Play School's lesbian tale sparks outrage
By Cosima Marriner
June 4, 2004
A story about a girl with two mothers that was screened on the ABC's Play School has sparked a political storm.
The acting Prime Minister, John Anderson, and senior Government ministers lashed out at the ABC yesterday for exposing young children to same-sex parenting.
The Communications Minister, Daryl Williams, called the ABC managing director, Russell Balding, to "express his concern" that the program had aired the segment. He asked Mr Balding to pass the complaint to the ABC board.
Just days after the Federal Government decided to ban same-sex couples from marrying or adopting children, the "Through the Windows" segment of Monday's episode of Play School featured a girl going to a fun park with her two "mums".
Mr Anderson said:
"This is a story that reflects the hopes and aspirations of some adults and in some ways seeks to justify and promote the idea of gay parenting. I think before the views, interests and perspectives of adult parents are put forward, the first consideration should be for the children who can't speak for themselves."
Labor, which has endorsed gay adoption, distanced itself from the broadcast. The party's family and community services spokesman, Wayne Swan, said: "I haven't seen the program but I'd be concerned if a children's program explored issues of sexuality, because that's a matter for parents."
Mr Balding refused to comment publicly yesterday, but a spokesman said the ABC stood by its broadcast.
The ABC's head of children's television, Claire Henderson, said the segment "showed one of the many types of family groups that exist in Australia today".
"Through the Windows" was designed to "reflect the variety of the contemporary world".
"Play School aims to reflect the diversity of Australian children, embracing all manner of race, religions and family situations," Ms Henderson said.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, warned the ABC against becoming "too politically correct".
"I think I'm representing the majority of Australian parents," he said yesterday. "My kids watch Play School. I think it is an excellent production, but I think it's important for those program producers to ensure that they are not just responding to minorities . . . I don't think it's appropriate."
Ms Henderson dismissed claims the ABC was making a political statement about same-sex parenting as "adult constructions".
The Health Minister, Tony Abbott, who has three daughters aged 10, 12 and 14, said:
"I think that if I'd been watching it with my kids, I'd have been a bit shocked."
Books featuring same-sex couples are growing in popularity, said bookseller Christine Andell, who runs The Little Bookroom shop in Melbourne.
"Schools are much more interested than they used to be in showing these sort of books," Ms Andell said.
"School libraries do purchase the books, and there seems to be some interest in them.
"There is certainly more acceptance now and more interest than there was. It's a growing thing," she said.
Children's books featuring same-sex couples have become established in the United States, following the success of Heather Has Two Mommies, which is about to be published in its 10th anniversary edition.