality or gender identity”.
“Why should children, especially in a school setting, be asked to declare their sexuality or gender identity? Many 15-year-olds are still working through issues around sexuality,” Mr Wyld told The Australian.
“Offering a financial incentive to identify as ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex’ is completely inappropriate.”
The scholarship application form, which must be filled out by the school principal, includes a question about sexual orientation. Applicants have the option of choosing “prefer not to say”.
Kruger’s co-host David Campbell disagreed with her position, arguing that the ABCN’s decision to allocate a single scholarship for a LGBTI student was “hardly a big deal”.
“There are tonnes of other scholarships that are set aside for kids who are supremely talented,” Campbell said, rattling off a number of sport-based programs.
The scholarship form to be filled out by school principals. Source:Supplied
“The implications of bullying are not often realised”
Chris Pycroft from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby applauded the ABCN and its corporate backers, saying that the socio-economic disadvantage suffered by LGBTI students often went unrecognised.
“The research shows that the significant majority of these high school students do experience abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Mr Pycroft told news.com.au.
“The impacts of homophobia, discrimination, harassment is often not considered and the implications are not often realised.”
According to Beyond Blue, LGBTI young people have dramatically higher rates of depression and anxiety than their heterosexual peers, with same-sex attracted Australians up to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
Stress for young people grappling with their sexuality
Mr Pycroft said school bullying remained a major stress for young people grappling with their sexuality, and that while there was “more of a general acceptance of gay people within society”, this had not filtered down to the schoolyard.
He dismissed criticisms of the scholarship program as being part of an LGBTI push to expose school students to “politically motivated ideologies”, and argued that it was wholly appropriate for Year 10 students to discuss their sexual identities if they chose to.
“There’s a difference between a politically motivated ideology and people simply being who they are,” Mr Pycroft said.
ABCN offers mentoring and financial assistance to students across Australia, with financial backing from companies including Optus, Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Scholarship Foundation has awarded 41 scholarships since its inception in 2013.