Posted December 18, 2020 08:47:29Australia is poised to become the first country to implement a “safe spaces” policy after the Government announced plans to create new, higher-education-specific spaces and develop a national curriculum to guide the creation of the new spaces.
Key points:The plan would see new, more “student-focused” spaces built at universities around the country in the coming yearsThe scheme is aimed at making university education more accessible to students and improving quality of lifeIt comes after a series of controversial incidents in the US and UK over the last few yearsThe aim of the “safe space” plan is to provide a more “safe” environment for students, staff and faculty to share ideas, share knowledge and discuss issues in a more open and collaborative manner.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, Education Minister David Littlejohn and Associate Minister for the Arts, Simon Corbell, outlined plans for a “new” safe space initiative.
“In a new Safe Space initiative, we will create new high-quality, high-demand, high quality student-focused, academic spaces that support the growth and development of our higher education system and provide students and staff with a safe place to learn, grow and collaborate,” the statement said.
“Our plan to create these new spaces will support the creation and delivery of a new national curriculum and provide a pathway to higher education for our students, faculty and staff.”
The new Safe Spaces would be funded through a new “Academic and Learning Support Fund” set up under the government’s “Start a Change” initiative.
The scheme would see more “students and staff” share ideas and information with each other through a series “safe and secure” spaces.
“This will provide more safe and secure learning environments, which will create a more vibrant and productive learning environment for our nation’s students and teachers,” the government said.
It said “high-quality safe spaces” would be built in collaboration with the Australian College of Surgeons and the Australian Education Union.
There would be “student centric spaces” to help “student voices” be heard.
The Government also announced it was considering the creation or “extension” of a “national curriculum” to guide creation of safe spaces.
The Department of Education said it was still finalising its “new safe spaces strategy” and would “make further announcements on this issue when the plan is complete”.
In the US, a federal law passed in 2016 prohibits colleges and universities from offering a “high risk” “safe campus” to students, which was then used to justify banning such places.
It is now the responsibility of the US Department of Justice and the Department of Health to oversee and enforce the laws.
Australia’s “safe zones” are already in place in NSW and Victoria, but it is not clear if the plan would be expanded to include other states.
The US bill has been criticised as a “gag law” which has left students unable to complain about harassment and assault.
In the UK, the Bill of Rights was used as a basis for a law banning the sale and use of “safe words”, which were deemed to be harmful and offensive.
The Bill of rights was passed in 1789 but was repealed in 1878.
The Bill has been used by universities to restrict the freedom of expression and free speech in the UK.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that universities cannot discriminate against students on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation.
The new “safe room” policy is also expected to include provisions on access to alcohol, as well as “student and staff accommodation”.
Professor George Williams, from the University of New South Wales, said it would be a “catastrophic” blow for students.
“The concept of ‘safe space’ is an insidious one,” he said.
“The idea that universities are now going to be allowed to create an environment in which students can be taught to live off the backs of other students and faculty, and where they can feel safe and have the support of others who are also in need of the support, I think is something that we are going to lose, really, as a society.”
The “safe rooms” plan was first mooted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January.
It was announced as part of a range of “reforms” announced by the Government following the “Olympic tragedy” in Rio de Janeiro last August.
The policy aims to provide students with more “flexible learning environments” where they will have more “choice and freedom” in the classroom, he said at the time.
“We are trying to bring the quality of education back to our nation, to the Australian people and we will be very much looking at the new safe spaces initiative to provide some additional flexibility and choice to students,” he told the ABC at the launch of the policy.
Mr Turnbull said he was “proud” of the move, and said it showed how “the Australian dream” was