The Victorian Government has been accused of “a gross abuse of power” by “threatening” two mothers who raised concerns about gender-neutral toilets at a primary school near Geelong.
Clifton Primary School, which has separate, existing toilet blocks for boys and girls, consulted the community in 2021 ahead of works to design and installation of eight new toilets. The design incorporates separate toilets labelled as male, female and unisex, with wash areas in a shared hallway.
On 7 October, a parent launched a petition after learning that the male and female toilets would be incorporated into a joint toilet block that included the unisex option.
Chelsea, a parent, told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell that students have “expressed discomfort”, and that some have even refused to go to the toilet while at school.” The “most concerning” element, she said, is the glass exterior wall of the bathroom, as well as the glass door, as the grounds behind the school are a public walking trail.
On Saturday, Federal Shadow Minister for Education, Sarah Henderson, called on Victorian Education Minister Ben Carroll to withdraw charges of stalking against two parents promoting a rally against gender-neutral toilets at the school.
While the two parents were the distributors and not the creators of the flyer, a senior education department officer claimed the material constituted “…abusive or offensive material, intended to cause harm to an individual [which] may constitute the criminal offence of stalking.”
The Government is now under pressure from the Opposition to withdraw the threat and apologise to the mothers.
“The Victorian education department’s threat to charge these parents with stalking over a community campaign against the gender-neutral toilets is not only outrageous, but constitutes a gross abuse of power,” Senator Henderson said.
“Victorian education minister Ben Carroll must immediately apologise to these mothers who have raised legitimate safety and privacy concerns about forcing boys and girls in primary school to use the same bathroom facilities.”
Senator Henderson said she shared parents’ concerns that “gender-neutral toilets in schools put the privacy and dignity of girls and boys at risk, particularly during puberty.”
“The right of girls to access female-only spaces such as toilets is a fundamental human right. Boys, too, have this fundamental right,” she said.
“It is clear the concerns of many parents are not being heard, some of whom have now withdrawn their children from the school. The construction of gender-neutral toilets in Victorian government schools is driven by an extreme-left ideology which disregards the best interests of children.”
However, Victorian Education Minister Ben Carroll said the decision was supported by an “overwhelming majority” of families within the school’s community.
“We have added eight new toilets to Clifton Springs Primary School. An overwhelming majority of the families supported the design of these toilets that include unisex male and female and then a shared washing hand basin,”
“I think Senator Henderson should spend less time on the location of the toilet taps at primary schools and reflect on the years of neglect our schools suffered under the former Liberal Government.”