By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Leading child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has dropped out of a City of Casey forum against the State Government’s Building Respectful Relationships school program, describing it as a “brain-washing exercise”.
An “angry and disappointed” Dr Carr-Gregg said he’d accepted an invitation to be part of the 19 April public event on the basis of a “balanced debate”.
The panel’s composition however had “no balance at all”, he said.
“I think City of Casey owe me an apology. It’s used my name and reputation to promote what sounds like a brain-washing exercise.
“They need to take a hard look at themselves.
“It’s incredible that in this day and age we can have that blinkered way of thinking.”
In June 2017, Casey councillors voted to lobby against the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum due to its “premature sexualisation” of young people and “sexual political agenda”.
The impending forum was born from that motion.
Dr Carr-Gregg said the panel lacked a representative from the Royal Childrens’ Hospital and the LGBTI community.
Though he disagreed with “aspects” of the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, he said the program’s proponents had a right to be heard.
The panel includes three parents against the program – one who claims her child was admitted to hospital with an anxiety attack as a result of the curriculum.
Casey conservative councillor Rosalie Crestani, also a panellist at the forum, said “it’s very difficult to deny a mother’s story”.
“What does she have to gain by exposing herself and her family to public scrutiny?”
There had been efforts to inject more balance with unrequited invitations to child psychologist Steve Biddulph, Education Minister James Merlino as well as Dr Carr-Gregg, Cr Crestani said.
She said no invitations were sent to representatives of the LGBTI community. “It may have been an uncomfortable situation for the LGBTI community to be on that panel.”
There would be opportunity for questions and varying opinions from the floor, she said.
“If you look at (ABC TV’s) Q&A you very rarely see a fully balanced panel. Conservatives are left off or one is left in a lonesome situation,” Cr Crestani said.
“I fully understand Dr Carr-Gregg’s position. He would have still had the opportunity for him to speak, drawing on his 30 years of experience.
“We press ahead.”
Dr Carr-Gregg’s place on the panel has been taken by conservative ethicist and writer Bill Muehlenberg who wrote Dangerous Relations: The Threat of Homosexuality.
Mr Muehlenberg was a “detailed researcher” who had written “evidence” and “statistically”-based books on the subject area, she said.
Since withdrawing from the panel on 12 April, Dr Carr-Gregg was taken aback that he had yet to receive a response, explanation or an apology from the council.
“This is not the Casey Council I’ve known and done a lot of work for in the past.
“I conclude that the council members either don’t care or they are just rude.”
He said that he would still take part in a talk on Building Respectful Relationships at Pakenham Library on 16 April.
Councillor Wayne Smith, who opposed Casey’s stance on the program, refused to be part of the panel. He described it as being founded on “ignorance” and “radical Christian ideology”.
A high-school teacher, Cr Smith has observed the Building Respectful Relationships program cut down on homophobic bullying against LGBTI students.
“I work with a lot of kids in the LGBTI community. They have issues with being bullied, not being respected and not being included.
“So we ran Respectful Relationships for kids to know about this community.
“It’s not about promoting sexuality, just that anyone should be respected regardless of their race, religion, colour and sexual orientation.”
Cr Smith said Casey underestimated the overwhelming majority of Australians who “completely agree” with same-sex marriage.
“My view is this debate has been hijacked by political parties and right-wing Christian groups inside and outside of council.”