Legislation introduced into the state parliament that would seek to minimise discussion of gender fluidity in schools has been labelled as "dangerous" and potentially "devastating" by a Wagga-based activist.
Spearheaded by One Nation MP Mark Latham, the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 seeks to amend the Education Act 1990 and "prohibit the teaching of the ideology of gender fluidity to children in schools".
It would also prevent the discussion of gender fluidity among teaching and non-teaching staff, including school counsellors.
Instead, it places the onus on parents to instruct their children in all areas "in relation to core values".
The amendment is not expected to be voted on until next year, but it has already attracted a lot of attention. Earlier in October, protesters in Sydney defied COVID-19 gathering restrictions to march against the bill.
Wagga-based LGBTQI activist and law graduate, Kat van der Wijngaart described the legislation as "dangerously naive" to expect that all families would provide a safe place for sensitive discussions.
"As parents, we don't always get to choose when our kids as us questions that floor us," Ms van de Wijngaart said.
"I imagine teachers get those kinds of questions all the time because their students trust them to give education answers.
"I don't think it's fair for the teacher to say, 'I can't talk to you about that, you'll have to ask your parents'. It's not fair on the student."
During discussions in Legislative Council last Thursday, Mr Latham questioned the minister for education, Sarah Mitchell, on why parents were not always informed of their children's school-based discussions.
"In the vast majority of cases the parents provide the love, attention and care that is the foundation stone of the development and well-being of children," Mr Latham said.
"I have heard many lectures about family values and I cannot believe that it has now got to the point, in defining this essential function in schools, that parents would be left out of the equation of 'trusted adults'. It is just phenomenal."
Ms van de Wijngaart explained that in her opinion, teachers should be better equipped to respond to questions from their students rather than be "punished and prevented".
"Our schools aren't there just to teach reading and writing," she said.
"That's foundational but schools also socialise our children. They teach students how to treat people and how to respect other people, to interact appropriately with people who are different from them."