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Sunrise, Channel 7, 22 November 2023

Matt Shirvington: …meanwhile, it comes as students across the country are set to skip school and strike in support of Palestine this week, with multiple demonstrations planned for Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. But it’s feared kids could be put in danger after a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment and violence at previous rallies. The Federal Government has been urged to step in and take on the likes of Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, who has refused to oppose students taking to the streets.  For more, I’m joined by Shadow Education Minister Sarah Henderson. Good morning to you. Well, you’ve written to Education Minister Jason Clare calling for tougher action. What responsibility does the Government have here?

Sarah Henderson: Shirvo, great to join you and the Government’s both federally and also across the country – the states and territories – must direct schools and principals not to allow students to attend. As we saw last night, these protests can turn ugly. They present safety risks to students and, of course, they stoke division in our community. And the Jewish community is very concerned that this will lead to more anti-Semitic attacks. And frankly, this is not where students need to be. They need to be in the classroom, not used, not manipulated, not subject to the whims of activists – very, very poor form for the government not to take a stronger stand.

Matt Shirvington: So do you think schools should punish kids that choose to protest?

Sarah Henderson: Schools and school principals must direct all students not to attend these protests.  Some have done so. I’m very pleased to hear. Some haven’t. And of course, if students go along and if there is an outbreak of violence, there is a strong duty of care by schools towards students. And if that is breached, that could have very serious consequences. Shirvo – the bottom line is kids have got to be in school if families want to go along and protest. There are protests on weekends the children can attend if that’s what families want them to do. But state and federal governments have a very important responsibility to keep children at school.

Matt Shirvington: What about the state premiers? Jacinta Allan, of course, isn’t fully against this, saying that there are people that are allowed to have their say and should be allowed to have their say. Do you agree?

Sarah Henderson: Look, I think she’s been very irresponsible and reckless. She has walked back her comments a little.She’s now more strongly saying students should be at school. But last week she was talking about the democratic rights of students to go to these protests, which is reckless and irresponsible and frankly, a breach of duty of care. And already the Victorian Government has been found responsible for anti-Semitic conduct towards Jewish students in one particular school.  They’ve got a very important responsibility. They cannot put children in harm’s way. There is a certain risk, of course, with these protests, but just as importantly, these protests are very divisive and very, very scary for Jewish students and Jewish schools, of course.

Matt Shirvington: It’s going to be an ongoing story. Sarah Henderson, thanks for your time.


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