In “Gay report shelved, say beyondblue ex-staff” (The Age, 30 September 2011), ex Beyond Blue staff talk of a report that was done into the mental health issues of the GBLTI community, which was subsequently shelved for around six months before finally being released without any media announcements. The statements are fairly damning:
Australia’s depression charity restricted access to a key report into gay and lesbian mental health because staff were concerned about the views of the organisation’s chairman Jeff Kennett, former employees – and the report’s author – claim.
What struck me most about the article was a quote from Labor MP Caroline Hogg. We’re told:
Former beyondblue board member and Labor MP Caroline Hogg backed Mr Kennett. ”Sometimes the things that he says sound a bit clumsy. But I don’t believe him to be homophobic. I would not have worked on a board with a homophobic chair,” said Ms Hogg, who oversaw the commissioning of the gay and lesbian research. ”He has put in so much effort, you have to take the rough with the smooth.”
Well, here’s the rub: why is that we’re always the ones taking the rough? I appreciate Ms Hogg’s efforts, but that sort of white-washing becomes offensive over time. It’s like someone making excuses for a bully “oh, he means well”, or “it’s all just horse play”.
Previously, we’re reminded in the article, Kennett likened a bisexual football trainer to a paedophile working as a masseur for young boys. That’s rough, for sure. Then just in August he quoted a report which supposedly stated heterosexual marriages were the best for the mental health of children. That’s pretty rough, too. Particularly since the author of the report has himself condemned Jeff Kennett’s interpretation of it:
The author of a report into family breakdown in Australia has rebuked commentators who seized on it to lash out at same-sex marriage and same-sex couples raising children.
So here’s what rubs me up the wrong way – especially as someone who was regularly tormented growing up – having someone say trite comments such as “you have to take the rough with the smooth” is a cop-out. It’s a way of avoiding the real issue – that an organisation which is meant to be focused on the mental health issues of all Australians isn’t, because the spokesperson seems to have his own, contrary agenda. That’s rough.
I don’t doubt for a moment that Jeff Kennett has done excellent work for Beyond Blue, but it’s time for people to stop making excuses for his behaviour. It’s not a case of just taking “the rough with the smooth” if it’s the same group of people who are consistently getting the rough treatment.
You don’t fix a bully by saying its all horseplay, and you don’t fix homophobic behaviour in someone by making allowances for the things he does well.