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Uproar over school curriculum expert's sex comments

One of the men picked by Education Minister Christopher Pyne to review the national school curriculum says many parents believe the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are ''decidedly unnatural'', and has questioned whether students ought to learn about such relationships at school.

In a book he wrote in 2004, Kevin Donnelly also seems to suggest only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sex.

Teachers and gay groups hit out at the comments on Sunday, labelling them ''ridiculous'' and questioning the decision to give Dr Donnelly responsibility for shaping the curriculum.

The book, titled Why Our Schools are Failing, was commissioned by the Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was chairman of the centre at the time, wrote the foreword to the book.

Dr Donnelly uses the book to criticise aspects of state curriculums he believes have contributed to declining standards in literacy and numeracy in Australian schools. He lays much of the blame on ''political correctness'' and the ''left-wing academics, teacher unions and sympathetic governments'' that have conspired to infuse state curriculums with ''politically correct'' material.


He is also critical of the Australian Education Union for arguing that school students ought to be taught about non-heterosexual relationships and safe-sex practices ''in a positive way''.

He seems to suggest that only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sexual matters: ''The union argues that gays, lesbians and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education … and that any treatment of sexual matters should be 'positive in its approach' and that school curricula should 'enhance understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people'. Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural and that such groups have a greater risk in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS.''

At the time Dr Donnelly was appointed to review the curriculum, Mr Pyne said he was certain Dr Donnelly would bring a ''balanced approach'' to the task, along with the other appointee, Queensland academic Ken Wiltshire.

Dr Donnelly was contacted but did not wish to comment. However, he has written numerous articles since 2004 reiterating his views. In a 2011 article, published on the ABC's The Drum, he criticised the AEU for arguing that ''sexual orientation and/or gender-preferred identity of individual teachers should not be a factor in determining which teachers are able to teach sex, health or human biology education''.

Shadow minister for education Kate Ellis said Dr Donnelly's views are ''extremely offensive, dangerous and extreme'' and have ''absolutely no place in our schools''.

A spokesman for Mr Pyne said Dr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire had been ''specifically asked'' to ensure the curriculum is balanced and offers students an appropriate degree of choice and diversity. ''[That means] differing community views will be given appropriate weight.''

Shelley Argent, from the support group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, called Dr Donnelly's views ''ridiculous''. ''Children are not created or made or encouraged or recruited to be gay by learning about homosexuality in the classroom,'' she said.