Sonia Kruger criticised the idea of scholarships for LGBTQI high school students on August 1 and even went so far as to refer to the scholarship program as “reverse discrimination”.
Her comments were in response to the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) Scholarship Foundation targeting high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual transsexual, queer and/or intersex (LGBTQI) for financial and mentoring scholarships.
These comments came after other recent controversial comments from the TV host that Australia should stop all Muslim immigration.
All Year 10 students who are Australian citizens or permanent residents are eligible to apply for ABCN scholarships with winners receiving $7000 over Years 11 and 12 and their first year of tertiary education.
A student who receives a scholarship is also provided a mentor from ABCN's network of corporate partners. The organisation has awarded 41 scholarships to students since the program launched in 2013.
This year ABCN is offering a number of targeted scholarships for an indigenous student, a female student in Victoria, a student from a refugee background, a student who identifies as LGBTQI and a student from Western Australia.
However, it is only the targeted scholarship for an LGBTQI student that has caused controversy.
Kruger and national policy officer for Family Voice Damien Wyld found it concerning that 15-year-old children would be asked about their sexuality or gender in a school setting, and claimed that at that age young people are still figuring out those aspects of their identity. Wyld said offering a financial incentive to identify as LGBTQI was “inappropriate”.
According to Beyond Blue, non-heterosexual and non-cis-gendered people face up to twice as much abuse or violence than their heterosexual and cis-gendered counterparts. Research and experience has also shown that LGBTQI young people have an increased risk of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. This can also lead to dropping out of school and possible homelessness. To this end a scholarship for an LGBTQI student, to support them through their final years of high school and first year of university, makes sense.
How many heterosexual, cis-gendered students get scholarships each year? Kruger's comment of “reverse discrimination” is demonstrably false. Why is there all this outrage over ONE scholarship to ONE LGBTI student? More scholarships should be available for LGBTQI students.
However, it would be preferable to have a well-funded public education system that provides free education to all students. Well-funded public housing services, health and mental health services would also make a difference.
Students in difficult circumstances should not need to rely on scholarships, and realistically there are not enough scholarships to go around for all the students who are struggling.